Pittsburgh Penguins begin quest for third straight Stanley Cup against rival Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins begin quest for third straight Stanley Cup against rival Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins begin quest for third straight Stanley Cup against rival Flyers

Maybe next year, they say.

The (1) Washington Capitals will be taking on the (2nd wild card) Columbus Blue Jackets. Kesler is a master at getting under his opponents skin, and that won't change in this series. They finished the season 13-2-2, and have their own set of Russians that could give the Capitals trouble. We know that. We're playing against a helluva hockey team that has a lot of experience at the playoff level. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is a two-time Vezina Trophy victor, but uncharacteristically struggles against the Capitals.

"Like everything else we're looking hard at it", Hakstol said afterward. But Crosby took him to school on a play late in the season and is a notorious Flyers killer, with nine points against Philadelphia this season. What's new? The Penguins kept their center depth at the top of the league by adding Derick Brassard before the trade deadline. Scott Laughton took his eyes off a puck that Jori Lehtera put on his stick with Penguins goaltender Matt Murray laid out, lost it, then pushed a second chance into his glove.

The Flyers, meanwhile, were a team of ups and downs.

Moments later, Hagelin expertly redirected Patric Hornqvist's shot past Elliott 10:07 into the game. Even with star player Steven Stamkos injured, the Lightning are still really good offensively with Nikita Kucherov who got 100 points during the regular season, as well as J.T. Miller, Brayden Point, Tyler Johnson and others.

Sidney Crosby played the puck off his left skate for a ideal pass to Jake Guentzel to start a rush that saw it fed to Kris Letang for a shot and Rust rebounding at the top of the left circle for a 1-0 lead at 2:38 for the first goal of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Three of the last four Presidents' Trophy winners lost in the second round, where the unsafe Winnipeg Jets (+800) could face Nashville.

Toronto is loaded on the offensive end with Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, William Nylander, Nazem Kadri and James van Riemsdyk. The Bruins are still firing away with Bergeron, Chara, Krejci, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask, but they have a slew of young talent making key contributions. All four meetings during the regular season went over the total, according to the OddsShark NHL Database, along with seven of the last eight games between them dating back to 2016. This team is stacked. The Winnipeg Jets, Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, New Jersey Devils, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Philadelphia Flyers are the newcomers to the 2018 postseason. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos are a large reason why. He finished with 11 goals and 29 assists for 40 points. It's simply a reminder that the NHL is a league with little separating the bubble teams from the top teams. Inequities have happened, but so has plenty of drama on Cup runs by the Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks and the Pens twice. While this may not have tremendously hurt the team in the regular season; going into the playoffs this could be a major drawback.

This year, it came down to the wire as one of the biggest matchups last night being the St. Louis Blues vs. the Colorado Avalanche; if the Avs won in regulation, they would punch their ticket into the playoffs, but if the Blues won in regulation or if the game was tied after regulation, the Blues would be.

Two of our favorite weeks of the year - the first round of the National Hockey League playoffs - are starting, me rocking my Nashville Predators hat and JoJo his Tampa Bay Lightning headware.

As for the Western Conference, both the Nashville Predators and the Winnipeg Jets have clinched playoff spots in the Central Division, followed by the newbies, the Vegas Golden Knights, who have locked up the Pacific Division. The Vegas Golden Knights (+750) have a tempting price, but they are, after all, a first-year team. Standing in their way is a tough Kings team.

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