NHL Playoff Preview: The Quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup Begins Again

(Left) JT Miller, alternate captain for the Vancouver Canucks 
(Right) Jason Robertson, left winger for the Dallas Stars.
(Left) JT Miller, alternate captain for the Vancouver Canucks (Right) Jason Robertson, left winger for the Dallas Stars.
Noa Prothais

The NHL Playoffs are starting in the US and Canada, and 16 teams once again start their journey to win the Stanley Cup. From the President’s Trophy-winning Rangers, to the Capitals, who were the last team to make it to the dance, every team in the playoffs has their sights set on the 35-pound Stanley Cup, engraved with the names of winners past and present.
The Eastern Conference playoff games usually occur in the early window, having games from 9 am to 4 pm with Western Conference games beginning in the later slate, around 7 pm.

Eastern Conference:

Rangers vs Capitals

The New York Rangers are the Metropolitan division champions, and have secured home-ice advantage throughout the entire playoffs. They will take on the Capitals, who struggled through a tightly fought race for two playoff spots, and just squeezed into the playoffs. The Rangers have rolled through this season with goaltender Igor Shesterkin posting a .913 save percentage en route to winning the President’s trophy.

(Top) Igor Shesterkin, a goalie for the New York Rangers
(Bottom) Brad Marchand a Canadian professional hockey player, captain for the Boston Bruins (Noa Prothais)

The Washington Capitals were led by goalie Charlie Lindgren this season, who has done more than enough to steal a bunch of games for Washington. Captain and future hall-of-fame goal scorer Alex Ovechkin has slowed down and there are a ton of questions about them in the playoffs.
Game one is Sunday, April 21, at noon PT from New York City.

Winner Prediction: Rangers in four

Bruins vs Maple Leafs: A rivalry enters its next chapter

In a wild turn of events, the Boston Bruins were first-round exits in last year’s playoffs after having a record 135 points in the regular season. The Bruins lost their captain Patrice Bergeron to retirement in the offseason, and despite many doubts in the offseason, are still very good and have had a very good regular season in 2024.
New captain Brad Marchand, and winger David Pastrnak have led the team in scoring. Pastrnak in particular won the Bruins’ scoring title with 110 points. The defense and goaltending have been the Bruins’s biggest strength, led by defenseman Charlie McAvoy, and their goalie core made up of Jeremy Swayman and last year’s Vezina trophy winner Linus Ullmark.

(Top) Kevin Fiala, a left winger for the Los Angeles Kings
(Bottom) Connor Mcdavid, a center and captain for the Edmonton Oilers (Noa Prothais)

In game five of the second round last year, the Florida Panthers eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs in a heartbreaking end to the season. The story of the 2024 Maple Leafs starts, and ends, with Auston Matthews, who led the NHL in goals scored with 69. The California-born center drove team offense this year, an area that has been the strongest part of their game. There have been questions about goaltending, with Ilya Samsonov spending time in the minor leagues, and struggles from Joseph Woll and Martin Jones. Their game-one starter is still undecided.
Game one is Saturday, April 20, at 5 pm PT from Boston.

Winner prediction: Bruins in seven

Panthers vs Lighting: Sunshine state showdown

The Tampa Bay Lightning had to overcome some significant struggles early in the season to make the playoffs but were able to get to the postseason, led by Nikita Kucherov, who will likely be the Hart trophy recipient for the league’s most valuable player. They’ll look to him as well as other key contributors like captain Steven Stamkos and center Brayden Point. The Lightning have a lot of playoff experience, with much of their 2020 and 2021 Stanley Cup champion rosters still intact. They will rely on goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes.
The Florida Panthers were the team that eliminated the historic Bruins team from last season that set records. The Panthers are the reigning Eastern Conference champions, defeating the Bruins, Maple Leafs, and Carolina Hurricanes before being beaten by the Vegas Golden Knights in the cup finals. They’re led by Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Reinhart, and Aleksander Barkov on the scoring side, with Sergei Bobrovsky in the net. They’ve struggled recently but put together a great regular season and should be well prepared to face Tampa Bay, and have plastic rats thrown down from above.
Game one is Sunday, April 21, at 9:30 am PT in Sunrise, Florida.

