NHL Playoff Picture 2023

NHL Playoff Picture 

As the 2023 NHL regular season comes to a close, fans across the league are gearing up for what promises to be a thrilling and unpredictable postseason. With 16 teams vying for hockey's ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup, the competition is sure to be fierce. From upsets and comebacks to breakout performances and controversial calls, the playoffs always deliver high-stakes drama and intense action. As we eagerly anticipate the start of the postseason, there are plenty of storylines to follow. Which teams will surprise us, which teams will disappoint and finally, which team will hoist Lord Stanley come June. In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at the matchups, storylines, and key players to watch as the NHL playoffs get underway.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Toronto Maple Leafs 

One of the most anticipated matchups in this year's NHL postseason is the rematch between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Last year, the Leafs took care of business in typical Leafs fashion! By blowing a 3-2 series lead, that led to another first round exit for Toronto (Sorry leafs fans, this is being written by a Lightning fan). 

The Leafs look to get their revenge, as it has been apparent they will be seeing each other in the first round for a few weeks now. After many moves before the trade deadline back in Late February, early March it is clear that the Leafs are all in this year. They have been playing great hockey as of late, and will be a team that no one will take lightly. Getting revenge on Tampa will have to begin with Ilya Samsonov. He had been solid this season, with a top 5 lowest GAA, and that will have to hold up throughout the entire series. The next key to success will be getting pucks by Andrei Vasilevski. He is very hard to score on when he is playing his best hockey, and was a huge reason the Lightning went back to back in 2020 & 2021. Playoff Vassy is different. With 4 players over the 80 points mark, and the leafs a top 10 team in Goals For, Toronto hopes scoring will not be an issue come next week. 

Tampa Bay knows exactly what they need to do to make it back to the Cup. They have been there three years in a row. At this point it comes down to execution, and to be frank, they have done a very poor job of executing during the tail end of the season. They ended the regular season losing 4 out of their last 5 games. They will need to turn it around if they want to beat a revenge driven Maple Leaf team up in Toronto. If they CAN turn it around however, they have a chance to go far. They have everything a team needs to make a run. Pristine goaltending, elite goal scoring, and veteran leadership. Tampa is a team that has struggled recently, but should not be taken lightly. 

Mason Prediction (Howies Marketing Employee With 0 credentials other than being a hockey player/fan who is also a Lightning fan) :



Let's start by stating the facts. The Bruins are SCARY. Even with a League Record Breaking Season, many fans will not be satisfied with anything other than a championship. The Bruins will face off against the Florida Panthers to begin their quest for their first cup since 2011. 

The key to success for the Bruins will be to keep the foot on the gas pedal. The last time a team had a record breaking season like this, they proceeded to take a 3-0 lead in game 1 of the playoffs, blew the lead, and ended up getting swept by a pesky Columbus Blue Jackets team. That was the 2019 Tampa Bay Lightning. Guess which goalie was in between the pipes for the Blue Jackets that year… Yup! That would be the current Panthers starting goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky. If Bobs plays like he did in 2019, it will not be an easy series for Boston.

Nonetheless, short of anything whacky, the Bruins should not have much trouble with the Panthers. They are entering the playoffs 9-1 in their last 10, and are playing great hockey. They have lost only 4 games in regulation at home this season (3 OT losses) which will be a major advantage. Their goaltending is pristine, and the goal scoring is unmatched. If all goes well they should take care of Florida fairly easily. 

Mason Prediction (Howies Marketing Employee With 0 credentials other than being a hockey player/fan) :



The matchup between the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup playoffs promises to be an intense battle between two talented teams. The Hurricanes, who finished first in the Metro Division, are a defensively sound team. They finished second in fewest goals against only behind the Bruins. Meanwhile, the Islanders, who picked up Wild Card spot #1, also have a solid defense as they play a slower paced trap style game. A team like the Islanders can be very pesky come playoff time. Both teams also have exceptional goaltenders. Ilya Sorokin has kept the Islanders in a lot games this year. The Hurricanes have a stable of goalies in Frederick Anderson, Antti Raanta, & even Pyotr Kochetkov. They have split games this season fairly evenly, and it will be interesting to see how they divide up the games between them this postseason.. With so much on the line, it will be fascinating to see which team will come out on top in what is sure to be an electrifying matchup.

I have a feeling that this one is going to take a few games. It will be a close series, and will be must watch TV.

Mason Prediction (Howies Marketing Employee With 0 credentials other than being a hockey player/fan) :

Hurricanes in 6



The matchup between the Devils in Rangers could be one of the most exciting round 1 playoff matchups of all time. Both teams are extremely talented, and have no problem putting the puck in the net. Not to mention these two teams hate each other. They faced each other 4 times this season, and the Devils won 3 of them. It should be an intense, back and forth series that models what rivalry playoff hockey is all about. 

The Devils finished 2nd in the Metro Division this season, only 1 point behind the Hurricanes. They are led by former 1st overall draft pick Jack Hughes, who has had a breakout year. He fell just 1 point short of having his first 100 point season at 43 goals and 56 assists. Nearly doubling his total from last year at 56 points. Not far behind Jack is 24 year old Nico Hischier who also had a career high, finishing the season at the 80 point mark. These two encapsulate the style of the New Jersey Devils this season. They are young, explosive, and hungry. It may be their first time in the playoffs since 2018, but they are a team that could surprise a lot of people. 

