By BILL BEACON
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Here are a few of the compelling storylines for the 2017-18 NHL playoffs:
There had not been a repeat Stanley Cup champion since the 1997 and '98 Detroit Red Wings when the Penguins did it last year. Pittsburgh has the combination of talent and depth to take a serious run at three in a row. This team plays top-10 scorers Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel on separate lines, and has a devastating 26.2-percent power-play scoring rate.
An expansion team stocked with cast-offs wins 51 games and comes first in the Pacific Division as former Columbus checker William Karlsson scores 43 goals and ex-Pittsburgh goalie Marc-André Fleury shows he's not done yet.
All while being the feel-good story in a city emotionally devastated by a mass shooting that killed 58 people days before the Knights' first NHL game.
It's hard to imagine that Taylor Hall has never been in an NHL playoff game. But after six years in Edmonton and now in his second with New Jersey, Hall broke out with a 93-point season. And he brought the speedy young Devils into the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Now that they're in, what will Hall do next?
OVIE TRIES AGAIN
The Washington Capitals have not gone beyond the second round of playoffs since Alex Ovechkin joined them in 2005.
Ovechkin has 46 goals and 90 points in 96 career postseason games, so it's not all his fault.
Perhaps having Philipp Grubauer in goal ahead of playoff bust Braden Holtby will help.
CAN THE JETS SOAR?
Winnipeg looks to have everything this season - skill, size, speed and even goaltending.
Now they just need to win a playoff game. They were swept by Anaheim in 2015 in their only trip to the postseason since returning to Winnipeg six years ago. In their previous incarnation, before moving to Phoenix in 1996, the Jets got past the first round only twice.
GHOSTS OF THE PAST
There are only a handful of Toronto Maple Leafs left from the team that blew a 4-1 lead and lost 5-4 in overtime to Boston in Game 7 of their first-round series the last time they met in the playoffs in 2013. Patrice Bergeron tied it at 19:09 of the third frame and won it 6:05 into OT. They are both quite different teams now, but Bergeron's still in Boston.
The Predators got in as a wild card last spring and went all the way to the Cup final. Now Nashville wants more. The were first over all in the regular season with 117 points. They certainly have the goaltending, defence and depth to make another run.
If they win, half of Montreal may lose it, either in joy or angst, when P.K. Subban lifts the Cup.
NATE THE GREAT
The Predators' first-round opponents are the Avalanche, who rode Nathan MacKinnon's breakout season to a wild-card spot after finishing last over all last season. The Avs improved by 47 points from last season. But of all the underdogs, the Avs may have the toughest playoff test.