Winner prediction: Panthers in six

Hurricanes vs Islanders: Special teams, special plays, special players

The Carolina Hurricanes finished in second place in the metro division, and had a fantastic year. With one of the league’s best defenses, they took the title of the league’s best penalty kill after the LA Kings started to struggle. They also have the second best power play in the league, making special teams a key for them. Brent Burns, Brady Skjei, and Jaccob Slavin have been defensive stalwarts for the Canes on their blue line this year, with Martin Necas and Sebastian Aho leading their offense. They acquired Jake Guentzel from the Pittsburgh Penguins at the trade deadline to increase scoring, and they look dangerous yet again, after making a run to the Eastern Conference final last year.
The New York Islanders have once again found their way to the playoffs after losing to Carolina in six last year. They are also a very defense-first team, with Noah Dobson and a different Sebastian Aho being leaders on their blue line. They had a much harder time than the Hurricanes making the playoffs but found their way to third in the metro.
Game one is Saturday, April 20, at 3 pm PT from Raleigh.

Winner prediction: Hurricanes in five

Western Conference:

Kings vs Oilers: Third time is the charm?

The Edmonton Oilers are an offensive machine, and the reigning Hart Trophy winner Connor McDavid is putting together yet another elite campaign; and has some help. Leon Draisaitl has remained as a top forward in the league, and Zach Hyman had his first 50-goal season this year. They have some questions about their depth, however, their goaltending has taken a step forward from last year, with Stuart Skinner putting up much better numbers. They struggled heavily in the early part of the season, partially thanks to an injury to McDavid. They fired coach Jay Woodcroft, and have been on a tear since. They took out the Kings in the first round last year before losing to Vegas in the second round. They very much feel the need to win a cup while McDavid is still in town and happy as an Oiler.
The Los Angeles Kings have been inconsistent this season. They started the season hotter than the sun, then fell into a slump in January that got head coach Todd McLellan fired at the All-Star break. Interim head coach Jim Hiller has since turned the team back into a playoff contender. Anze Kopitar, Kevin Fiala, and Adrian Kempe have led the Kings in scoring, with Drew Doughty having a bounce-back season and Vladislav Gavrikov having a great first full season in Los Angeles.

The Kings have one of the best goalie tandems in hockey this year on a budget, signing both David Rittich and starter Cam Talbot on small deals. Their inconsistency will make or break them in these playoffs. LA could easily either get swept out of the first round or dominate their way to their third Stanley Cup title. They have been eliminated by the Oilers in the first round the past two seasons and have not won a playoff series since winning the Stanley Cup in 2014.
Game one is Monday, April 22 at 7 pm PT from Edmonton, Alberta.

Winner prediction: Kings in four

Stars vs Golden Knights: Cup champs vs Texan Stardom

The Vegas Golden Knights are the reigning Stanley Cup champions, and return a stacked roster. Captain Mark Stone will be coming off of injured reserve just in time for game one to round out a talented forward core featuring Jack Eichel, Jonathan Marchessault, and William Karlsson. Adin Hill will be in the net for the Knights after putting together a fantastic regular season. They look poised to go on another deep run again this year.
The Dallas Stars have been the dominant force in the Western Conference this year, securing home-ice advantage for the entirety of the Western Conference playoffs, and look like a well-oiled machine. Jason Robertson, Joe Pavelski, and Wyatt Johnston have led the Stars in scoring this year, with Jake Oettinger staying consistent between the pipes this season.

Game one is Monday, Aprill 22 at 6:30 pm PT from Dallas.