The New York Rangers may have finished below the Devils in the standings, but that doesn’t mean there is much of a difference between these two teams skill wise. In my opinion, this is the closest series in the first round. The Rangers play a very similar style with an overpowering offense and lots of skill. The offensive players to watch will be Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and of course, the newly acquired Patrick Kane. They are also led on the blue line by previous Norris Winner Adam Fox, who is a huge part of this Rangers team. The Rangers made it to the conference finals last year, losing a close series to Tampa Bay in 6 games. They once lead 2-1 in that series, and fell just 2 wins short of their first Stanley Cup appearance since 2014. To make it back this year, they will need another insane playoff run by goalie Igor Shesterkin, who had a phenomenal postseason last year. The Rangers are heading into the first round at a mere 5-5 in their last 10 (3 OT losses). They will need to turn it around if they want to compete with the Devils.

This is a series that I think will end up going 7 games. I believe it to be basically a coin flip as it could go either way. My heart wants the Devils, but history is telling me to go with the team that has more experience. 

Mason Prediction (Howies Marketing Employee With 0 credentials other than being a hockey player/fan) :

Rangers in 7 

Edmonton Oilers vs Los Angeles Kings 

As we head to the West we still have some pretty great first round matchups. Here we have another round 1 rematch that went into 7 games last year. Many have argued this season that the Eastern Conference was head and shoulders better than the west, and that is true to a certain point. The West is still full of talent, and also is home to the number 1 and 2 point leaders in the NHL this season. And yes, they are on the same team… 

Connor McDavid & Leon Draisitl have been spectacular this year. Hockey is definitely a team sport, but it can be argued that these two may be able to single handedly carry Edmonton through the first few rounds of the playoffs. Not to mention Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is having one of the quietest 100 point seasons in NHL history.Why is no one talking about that? Not far behind him is Zach Hyman sitting at 83 points. These four are the major reason why Edmonton has the most Goals For in the league by 20 goals. If Stuart Skinner can hold up in between the pipes, this Edmonton team can be scary! 

A team that has surprised everyone this season is the Los Angeles Kings. They had another solid year this season, and broke 100 regular season points. They are led by Anze Kopitar, Kevin Fiala and Pheonix Copley in between the pipes, who has only 6 regulation losses all season. Fiala has been dealing with an injury, and has only played in 1 game in the month of April. His status for game 1 has not yet been revealed. The Kings remain hopeful that he will return for round 1, as he is a crucial part of their team. 

This will be another electric series that will showcase some of the best in the game! 

Mason Prediction (Howies Marketing Employee With 0 credentials other than being a hockey player/fan) :

Oilers in 6 

Vegas Golden Knights VS Winnipeg Jets 

The last of the known matchups in the West will be the Golden Knights vs the Jets. Vegas odds have the Knights favored to win this series at -170 ( a little biased if you ask me, hahaha). Nonetheless, it still should be a great series. Both teams missed the playoffs last year, and will be hoping to make a run. 

The Golden Knights do not have many standouts when it comes to points. They are a very deep team. They do not have the same drop off that other teams have when it comes to point leaders. There have also been rumors of the “Vegas Flu” floating around. The Knights players joke about guys not being 100% when teams fly in to play them. They chalk this up to the lifestyle of staying on the strip. Gambling, boozing, and late nights could take effect against teams that do not want to stay disciplined. The Jets will most likely plan to get to Vegas early to settle in, and prepare before game 1. It is very likely that a handful of players could partake in the Vegas culture days before the game causing them to not be at their best. It is just a rumor, but could very well happen.

The Jets can chalk a lot of their success this season to goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. He has a save% of .920 right now which puts him in the top 5 for the league. They also rely on the offensive talent of Kyle Connor, Josh Morrissey, and Mark Sheifele. They will need all of these guys to show up big in round 1 if they want to take down this experienced Knights team. 

The Remaining Four Teams 

There are still 4 teams that still are unsure of who they will be playing next week. They are the Kraken, the Wild, The Stars, and of course, the defending champs, the Avalanche. This will all depend on the outcome of the Avalanche vs Predators game tonight. If the Avalanche Win, they will secure 1st place in the Central Division, and punch a ticket to play the Seattle Kraken. And the Stars will play the Minnesota Wild. If they lose, they will face off against the Minnesota Wild, and the Stars will play the Kraken. Nonetheless they will all be great series. 

The Kraken make their first postseason in team history in only their second season! What an achievement. The Aves look to defend their title and go Back2Back! The Stars hope to make it back to the Cup for the first time since the Covid year when they lost to Tampa Bay. The Wild look to win their first Cup in team history! It should be an interesting match up between these teams! 

Mason Prediction (Howies Marketing Employee With 0 credentials other than being a hockey player/fan) :

Avalanche Win tonight 

Aves beat Kraken in 6 games

Stars beat Wild in 7