The NHL’s sprint of a season is over, ending a three-plus-month run that crammed 48 games into each team’s schedule.
Hockey’s grueling postseason, which begins with three games Tuesday night and ends as late as June 28, has a slew of storylines spilling off the ice.
Here’s a pick six to follow when the puck drops.
Original Six still skating!
For the first time since 1996, each of the NHL’s Original Six teams is in the playoffs. The Toronto Maple Leafs had a lot to do with ending the drought. The storied franchise in a hockey-crazed city and country has advanced to the postseason for the first time since 2004. In the Eastern Conference, the fifth-seeded Maple Leafs will match up with fourth-seeded Boston, another Original Six team, second-seeded Montreal will face seventh-seeded Ottawa, and the sixth-seeded New York Rangers will match up with third-seeded Washington. In the West, Detroit extended its franchise record postseason streak to 22, the fifth longest in league history, and closed well enough to avoid a first-round matchup with fellow Original Six member Chicago to move into a winnable series against second-seeded Anaheim. The top-seeded Blackhawks will open against the Wild.
Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby was healthy and productive for most of the season, getting 56 points in 36 games, after missing much of the last two years with concussion-like symptoms. A broken jaw, though, has kept him out since March 30 and he’s waiting to be cleared by doctors to play in the postseason. Crosby’s status for Game 1 at home Wednesday night against the New York Islanders is unclear, but he’s expected to be back in the lineup at some point in the seven-game series. After consecutive first-round exits, the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference is poised to make a run with a deep roster improved before the trading deadline. If Crosby can play, the Penguins might hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2009.