Winner Prediction: Dallas in seven

Canucks vs Predators: Vancouver’s finest in a decade

The Vancouver Canucks are a juggernaut. They were finally able to put all of their pieces together this year, and have been dominant. Captain Quinn Hughes has led them on defense, while also being proficient on the offensive side of the puck. Brock Boeser, JT Miller, and Elias Petterson have dominated on offense. Goaltending from Thatcher Demko has also improved greatly, taking his save percentage from .901 last year to .917 this year.
The Nashville Predators showed up ready for the playoffs this year, after missing last year’s edition. They have improved significantly, and took the first wildcard in a strong central division. They’re led on offense by Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi. Josi also has been their best defender this season. They have Juuse Saros in the net, who has been consistently good throughout his career, despite having an off-year this year.
Game one is Sunday, April 21 at 7 pm PT from Vancouver, British Columbia.

Winner Prediction: Vancouver in six

Jets vs Avalanche: Pushing offense

The Colorado Avalanche ended their attempt at going back-to-back last season with a loss to the Seattle Kraken in the first round. The Avs return a large core of players that can get the job done and get them back another cup. Nathan MacKinnon, as always, will receive Hart Trophy votes when all is said and done, leading a strong scoring core. The defense is led by Cale Makar, the reigning Norris trophy winner for best defenseman in the NHL. Alexandar Georgiev has been below average protecting the net, and they will need to overcome their goalie issues to go deep.
The Winnipeg Jets have been a very surprising team this year, but with their new acquisitions over the summer, when they acquired Gabriel Vilardi and Alex Iafallo from the Kings in exchange for Pierre-Luc Dubois. Vilardi and Iafallo have been key pieces to their success, joining a good forward core led by Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor. Josh Morrissey has been their number one defenseman and Connor Hellebuyck has had a Vezina trophy-level season.
Game one is Sunday, April 21 at 4 pm PT from Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Winner Prediction: Jets in five

Stanley Cup Predictions

Eastern Conference Champion: Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers appear to have some of the best depth in the Eastern Conference, and from top to bottom they look poised to repeat as Eastern Conference champions at the end of the first three rounds.

Western Conference Champion: Winnipeg Jets

The Jets, despite having cold streaks, have remained a favorite all year. They have a favorable matchup in the first round against Colorado– a team they swept in the regular season– and if they can catch the Kings in the second round, they could go all the way.

Stanley Cup Champion: Jets in seven

In an instant classic, the Jets will become the first Canadian team since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens to bring the cup north of the border. Goaltending can get you a long way, and Connor Hellebuyck can easily carry this team to the franchise’s first-ever cup title.

About the Contributors
Brayden Brewer
Brayden Brewer, Staff Writer
Brayden Brewer is a staff writer for the Grizzly Gazette on the Sports News Team and the captain of the baseball team here at Golden Valley. He is a senior who has played baseball all four years of high school and has a deep interest and understanding in the world of sports. Aside from sports, he loves country music and lifting weights. His favorite artist is Zach Bryan.  Brayden wants to go into sports journalism in college and continue with it as a career. He wants to cover all of the sports that he can at Golden Valley, and continues to regularly attend GV sports events. Brayden’s favorite teams are the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Kings, and his favorite baseball  players are Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole, and Anthony Volpe. His favorite hockey player is Adrian Kempe because he is the best scorer the Kings have had since the greatest hockey player of all time, Wayne Gretzky. He also loves watching Penn State football on Saturdays and is excited for the Drew Allar era.
Noa Prothais
Noa Prothais, Staff Writer
Noa Prothais is in 10th grade, she is bilingual in French and english. She is a staff writer on the Sports News Team for the Grizzly Gazette. Outside of school work Noa is part of the XC and Track team, and after school she does ballet. She's on varsity for both Track and XC and has been doing ballet for almost 9-10 years. After only doing track for a few months last year she went to CIF. Being an athlete she’s very passionate about writing sports so that she can hopefully share the journey of individual teams or student athlete, she wants to be able to share about personal records and team environment to encourage the respect and time it takes to commit to a sport, she’d also like to write about student spotlight stories or CEPAT, because it involves more than one topic. She really wants to be part of the grizzly gazette to learn more about this profession to hopefully pursue this in the future. She loves writing, running, and dancing, occasionally drawing.