The National Hockey League might have had a shorter season thanks to the lockout at the start of the year, but the positive to that is that the playoffs have rolled around much more quickly than usual.
Less than two weeks of action remain before the race for the Stanley Cup truly heats up, with all 16 teams looking to try and take home the title this year—which, if we learned anything from the Los Angeles Kings last season, it seems they're all capable of doing.
The 2013 NHL playoffs are certainly shaping up as a close and fascinating affair, with several very intriguing matchups lined up for the opening rounds. And whilst we won't officially know who plays who for another few weeks, there's a couple of fixtures that could be coming our way this year that would be truly spectacular.
Which first-round matchups would we love to see most in the playoffs this year?
Read on and find out.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
The rivalry between these two sides is both long and illustrious, and seeing them meet in the first round of the NHL playoffs would be fascinating this year. Both have been carried by strong goalkeeping at times this season, which, combined with the added pressure of the playoffs, would make this an intense battle.
This matchup hasn't happened in 34 years, so to see it in the first round of the playoffs this year would be a truly special fixture indeed.
Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
An Original Six fixture here between the Bruins and the Leafs would also be fascinating given the history and growing rivalry between the two teams.
The Leafs would be looking at their first playoff berth in a decade. With both teams possessing strong squads, they'd be more than capable of knocking out the other here—especially given the home crowd advantage they'd have at the Air Canada Centre and the TD Garden respectively.
Boston is a premier team in the East, but the Leafs could well have a surprise upset chance if they meet in the first round—something we'd all love to see.
Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings
If only to relive what happened last season, seeing the Canucks take on the Kings would be a dream first-round matchup. You'd have to brace yourself for low-scoring games and plenty of defense, but it would definitely be worth watching to see how the Canucks fare once more.
Vancouver came into the playoff picture last year as the No. 1 seed and was expected to dominate the Kings. But thanks to an inspired performance or four from Jonathan Quick, it was the Kings who emerged victorious over their opponents—making them look pretty poor along the way.
L.A. was methodical and patient, and with Vancouver would no doubt wanting payback for its embarrassing elimination last season, this would make for a great first-round matchup.
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