The 2016-2017 NHL regular season has entertained fans across the country with emerging teams, rising stars and an impressive cast of veterans. With the playoffs beginning this week, here are a few key storylines to keep an eye on:
Will the Washington Capitals finally live up to their expectation?
Qualifying for the playoffs in nine of the past 12 seasons, the Washington Capitals are no stranger to postseason play. But the Capitals still lack a Stanley Cup banner hanging from the rafters in the Verizon Center.
Since their inaugural season in 1974, the Capitals have only reached the Stanley Cup final once, which may surprise many hockey fans considering their history of regular season dominance.
Led by captain Alexander Ovechkin, the Capitals have not only dominated the Metropolitan Division this season, but the entire Eastern Conference. The No.1 seeded Capitals certainly hope to shake their post season funk and ride their regular season proficiency into a first round matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Will the Toronto Maple Leafs end their 48-year drought?
A member of the “Original Six” era of the NHL, the Maple Leafs’ franchise dates further back than any other team in the league. After winning 13 Stanley Cups throughout the early years of their franchise, the Maple Leafs now find themselves in the midst of a fairly severe Stanley Cup drought.
Making the playoffs just once over the past 11 years, the Maple Leafs became the laughing stock of Canadian NHL teams.
Rookie sensation Auston Matthews, however, has given the Maple Leafs hope for ending their 50-year championship search with a Stanley Cup. Matthews, the first overall pick of the 2016 draft, has become the keystone of the Maple Leafs offense, leading the team in both goals and total points.
With an offensive cast led by experienced head coach Mike Babcock, the Maple Leafs are equipped to compete with any team they face over the coming weeks.
Does rookie Connor McDavid have what it takes to win the Stanley Cup?
The Edmonton Oilers, taking notes from the Maple Leafs, have missed the NFL playoffs for the greater part of the last decade. After earning their first postseason berth in 10 years, it seems the Oilers’ rebuilding stage could be drawing to a close.
Led by 2015’s first overall draft pick Connor McDavid, the Oilers have led their division for much of the season. McDavid, after missing the majority of his rookie season due to a collarbone injury, continues to impress as one of the NHL’s most talented playmakers.
Leading the league in points, McDavid has proven himself one of the most talented young forwards in the league since Sidney Crosby’s debut in 2006. In his first career playoff matchup, McDavid and the Oilers will face the San Jose Sharks, who are also hunting for their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Winning seven of their last eight regular season games, the Oilers are primed to ride a wave of momentum all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.