Under the microscope: which teams have the most pressure on them this postseason?
There is obviously a tremendous amount of pressure on each team as they enter the Stanley Cup playoffs. Some, however, have more than others.
1. Washington Capitals: The Capitals already have a target on their back after winning the Presidents Trophy, but their lack of playoff success over the past few seasons magnifies that. Can Barry Trotz’s team do what Bruce Boudreau’s team never did? There’s no doubt a severe sense of disappointment will be felt throughout the organization if Alex Ovechkin leaves June without raising the Cup over his head.
2. Chicago Blackhawks: The reigning Stanley Cup champions always have pressure weighing down on them as they enter the next year of playoffs. The Blackhawks face another impending cap crunch as well, with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane making 10.5 million each and Artemi Panarin due for a big pay raise. This could be the last run with core players such as Andrew Shaw.
3. St. Louis Blues: The Blues have had their fair share of playoff disappointments over the last four years, which have only included one second round appearance. Captain David Backes is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and GM Doug Armstrong will want to make some big moves with the core if another playoff flop happens.
4. New York Rangers: The Cup window for the Rangers is closing fast as Henrik Lundqvist is already 34 years old. The Rangers also face uncertainty moving forward on defense with Dan Boyle’s and Keith Yandle’s future undecided.
5. Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks had an awful start of the year but turned it around, although the struggle is far from over. The Ducks were one win away from advancing to the finals last year, and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry haven’t been back since they won it all in 2007.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning: The young, energetic Lightning made it to the finals last year, but haven’t had an easy road back to the top this year. With the drama of Jonathan Drouin and Steven Stamkos becoming a mainstay, there’s no indication if either will be on Tampa Bay’s roster next year. The Lightning, luckily, have an easier route to the conference finals than most, but unluckily have lost captain and superstar Steven Stamkos to a bloodclot. It’ll be an interesting postseason for the Bolts.
7. San Jose Sharks: Much like the Blues, the Sharks have had very little playoff success in the recent past. They made some nice offseason acquisitions this offseason, like Martin Jones and Joel Ward, but it’s still yet to be seen what they’ll do in the playoffs. Time is potentially running out in teal for Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins haven’t seen much playoff success since they went to back-to-back finals in 2008 and 2009, although they look to be back in form this season. Can Sidney Crosby help break the idea that the Penguins are playoff chokers? It remains to be seen.
9. Los Angeles Kings: After missing the playoff last year, the Kings came back with an impressive season. The Kings are not a low seeded team this time around, like they were when they won the Cup (#6 seed and #8 seed). The Kings will be looking to defeat the Blackhawks and become the class of the west once again.
10. New York Islanders: The Islanders and captain John Tavares head into this playoffs looking for their first series win since 1993. Garth Snow hasn’t made any major moves since acquiring Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy in October 2014, in belief that the current roster is good enough. If he’s wrong, the consequences could be severe with new owners stepping in on July 1st.
11. Dallas Stars: Dallas missed the playoffs last season but has survived the hell that is the Central Division so far this year. It remains to be seen if they’ll play Chicago or Minnesota (it’ll be decided tonight) but the high flying Stars won’t have an easy road regardless.
12. Detroit Red Wings: The likes of Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Kronwall are getting older. However, they have a good crop of young players such as Mantha, Larkin, Tatar, and Nyquist to take over. The Wings get Tampa Bay in Round 1, a rematch from last year. Seems pretty sure fire to go 7.
13. Nashville Predators: The Predators are a good team, but will have a tough time escaping the West. If they can claw their way to a round or two, or even more, good for them. They’re in almost an underdog role in that conference.
14. Minnesota Wild: The Wild have had a rough year but have been playing well under new coach John Torchetti. They need Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville to step it up big time during the playoffs. Are changes looming? Regardless, I don’t think many are expecting a Cup run out of this Wild club.
15. Florida Panthers: The young Panthers surprised some people by being atop the Atlantic Division this year. They’ll get either the Rangers or the Islanders in the first round. They are a good team who can squeak out a series of two, but I don’t think many will be overly angry if the playoffs end quickly. They’ll be back for sure with Barkov, Ekblad, and company with playoff experience. The Panthers are in a good spot.
16. Philadelphia Flyers: Let’s be honest, midway through January, when the Flyers were behind New Jersey and Carolina in the Metro, did anyone really expect them to be here? I definitely didn’t. The Flyers get Washington in Round 1 and are the heavy underdogs. But as we saw a few weeks back, the Flyers can beat them. That’ll be an interesting series for sure.
This list isn’t meant to put a knock on any team saying that they don’t have any expectations. Everyone does. But, some have more than others. We can expect a fun playoffs like usual filled with exciting endings and thrilling upsets.
Once the matchups are decided, I’ll put out predictions. In the mean time, join The NHL Files’ bracket challenge: