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A quick overview of the eight Eastern Conference entrants in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

by Washington Capitals @Capitals / WashingtonCaps.com

The NHL's 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway on Wednesday night with a five-game slate. Sixteen teams will battle it out in eight opening round series matchups, and with that in mind, here's a quick overview of each of this spring's eight Eastern Conference playoff entrants. (Ranking in parentheses denotes rank among 30 NHL teams during 2016-17 regular season.)

Boston - Despite dropping their last two games (0-1-1) and scoring a total of two goals in the process, the Bruins are coming in relatively hot with a 21-8-1 record over their last 30 games. But they could also be missing two of their top three defensemen if the late-season injuries to Torey Krug (lower body) and Brandon Carlo (upper body) linger into the postseason. With that in mind, the B's have signed 2016 first-rounder (14th overall) Charlie McAvoy to an entry-level contract. The 19-year-old McAvoy just finished his sophomore season at Boston U. and could be pressed into service with the varsity after just four games worth of late-season pro experience with AHL Providence. In Tuukka Rask, Boston has a goaltender who has taken his team to a Cup final and to within two victories of a Cup (against Chicago in 2013), and a guy who has a career 2.11 GAA, .930 save pct. and five shutouts in 47 career playoff starts. The Bruins boast the league's best penalty kill and they're the best regular season possession team in the playoffs. Boston allowed just 26.8 shots on net per game during the regular season, lowest among all playoff teams. The B's went 0-3-1 against the Senators during the regular season, but this is a new season and Boston could oust the Sens if it manages to generate offense consistently against an Ottawa defense that can frustrate even the most potent attack. 

Record: 44-31-7 (T-13th)

Goals: 232 (13th)

Goals Against: 209 (ninth)

Power Play: 21.7% (seventh)

Penalty Kill: 85.7% (first)

SAT% Close: 53.9% (second)

First-Round Foe: Ottawa 



Columbus - For a quarter of the season or so, the Jackets were the best team in the NHL. For most of the season, they were among the top four or five teams. But after going through more than three-quarters of the season without losing more than two games in succession, the Jackets went on an untimely six-game slide before finally righting the ship with a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Leafs in Toronto on Sunday, a win that sealed a Washington-Toronto first-round matchup. The Jackets' late season doldrums combined with the NHL's puzzling playoff system leaves the league's fourth best regular season team starting on the road in the playoffs, and facing the league's second best team. Making just the third playoff voyage in franchise history, the Jackets are seeking their first ever series win. And despite the difficulty of their first round draw, the Blue Jackets could pull off that first series win. They've got one of the best goaltenders in the league in Sergei Bobrovsky, a Vezina Trophy favorite who posted a 1.99 GAA and a .936 save pct. in two dozen starts after the All-Star break. Columbus needs rookie defenseman Zach Werenski back from a brief late season injury absence, but it sounds like he'll be good to go. The Jackets have a dozen double-digit goal scorers, but they need both Seth Jones and Werenski in the lineup if they're going to overcome the Penguins. The Columbus power play was among the league's best in the first half of the season, and was among the league's worst (28th) over the second half. 

Record: 50-24-8 (fourth)

Goals: 247 (sixth)

Goals Against: 193 (second)

Power Play: 19.9% (12th)

Penalty Kill: 82.5% (ninth)

SAT% Close: 50.8% (10th)

First-Round Foe: Pittsburgh



Montreal - The Habs faded after another fast start out of the gate, but still claimed their fourth division title in the last 10 seasons and made the playoffs for the eighth time in 10 years. The Canadiens were the only 100-point team in the only division (the Atlantic) that ended the season with only one team above the century mark, and the Habs' total of 103 points was the lowest of any of the league's four division winners. Now, Montreal gets to face the Rangers in the first round, a team that finished just a point behind the Habs. The other three division winners will face teams with 23, 15 and 11 fewer points, respectively, in the first round. A midseason coaching change did the Canadiens good; they went 16-7-1 after Claude Julien took over from Michel Therrien in February. Although Carey Price has been one of the league's top regular season netminders for years, his 23-27 postseason mark, 2.62 GAA and .912 save pct. in the Stanley Cup playoffs are rather underwhelming. Shea Weber had a typically strong first season in Montreal, and he leads an underrated group. Max Pacioretty led the Habs with 35 goals, and the Canadiens got a surprising 22-goal season from Paul Byron, but those are the only two to surpass the 20-goal plateau. If a few of the other Habs forwards such as Artturi Lehkonen, Alex Galchenyuk, Alexander Radulov and Brendan Gallagher step to the fore, they can move past the Rangers. 

