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It does not get better than this. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are here and 16 teams are left to battle for one of the most famous trophies in all of sports. This year’s field looks like an absolute gauntlet to the finish, especially for the teams in the Eastern Conference. Whoever is left standing at the end of this two-month grind will be a special team.

So who is it going to be? The big question right now is, with there being such a power imbalance in the NHL between East and West, will the team that comes out of the Eastern Conference, having had to go through so many of the league’s very best, still have enough juice to hoist the Stanley Cup in a matchup against whoever makes it out of the Western Conference?

Out West, if feels as if Colorado and Calgary are on a collision course for the Western Conference Final. The two of them look like the strongest teams out there and won’t have to face each other before the Conference Final, which is good news for both of them and bad news for everyone else. But the NHL postseason is so rarely a chalk tournament. Anything can happen, which is why we love it so much.

Let’s take a look at some of the teams I think have the best chance at the Stanley Cup.

Calgary Flames 

They’re not the favorites, but I think they play the style most capable of winning the Cup. They’re tight defensively, ranking third in the league in average goals against per game. They have an elite top line featuring MVP candidate Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm. I don’t know if there’s a team in the league that will be able to adequately matchup with that trio.

They’ve got a proven goaltender who has played exceptionally well in Jacob Markstrom. In front of him, they have a sturdy defense that plays the game physically and defends their own end at an exceptional level. The Flames gave up the fifth fewest shots against per game this season.

Lastly, they’re coached by Darryl Sutter who has found his groove with this team. He won two Stanley Cups as coach of the Los Angeles Kings and his teams always seem to play better in the playoffs. That’s a tall order for the Flames, but I really like the value on them right now as not-quite-the-favorite, but a team that has a good chance.

Florida Panthers 

Not since going to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996 have the Panthers won a playoff series, let alone even come close to winning the Stanley Cup. This year is different, though. Everything about it has felt different. They have a core of veteran players that grew up together, a goaltender playing at a level that makes him a capable Stanley Cup backstop. The top of their lineup is loaded, too.

Sergei Bobrovsky has to be sharp in net, but the Panthers have proven they can outscore their problems sometimes, too. They have one of the game’s best two-way centers in Aleksander Barkov, an elite playmaker in Jonathan Huberdeau and tremendous scoring depth going all the way down their forward lineup. They’re tough to match up against in a lot of different ways.

Defensively, they need to get Aaron Ekblad healthy and ready to play. He appears to be getting closer. If he’s good to go, they’ve got a D corps that can play you tough and they can move pucks up the ice quickly. I think the Panthers are built just well enough to come out of the East.

Value play: Tampa Bay Lightning 

Keep an eye on the Lightning. They have a tough first-round matchup with the Maple Leafs, but if they get out of that one, they might just get rolling and if they get rolling, watch out. They’re about halfway down the odds board right now and that makes me like the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions even more. They have the goalie that has proven it, they have the team that has done it twice in a row. Everyone is scared of their late-season swoon and I think that’s fair.

But if you want to throw a little side money on a team down the board, I think the Lightning make a lot of sense. As they get healthy and have their full complement of players at their disposal, they’re as loaded as any team in the league. I think that’s a place I’d consider making a play because they’ve shown us they can get the job done.

First round series predictions:

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche to beat Nashville Predators in 4 

St. Louis Blues to beat Minnesota Wild in 7 

Calgary Flames to beat Dallas Stars in 5 

Edmonton Oilers to beat Los Angeles Kings in 6 

Eastern Conference

Florida Panthers to beat Washington Capitals in 6 

Tampa Bay Lightning to beat Toronto Maple Leafs in 7 

Carolina Hurricanes to beat Boston Bruins in 5 

New York Rangers to beat Pittsburgh Penguins in 6