2016 NHL Playoffs: 3 Potentially Electrifying First-Round Series’

With only a couple of weeks remaining in the 2015-16 NHL regular season, multiple teams have already clinched playoff spots, while others have seen their playoff chances diminish.

With that, potential first round match-ups are starting to take shape, and we could be in for some real treats.

This season has been one of the most competitive in recent memory, with teams varying by the slimmest of margins.

With about five games left in each team’s season, there are just single points separating some positions, so first round series’ can still switch around quite a bit.

In any case, there are a few potential series that would catch any hockey fan’s eye.

Anaheim Ducks VS. Chicago Blackhawks

Why Would It Be a Great Series?

Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks, NHL, Hockey
Patrick Kane was a huge reason the Blackhawks overcame the Ducks in the 2015 Western Conference Finals.(Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

This would be a feisty, bruising series, featuring great speed and tons of physicality too, all the makings of a great playoff series. Both teams have extremely deep forward corps’, featuring four lines with the ability of making a significant difference. They also boast some of most impenetrable defencemen in the league today.

These organizations are both at a prime point in their window of opportunity to capture a Stanley Cup, with the Blackhawks already having won three Cups in the past six years. The Ducks were a favourite before the season began, and have been the hottest team in the NHL since the turn of 2016.

With such parity in the NHL standings this year, namely in the Western Conference, it would not be farfetched the claim the Ducks and Blackhawks as two of the Stanley Cup favourites heading into the playoffs, despite some tough times during the regular season.

Playoff History:

The Ducks and Blackhawks recently provided fans with a tremendous series, facing off in the 2015 Western Conference Finals, the first time the two teams had ever met in the playoffs. The Blackhawks came out on top in seven games, despite the Ducks leading 3-2, on route to capturing the Stanley Cup.

Who Would Have the Edge?

As of today, the Ducks would hold a slight edge over the defending Stanley Cup champion, Blackhawks. Chicago has been reeling of late with the absence of Corey Crawford, and will need his return to increase their chances. The Ducks, meanwhile, have once again found their groove, playing a tough, defensive game. They are a league-best 27-8-4 since Jan. 1st.

Washington Capitals VS. Pittsburgh Penguins

Why Would It Be a Great Series?

Pittsburgh Penguins - Washington Capitals
The goal light is always in high demand when the Penguins and Capitals face off, two offensive powerhouses. (Tom Turk/THW)

Two offensive powerhouses in one series? What else could you ask for!

The President’s Trophy winner, Washington Capitals, have been consistently dominant all year. The difference this year is that they are finally strong in all three zones, and have the depth and experience to go on a long run. They are certainly the favourites from the Eastern Conference.

The Penguins are also heating up in the stretch run, despite running without Evgeni Malkin. Sidney Crosby has found his stride again, bolting up to third in the scoring race after a tough start to the season.

Of course, you cannot forget the long, now renewed, rivalry between the league’s most prolific goal scorer, Alex Ovechkin, and the league’s best overall player, Crosby.

Playoff History:

The two teams last clashed in the second round of the 2009 playoffs, in which the Penguins came out on top of a gruelling seven-game series. Pittsburgh would go on to capture the Stanley Cup, while Washington has still yet to surpass the second round in the Ovechkin era.

Who Would Have the Edge?

The Capitals would certainly be the favourite in this series, boasting the best record in the NHL this year. Their team is strong through all four lines, and their defence is finally maturing. As well, Braden Holtby is coming off of a career season. Pittsburgh is hot of late, but will not be able to match the Capitals depth on the front or the back-end.

Los Angeles Kings VS. San Jose Sharks

Why Would It Be a Great Series?

(Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)
In 2014, the Kings overcame a 3-0 series deficit to defeat the Sharks in seven games. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

The two Pacific Division rivals would provide a hard-hitting, physical series, with plenty of skill to boot. The Kings and Sharks have played each other many times over the years, always giving the crowd an outstanding game.

The Kings surprisingly missed the playoffs in 2014-15, but are once again playing the style that earned them two Stanley Cups in the past five years. They are a defence first team, with one of the deepest blue-lines in the league, and their possession numbers are annually amongst the NHL’s best.

The Sharks are riding the resurgence of their veterans. Joe Thornton has found his game again, vaulting him to fifth in league scoring. Joe Pavelski is having a third consecutive superb season, while Brent Burns should be in the Norris Trophy conversation. They finally have solid goaltending as well, between Martin Jones and James Reimer.

Playoff History:

The Kings and Sharks matched up in 2011, 2012, and 2014, with L.A. coming out victorious the last two times. Each series was a back-and-forth battle of physicality and speed, becoming the series to watch each year.

Who Would Have the Edge?

The Kings would hold a slight edge if this series began today, being slightly stronger in the defensive aspect of the game. Los Angeles has an incredibly deep blue-line, featuring some of the league’s most underrated defencemen. San Jose, on the other hand, has an underrated offence led by ‘Big Joe’ and ‘Little Joe’, but simply do not possess the same elite talent level on the back-end.

Which possible first round series are you most excited for? Let us know in the comments below!