5 Teams and Players To Watch In The 2024 NHL Playoffs

Canucks vs Jets Prediction, Pick, Preview & Betting Odds for 4/18/24

The National Hockey League playoffs are here, and there is reason to believe that this year’s festivities will be as exciting as any in recent memory. As fans prepare, they can be looking for the top storylines across the near two-month playoff slate. Some storylines include a potential Winnipeg Jets and Los Angeles Kings matchup, featuring juicy drama between Pierre-Luc Dubois and the Jets after Dubois requested a trade out of Winnipeg. He was booed mercilessly during his regular season return, and that would only increase in the postseason. Today, let’s look at five teams and players to watch in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Vancouver Canucks and Quinn Hughes

If we are looking for the most surprising team in the NHL, look no further than the Canucks. They had two budding superstars, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, along with established veteran J.T. Miller. However, their results had been mediocre at best, outside of a breakout season from Pettersson in 2023. The 2022–23 squad finished 38-37-7 and missed the postseason. Entering the year, the ceiling on expectations was a playoff appearance on the backs of Pettersson, Hughes, and Miller. 

What has happened has far exceeded the expectations. The Canucks have fought for the #1 seed all season — eclipsing 100 points for the first time since 2014–15 and being a Stanley Cup odds favorite. However, it has not been Pettersson leading the way. Miller leads the way with 101 points, but the real catalyst has been Hughes. The 24-year-old defenseman entered the year as a fringe top-10 defender by net rating but took a significant leap. After finishing 9th in the Norris Trophy last season, he is a competitor for the league’s top defender award this season and has helped turn the Canucks into true contenders. 

Edmonton Oilers and Connor McDavid

Where the Canucks have been a surprise, the Oilers have been nothing if not consistent. They have had more than 100 points in three consecutive seasons and likely would have eclipsed that number in 2020 had COVID not shortened the season. They have reached the Conference Finals during that time but have been a team never truly viewed as a top competitor. This is a major storyline for a team like the Oilers, with the league’s best player, Connor McDavid, who was not particularly encouraged by his team’s performance even this season.

The 27-year-old Canadian is a three-time Hart Trophy winner and an all-star in all but one season. His team, however, has not seen significant success, missing the playoff three times in his nine seasons and failing to get past the second round in all but one season. He runs the risk of being a Mike Trout-like figure in his sport, cursed with being the player of his generation without postseason success. 

Pittsburgh Penguins and Sidney Crosby

The Pittsburgh Penguins were dead to rights after 75% of the seasons. After missing the playoffs for the first time since Sidney Crosby’s rookie season in 2022–23, it looked like that might happen again. Pittsburgh is a team with an aging face of the franchise that hadn’t made it past the second round of the playoffs since winning the second of back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016-17. But then, Crosby showed us there’s still a little left in his tank. 

Pittsburgh rattled off seven wins in a nine-game stretch and gave themselves an edge over the Washington Capitals for the final Wild Card Spot. If they can hold on, this may be Crosby’s final postseason ride. 

Boston Bruins and David Pastrnak

The Boston Bruins have lived with their 2022–23 postseason failure for nearly a year now. After setting an NHL record with 135 points and 65 wins, the historic team’s season ended in disappointment, falling in seven games to the eventual Eastern Conference champion Florida Panthers in the first round. Now, they’re looking to do what the Virginia Cavaliers did in the 2019 NCAA Tournament: Follow a historic first-round exit with a championship, led by David Pastrnak.

Despite their historic season, Boston’s over/under was set at just 99.5 this season. They have outperformed that mark and are again one of the top teams in the east. Pastrnak has led the way as one of the top players in the league, and the Bruins will need him if they have any hopes of a Stanley Cup redemption story. 

Las Vegas Golden Knights and Tomas Hertl

There is no greater pressure than being traded from one of the worst teams in the league to the defending champs and being asked to help win a Stanley Cup. But that’s exactly what the Las Vegas Golden Knights are asking of Tomas Hertl. The defending champs underperformed this season. Their over/under was set at 103.5, and they struggled to even scratch 100. They dealt with some injuries, but not enough to excuse the performance. Despite their regular season struggles, they are still among the favorites in the west and added Hertl for the postseason run. 

Who Else Are We Missing?

A similar storyline to Crosby and the Penguins is the team right behind them. Led by T.J. Oshie, the Capitals have been right on Pittsburgh’s heels and could easily be the team playing in the postseason with that last Wild Card spot. Either way, this postseason looks to be one of the most exciting in years. 

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