2017-18 NHL Preview: Early Playoff Outlook

cutThe NHL Playoffs have become a favourite for sports fans around the world as it is widely considered one of the most exciting times on the sports calendar.

Every postseason is an exciting time as games get so much more important and simple mistakes can end a season.

During the regular season games can be won or lost with some hope left for the future but in the postseason in any league one loss can shorten a season very quickly.

It is a time where everyone has to be at their best or that ultimate goal of winning a championship will be gone.

The NHL playoffs seem to be a bit different though as this is a mix of the physicality of football with the marathon of a season like the MLB.

Hockey might not be as physical as football as one sport requires a physical end to the play more often than not and there is always some type of contact on every play.

The other has a few more options as hockey players can land a big hit but also poke the puck away or lift the stick or simply force the opposing player into a corner with minimal contact.

Still, these players are travelling far faster than the NFL players and when they meet for a hit it is going to be felt by both players.

It also might not be the marathon that MLB players go through who play 162 games in six months but 82 games is still a test.

Add the fact that they play those 82 games in a much more physical sport and by the time players reach the playoffs they are surely beat up.

There is also this thing about NHL players as they rarely complain and often play through some pretty gruesome injuries.

It is not uncommon to see a player bleeding after getting cut by a stick only to disappear miss a couple of shifts and come back with stitches to finish out the game.

That physical toll that players are willing to take in hockey is unlike any other in sports, and although every sport has their tough guys hockey seems to have a lot more.

That wins fans over both those that already watch the sport and those that don’t watch it regularly.

That toughness is not on display any better time than in the playoffs as players are all looking to ignore their injuries and make that run to the Stanley Cup.

They go from a regular schedule to travelling back and forth from city to city and playing a tough game on back to back nights.

It is one of the toughest roads to a championship as the skill picks up and the games get tighter with bigger hits and less room to move.

Only the teams that can do what they do best in this environment will take home the Cup and for a while, it always seemed to be a new team.hockey-sidebar

That only added to how much fun it was to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs as nobody ever really knew who was going to put it together at the right time.

It is beginning to change though as the Pittsburgh Penguins are the two-time defending champions winning back-to-back Stanley Cups.

They are the first team to do that since the Detroit Red Wings did it in 1997-98 ending the decades of parity in the league.

They enter another season looking like one of the best teams in the league for a third straight year which might be concerning for the popularity of the playoffs.

There is a chance that they win their third straight Cup becoming the only team to win more than two-straight since the 1979-83 New York Islanders.

There are a lot of teams hoping to unseat them though and a few look like they might be able to do it.

Young teams like the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers will make their run, although their youth could hurt them in the playoffs.

Experienced teams like Chicago, Montreal, Anaheim, San Jose and Washington will all look to take their experience and try to beat the champs.

There are also teams right in their prime like the Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild that will try to make good on their window of opportunity.

Any one of these teams could find their way to the Stanley Cup Finals and take that ultimate prize.

The Penguins will remain a favourite from wire to wire and they will have a target on their back making it that much more difficult to make it three in a row.

They have done it before though and that leaves many to think that they will make a great run at the tile.

Whether they can come out on top remains to be seen as every team has a shot at the beginning of the season and any team can surprise by putting everything together.

That is why they play the games as the season is about to begin and the long pursuit to the playoffs starts now.


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