NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018: Schedule for Eastern, Western Conference finals

Washington’s Tom Wilson heads to the penalty box during Game 3 against Pittsburgh

While a lot of fans have been complaining about the seeding in this playoff format, I do find it odd that both series will be a matchup of #1 versus #2 with all four teams being division winners. The two series should be outstanding and full of compelling narratives.

"With the matchups on the road, you don't get them all the time so I think guys are a little more aware of who they're on the ice against, maybe a little more engaged in terms of knowing who's on the ice", winger Brett Connolly said.

The Eastern Conference Finals will feature the Atlantic Division champion Tampa Bay Lightning taking on the Metropolitan Division champion Washington Capitals.

What excites Jets coach Paul Maurice most about the fresh teams in the conference finals is the hope it keeps alive in the remaining cities.

In the Western Conference, the Vegas Golden Knights will look to continue their magical run as an expansion team.

The other part becomes a reality Friday night, when the Lightning open the Eastern Conference finals against Ovechkin's Washington Capitals.

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Why Washington can win: The Caps have slain two postseason demons so far. In past years, the Capitals haven't been able to get big goals when they've needed them. It's a full turnover from the final four teams previous year: Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Nashville and Anaheim.

History is being made again in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Only the Lightning have won the cup before and that was before the lockout so many years ago. "That's something we've talked about going against Boston with how good their power play is and we saw first hand that if we are going to take penalties, teams are going to make us pay", Stamkos added. The Capitals rank sixth and 11th respectively but lead the league in neutral zone puck battle wins, where Tampa Bay is 13th.

Prediction: Don't count out the Capitals. "This feels like more of a team than any team I've ever been with at the National Hockey League level". The Capitals and Lightning are far too resilient to lose in four or five. It's tough to bet against Tampa Bay.

"Having some diversity amongst the league is great, and I think it just shows the competitive balance throughout the league", Jets captain Blake Wheeler said.

Home-ice advantage still means something even after the Jets lost twice at home against the Predators. The Knights also have a fast team who can strike quickly. But Winnipeg in seven. Few teams can match Winnipeg's top forward line, but Vegas can with Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith.

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