The 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway on Saturday, May 15th. It felt like the playoffs would never get here considering how slow the regular season dragged since we knew pretty much most of the teams for a good period of time. There is lots of intrigue around the playoffs this season, especially with the divisional format. Not to mention once the playoffs reach the final four, it will be the first time all season any of those teams will play each other. That is when the real test begins for teams. How you stack up against the rest of the league.
It will be difficult to talk about every storyline heading into the playoffs. As each series has its own unique storylines. Today we will look at the top five storylines heading into the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs Storylines
Toronto-Montreal Meet For The First Time Since 1979
While most fans may think this is not a big deal, this storyline is huge. With the Maple Leafs and Canadiens being two of the original six, it is the first time since 1979 the Maple Leafs and Canadiens will meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The two teams came close in 1993 and that would have been in the Stanley Cup Final, but we all know what happened in the Western Conference Final. But it is crazy that since the Maple Leafs came over to the Eastern Conference, this will be the teams first meeting in the playoffs. It is unfortunate that fans will not be in the buildings or outside the buildings for these games as the atmosphere will be electric. Everything is set up for the Maple Leafs to go far in the playoffs, but this is a rivalry series and anything can happen. As Montreal proved last year with Pittsburgh.
Battle of Florida
The NHL has been wanting the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers to meet in the playoffs for quite a while now. As much as these two teams have an intrastate rivalry this is their first time meeting in the playoffs. The Lightning and Panthers had some fierce games this past regular season and what better way to kick off the first round than with these two teams. They always say rivalries are born in the playoffs and if the Panthers want to prove they are the real deal, they will have to up against the defending Stanley Cup Champions. The Lightning are getting healthy with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov coming back in the line-up. The Panthers need to prove they are the real deal. They have not won a playoff series since 1996 when they went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. But the Panthers have the team to go far. But this will be fun to watch.
Can Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl Carry The Oilers To The Cup
Another big storyline in the North Division will be the Edmonton Oilers. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl again carried the Oilers to another great regular-season record. However, the question remains can Oilers rely on just two players to carry them to the Stanley Cup? It will be difficult considering teams know what to expect, but they just can’t stop 97 and 29. The Oilers are in a prime position to get back to the second round of the playoffs this year. And both players played well against Winnipeg this season. But after the first round (again they have to win the first round first), but if they do make a deep run it will be interesting to see how far these two can carry the team.
Is Minnesota The Real Deal?
Another intriguing storyline is the Minnesota Wild. Minnesota had an unbelievable regular season finishing third in the West Division. The Wild exceeded everyone’s expectations except their own. The Wild have shown all season they can hang with the likes of Colorado and Vegas. And as fate would have it they face the Golden Knights in the first round of the playoffs. And the Wild have a good record against the Golden Knights, especially on home ice. But it is the playoffs and the Wild have not had success recently in the postseason. Minnesota has not reached the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2003 and only reached the second round since 2013. So the Wild have a difficult task ahead to get back to the Conference Semifinals. But the Wild have the team to challenge the Golden Knights in the first round. Led by rookie sensation Kirill Kaprizov the Wild are primed to make a deep run again. This is a team to watch once the playoffs start.
Zdeno Chara Faces Former Team
Another story that will intrigue fans is when the Washington Capitals take on the Boston Bruins. Capitals defence and former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will face his former club in the first round. This has Hollywood script written all of it. And he is looking up to the challenge as the two parties could not agree on a new contract for this season. Chara wants to prove to his former club that he still has what it takes to play in the league. Not to mention, the Capitals have a good shot of going far. But the Bruins are one of the hottest teams in the league and have been playing well without Chara there. While the captaincy in Boston may change the leadership and mentality didn’t. It will be interesting to see if Chara uses his knowledge of the Bruins system to help Washington exploit some of Boston’s weaknesses.
Again these are five of the more interesting storylines heading into the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Of course, there are more. But for now, this is the list. If you think there are any others that we missed feel free to comment.
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