Upstarts, missing teams define 2018 NHL Playoffs

Chris DiLullo, Managing Editor

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With the Vegas Golden Knights, the first-year expansion team, leading the way, traditional Stanley Cup Playoffs mainstays have found new blood competing in the National Hockey League (NHL) playoffs. In comparison to last year’s playoffs, only nine of the competing 16 squads have returned.

The Golden Knights are perhaps the most shocking story of the 2018 playoffs and the season at that. An organization in its first year in the league, the Golden Knights had low expectations from fans at the inception of the season. However, behind former Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and center William Karlsson, the Golden Knights have succeeded and find themselves in the Stanley Cup Final.

Another club that has made an impact in the playoffs is the Winnipeg Jets. The team, which began as an expansion organization in the Atlanta Thrashers, had never won a playoff series until this year, according to SB Nation. However, by defeating the Minnesota Wild and the Nashville Predators, the Jets captured two series wins and faced off with the Golden Knights in their conference championship.

While the Jets and Golden Knights have made noise through their playoffs success, one team that surprised fans by merely making the field was the Colorado Avalanche. A club that totaled 48 points in total in 2017, with three points awarded for a win and one for an overtime loss, the predictions were not playoffs-centered for the Avalanche in 2018. However, with their 95-point season in 2018, the Avalanche surmounted expectations and look to build upon their playoff

experience this year in 2019.

The upstarts have made noise in this year’s playoffs, but the traditional powers have fought back in their own right. The Penguins, alongside other mainstays such as the Washington Capitals, the Boston Bruins, and the San Jose Sharks, all qualified for the field this year and captured a series win. The Capitals proved to be the strongest out of the nine returning

teams, the only one to reach their conference championship.

However, while these traditional clubs successfully navigated the regular season to reach the playoffs, other squads that are recognized for their involvement in the Stanley Cup Playoffs found themselves left out.

The Chicago Blackhawks, known best for their recent string of victories in the championship, found themselves in an unfamiliar situation in 2018. Placing at the bottom of their division with 76 points, the Blackhawks will look to regroup this offseason to prepare at making another run

at the championship in 2019.

Another team that fell short in 2018 was the Ottawa Senators. After losing in their conference championship last year, the expectations for the Senators were relatively high, especially after trading for Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene. Ultimately, the Senators concluded the year with the second-lowest point total in the league and now join the Blackhawks

in looking to make offseason adjustments to reach the playoffs once more next year.

As the season nears its conclusion, hockey fans will be able to look forward to continued league action with the free agency period beginning the summer, where players such as the Bruins’ defenseman Zdeno Chára and New York Islanders center John Tavares will be eligible to sign contracts with new squads.