Record: 47-26-9 (T-seventh)

Goals: 223 (15th)

Goals Against: 198 (fourth)

Power Play: 19.6% (13th)

Penalty Kill: 81.1% (14th)

SAT% Close: 52.2% (third)

First-Round Foe: NY Rangers



New York Rangers - For much of the season, the Rangers were among the league's best teams and were part of a frenzied four-team chase for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division. But after posting a 27-13-1 first-half mark, the Rangers won only 21 of their last 41 (21-15-5) the rest of the way and seemed a little too content to cruise into the postseason in the first wild card spot, where they practically took up residence in the second half. A swift transition team with a potent attack, the Rangers didn't have a 60-point man this season, but they still have a deep and diverse attack and they got great mileage from cheap offseason additions Michael Grabner (27 goals) and Nick Holden (11 goals, 34 points). Rookie blueliner Brady Skjei also acquitted himself well, but there are question marks surrounding the veteran blueline trio of Dan Girardi, Kevin Klein and Marc Staal going into the postseason. The 2007-08 season was the first with both Girardi and Staal on the New York blueline, and this season marked the first time over that span that none of the aforementioned trio was able to average as much as 20 minutes a night, indicating a diminished level of trust in their abilities on the part of the coaching staff.

Record: 48-28-6 (ninth)

Goals: 253 (fourth)

Goals Against: 216 (12th)

Power Play: 20.2% (11th)

Penalty Kill: 79.8% (T-19th)

SAT% Close: 48.4% (23rd)

First-Round Foe: Montreal



Ottawa - The Sens return to the postseason after a one-year absence. Under first-year coach Guy Boucher, the Senators did not score many goals; they have the least potent attack of any of the 16 postseason entrants. With goaltender Craig Anderson missing parts of the regular season to help care for his wife, who is ill with cancer, netminder Mike Condon played a big role in Ottawa's rebound season. Condon won 19 of his 38 starts and gave the Sens at least a chance to win on most nights when Anderson was away. That said, Anderson is the man for the Senators. While he has won only 12 of 27 career postseason starts, his 2.35 GAA and .933 save pct. indicate that the sub-.500 mark isn't entirely his fault. Ottawa plays a stifling trap system that doesn't allow many scoring chances and can lull opponents to sleep, but the Sens had only four skaters - and only three forwards - who finished the season north of the 40-point mark. They can sneak past the Bruins if Anderson is on his game and if the Sens can eke out some 1-0 and 2-1 victories. 

Record: 44-28-10 (12th)

Goals: 206 (22nd)

Goals Against: 210 (10th)

Power Play: 17.0% (T-23rd)

Penalty Kill: 79.7% (22nd)

SAT% Close: 48.4% (22nd)

First-Round Foe: Boston 



Pittsburgh - The defending Cup champion Penguins followed up a 104-point season in 2015-16 with a 111-point campaign in 2016-17, the second-best season in franchise history. While the Pens scored 37 more goals this season, they also surrendered 30 more. Among the 16 playoff clubs this spring, only Toronto permitted more goals during the regular season than the Penguins. Sidney Crosby led the league with 44 goals, and he was one of five 20-goal scorers and 10 skaters who reached double-digit goal totals for the Pens. Pittsburgh was in the bottom third of the league in man-games lost to injury at 287, putting the Pens' strong season in an even better light. The Pens deployed 35 different skaters - including 14 different defensemen - over the course of the season. Repeating is tough enough, but the Pens' reward for finishing with the league's second-best record is a date with the league's fourth best team in the first round. Pittsburgh has the league's most potent attack, good enough goaltending and even without defenseman Kris Letang (out for the season with a neck injury), GM Jim Rutherford stockpiled enough defensemen for the Pens to go on another deep run. The Penguins are still wearing the crown until they're not anymore. 

