Crosby's Penguins target third straight Stanley Cup

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There are so many headlines heading in the 2018 playoffs: Will the Washington Capitals finally overcome their playoff demons?

Can the Flyers knock off the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins after consecutive gruelling springs? Philadelphia does have some momentum as they come in having won four of their last five games, but they have a tall task ahead of them as they lost all four games against the Penguins this year.

Vegas' storybook expansion season was a tremendous story, but it's going to end at the hands of the Kings.

The collaboration also includes integration within all NBC broadcasts with on-air presenting sponsorship of NBC Sports' NHL Live pre-game show for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau has made it past the first round in only four of his nine playoff appearances.

Tampa opens their playoff series at home against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, the same night Boston and Toronto kick off.

These two teams are going to play a very physical series, as that is the style in the West. Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang have all faced the Flyers three times in their careers. No matter who it is, Sergei Bobrovsky will have a solid first round knowing he isn't playing Pittsburgh. This could be a high-scoring series if players get sent to the box a ton, because neither Washington nor Columbus is good at killing penalties. The Flyers last played the Penguins in the postseason following the 2011-2012 season, when the Flyers won in six games. They are both quite different teams now, but Bergeron's still in Boston.

In Philadelphia, goalie Petr Mrazek held the fort in going 6-6-4 in place of injured starter Brian Elliott. It's just hard to bet against Crosby & Co.in the playoffs, but at +195, it isn't a bad bet to take a shot on the underdog.

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"They have all the pieces", Philadelphia center Claude Giroux said. Murray dealt with multiple injuries during the season and his goals-against average and save percentage were both career lows. Instead, the Panthers, who were eliminated from playoff contention Saturday, earned a 4-2 victory, allowing the idle Tampa Bay Lightning to emerge with the division crown.

Storyline: Which of the Devils D can shut down Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos? Pittsburgh won all four regular season meetings, but two had to go to overtime.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. He had a steadily declining save percentage since his first season with the Maple Leafs in 2013-2014, even being sent down to the Maple Leaf's AHL affiliate in his last season with them in 2015-2016.

They have one of the best defenses in the Western Conference and have been able to compete against the top teams in the National Hockey League. The Maple Leafs might have the best offense in the playoffs, but the defense and goaltending will be their downfall. It was a run Nashville began against Chicago in becoming the first team to sweep a No. 1 seed in the opening round since the current playoff format was set in 1994. Gostisbehere had 65 points this season, making him a potential dark horse for a Norris trophy and Letang will be back in the playoffs after missing all of last years playoffs. But the Kings have too many clutch players in Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty and netminder Jonathan Quick. No one told them, though, as young star Nathan MacKinnon turned in an MVP performance of his own to lead the club.

The fourth matchup has Anaheim facing San Jose for only the second time after the Ducks eliminated the Sharks in six games during a 2009 first-round series.

On the other side, the Predators won the Presidents' Trophy for the first time in franchise history as they look to get back to the Finals for the second straight year. Will Nashville get back to the finals? It's far and away better than the MLB, NFL and National Basketball Association playoffs (in my opinion). Goalie John Gibson went 21-7-3 in his final 31 decisions, but missed the final week and is listed day to day with an upper body injury. The pick: Nashville in 4.

This could be a homer series; Winnipeg had the best record at home at 32-7-2, while Minnesota was next best at 27-6-8. The Flyers understand their best chance to pull off the upset will be by staying out of the penalty box. The Penguins go three lines deep as well as any team in the National Hockey League - good luck to all the third pairs that'll be stuck with Kessel this spring. The difference in this series is going to be special teams.

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