The Puck Has Dropped!

Emma Schifferl, Editor-in-Chief

Let the National Hockey League (NHL) playoffs commence! There are 16 teams that go in, but only one team wins the coveted Stanley Cup. As the first round kicked off off, the rivalries and the brackets began. With the two conferences battling it out to see who goes against each other in the Stanley Cup Finals, the tensions are running high among the players, fans, and coaches.

Starting with eight teams from the Western Conference and eight from the Eastern Conference, teams began fighting for a spot in the next round, anxious to represent their conference. In the West, there were the following four matchups: 

Edmonton Oilers vs. Los Angeles Kings: Oilers win series, 4-2

Dallas Stars vs. Minnesota Wild: Stars win series, 4-2

Vegas Golden Knights vs. Winnipeg Jets: Golden Knights win series, 4-1

Colorado Avalanche (reigning Stanley Cup Champs) vs. Seattle Kraken (newest league addition): Kraken win series, 4-3

In the East, there were these series:

Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Islanders: Hurricanes win series, 4-2 

Boston Bruins (best record in the history of the NHL) vs. Florida Panthers: Panthers win series, 4-3

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Tampa Bay Lightning: Maple Leafs win series, 4-2

New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers: Devils win series, 4-3

In the second round, the West features the Seattle Kraken and the Dallas Stars in one series and the Vegas Golden Knights and Edmonton Oilers in the other. Meanwhile, in the East, the Florida Panthers and the Toronto Maple Leafs square off; the Carolina Panthers and the New Jersey Devils round out the action in that conference.

Even though hockey is a very physical sport, the NHL is not letting the physicality go unnoticed. In the first round alone, there have been two suspensions for dangerous hits, fines assessed for dangerous plays, and numerous penalty minutes assigned to all sixteen teams. Toronto Maple Leafs forward Michael Bunting was given a three-game suspension for a hit to the head against a Tampa Bay Lightning player. Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar was also given a suspension; however, it only lasts for one game. Even with the playoffs meaning bigger hits and more determination, the league insists that the safety of the players is its top priority.

In terms of who will go all the way and win the Stanley Cup, many had their bets on the Boston Bruins. This season, the Bruins broke the record for the best record in the history of the NHL, finishing off the season with a record of 65-12-5. Going into the playoffs with a mature and well-balanced team, many could not see the Bruins leaving the contest early. It was a team with many veterans and all-stars (such as captain Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand), so it was hard to deny the talent of the Bruins. However, they lost to the Florida Panthers in a seven-game showdown.

Some have their hopes on other teams winning. With last year’s Stanley Cup winner, the Colorado Avalanche, also losing in the first round–in this case, to a two-year-old expansion team, the Seattle Kraken–the playoffs have become wildly unpredictable.

Even with all the talk of the playoffs, it cannot be ignored that there were 16 teams that did not make it into the contest. Coming in at 30th out of 32nd, the Chicago Blackhawks cemented their place near the bottom. After winning the Cup in 2010, 2013, and 2015, the Blackhawks have not been in the playoffs since 2020. Missing the playoffs was not the only major news for the Blackhawks. They traded Patrick Kane to the New York Rangers. Winning three cups with the Hawks, Kane swapped his red number 88 jersey for a blue one and left the United Center ice for Madison Square Garden. Chicago also said goodbye to captain Jonathan Toews. After 15 seasons, Toews cited health reasons for not renewing his contract with the Hawks. While he neither confirmed nor denied his retirement, many have reason to suspect that the captain will retire with honor in Chicago.