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NHL Playoff preview: Canucks favored, Bruins face Habs

The National Hockey League’s 30 franchises competed in 2,460 games over six months to determine its 16 best. Now, the playoffs are upon us.

The National Hockey League’s 30 franchises competed in 2,460 games over six months to determine its 16 best.

Now those 16 have the opportunity in the next two months to participate in the games that really matter.

The playoffs are upon us.

The two-month marathon for the Stanley Cup begins tonight with Game 1 in five series: Washington vs. New York, Pittsburgh vs. Tampa Bay, Vancouver vs. Chicago, Detroit vs. Phoenix and Anaheim vs. Nashville.

The other three series —Philadelphia vs. Buffalo, Boston vs. Montreal and San Jose vs. Los Angeles — start tomorrow.

In this new, parity-driven world of Gary Bettman hockey, there are no dynasties. Legendary teams such as the late-’70s Canadiens, the early-’80s Islanders or the five-Cups-in-seven-years Oilers would have been broken up due to the salary cap.

There have been five Cup winners in the five postseasons following the lockout, and only one team — the Detroit Red Wings — even reached the Final in consecutive years.

What the salary cap has done by leveling the financial playing field is guarantee all 30 of the NHL’s franchises are flawed in some way.

But arguments can be made for and against any of the 16 playoff squads winning the Cup. The ice is open. Anyone can win.

That was proven last year, when the Philadelphia Flyers clinched the last playoff spot in the East in the regular-season finale, then got red-hot and reached the Stanley Cup Final. Philadelphia lost the series in six games to Chicago.

Bruins-Habs

This Original Six matchup should be the most emotional series of the first round.

» Montreal won the regular-season series, 4-2, but the defining images from those six games were brawls and Zdeno Chara’s check on
Max Pacioretty.
» In the wake of the hit, Mark Recchi claimed that the Canadiens’ doctors “embellished” their
diagnosis of Pacioretty.
» Both teams feature top-flight goaltenders: Boston’s Tim Thomas and Montreal’s Carey Price.

 
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