Record: 50-21-11 (second)

Goals: 278 (first)

Goals Against: 229 (17th)

Power Play: 23.1% (T-third)

Penalty Kill: 79.8% (T-19th)

SAT% Close: 50.0% (18th)

First-Round Foe: Columbus



Toronto - Fifty years after their last Stanley Cup title, the Maple Leafs put together the league's most prolific trio of young offensive stars in three and a half decades. Auston Matthews (40 goals), William Nylander (22) and Mitch Marner (19) are the Leafs top picks in the last three drafts, and all enjoyed smashing debuts in 2016-17. All three also reached the 60-point level; James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri reached that level as well as Toronto accounted for five of only 42 players in the league to achieve a 60-point season in '16-17. The last team with three rookies at 60 or more points was the 1980-81 Quebec Nordiques, with Dale Hunter and Peter and Anton Stastny. The Leafs can scored goals by the bucketful, but they also surrendered more goals than any other 16 teams in the playoffs this spring. Most of Toronto's year-over-year improvement came from its offense. The Leafs improved by 58 goals for, but only shaved six goals off 2015-16's goals against totals. The addition of Frederik Andersen in net gives them a chance to win virtually every night, but their blueline is still young and relatively green, especially in terms of postseason experience. Four of Toronto's eight defensemen will be seeing their first ever Stanley Cup action, and the only Leafs' defensemen with as many as 500 career games (Roman Polak, 634) is a question mark because of a late-season injury. The eight Toronto blueliners have combined for just 81 career playoff games, with more than half of those (49) coming from Polak. And nearly half (24) of Polak's total came with San Jose last spring.

Record: 40-27-15 (T-13th)

Goals: 250 (fifth)

Goals Against: 234 (22nd)

Power Play: 23.8% (second)

Penalty Kill: 82.5% (T-ninth)

SAT% Close: 50.5% (12th)

First-Round Foe: Washington



Washington - For the second straight season and for the third time in the last eight seasons, the Capitals were the league's best team during the regular season. Now they'll try once again to translate some of that regular season success into the playoffs. The Caps have now won seven division titles but only five playoff series over the last decade. This season's Caps caught fire in early December and went 26-4-3 over a 33-game stretch in midseason. Washington also finished strong, going 11-2-1 in its last 14 games. The Caps were the league's healthiest regular season team and one of the healthiest in the league over the last decade, losing only 49 man-games to injury or illness. Braden Holtby won 40-plus games for the third straight season, becoming the third goalie in league history to do so. He tied for the league lead with 42 wins as the Caps claimed the Jennings Trophy as the league's stingiest defensive team for the first time since 1983-84. Despite a 1.87 career GAA and a .937 save pct. in his 46 career starts in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Holtby's record of 22-24 shows a criminal lack of offensive support. He has permitted two or fewer goals in 31 of his 46 career playoff starts, but the Caps are "only" 20-11 in those games. That seems like a good record until you consider that the Caps were 42-3-7 in games in which they permitted two or fewer goals during the 2016-17 season. The Caps have pieced together a deeper and more diverse offensive attack this season, featuring five players with 20 or more goals and a dozen skaters that reached double-digit goal totals. Washington went 26-2-2 with its normal dozen forwards in the lineup this season, and it went 36-5-3 when playing on exactly one day's rest, as it will do throughout the first-round series with Toronto. Holtby went 24-3-3 with six shutouts, a 1.73 GAA and a .937 save pct. on exactly one day's rest during the regular season. The Caps were the league's best five-on-five team in 2016-17 with a plus-65 goal differential (178-113).

Record: 55-19-8 (first)

Goals: 261 (third)

Goals Against: 177 (first)

Power Play: 23.1% (T-third)

Penalty Kill: 83.8% (seventh)

SAT% Close: 52.1% (fourth)

First-Round Foe: Toronto

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