Potential 2015 NHL Playoff Matchups We'd Love to See

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistMarch 31, 2015

Potential 2015 NHL Playoff Matchups We'd Love to See

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    The Stanley Cup playoffs are nearly upon us.

    In two weeks' time the regular season will be over, and the most grueling championship run in North American sport will begin. Every year the quality of the hockey is exceptional, the stories are amazing and sometimes a series (like last year's Western Conference Final between Chicago and Los Angeles) stands out as some of the best hockey modern fans have ever seen.

    With that in mind, in the following slideshow we make the case for seven potential first-round matchups as must-watch hockey, citing recent history between the teams and a host of other factors. Read on to see our list, and feel free to propose the series you're hoping to see in the comments section. 

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

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    Why We'd Love to See It: It's a little simplistic, but Sidney Crosby going head-to-head with Alex Ovechkin would be awfully fun. There's an awful lot of star power on both sides, and there's the additional wrinkle that one-third of the Capitals' blue line was playing in Pittsburgh not all that long ago.  

    Recent History: These teams last met in the playoffs in 2009 in an entertaining seven-game contest that included 49 goals and three overtimes. Washington won this year's regular-season series by a 3-1 margin. 

    Likelihood of the Matchup: There's a decent chance that we'll see this in the first round. Pittsburgh currently sits second in the Metropolitan Division, and assuming they hold that position, all Washington would need to do is pass the New York Islanders. Currently the Caps are three points back with a game in hand. 

St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Why We'd Love to See It: There is a lot to like about this matchup. These are both old teams with long histories, both quality teams that see themselves as Stanley Cup contenders and these are also teams with a recent history with each other. 

    Recent History: These teams met in an excellent six-game first-round series last spring. The Blackhawks have won two of three games this season, but the clubs will meet on April 5 and then again on April 9 in a possible first-round preview. 

    Likelihood of the Matchup: If the playoffs started today, these two teams would meet. 

New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders

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    Why We'd Love to See It: Obviously because we can't get enough of the "Potvin sucks" chant. This is a long-standing rivalry for obvious reasons and would obviously get a ton of attention from the national sports media. It's also a pretty compelling matchup between one of the up-and-coming teams in the East and the club that won the conference in last year's postseason.  

    Recent History: It's been 20 years since we've seen a playoff matchup between these two teams. The season series saw the Islanders win the first three meetings, but it also saw the Rangers storm back to win the last two.  

    Likelihood of the Matchup: If Washington can past the Islanders and the Rangers stay behind the Montreal Canadiens, this is what we'd see. It's well within the realm of possibility. 

Anaheim Ducks vs. Minnesota Wild

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    Why We'd Love to See It: This is almost an old No. 1 vs. No. 8 matchup, with the caveat that nobody knows who would win it. Anaheim has been the top team in the West by standings points for most of the year but has a modest plus-11 goal differential. Minnesota has been the best team in the West since adding No. 1 goalie Devan Dubnyk in trade.  

    Recent History: Minnesota has won 11 of 14 games in March, but one of those losses was against Anaheim; the Ducks won the season series by a 3-0 margin. The teams haven't met in the playoffs since 2007, when the Wild were Anaheim's first-round opponent in a year when the Ducks won it all. 

    Likelihood of the Matchup: If the Nashville Predators win first in the West and the Wild stay in the top wild-card slot, we'd see this matchup. 

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings

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    Why We'd Love to See It: Aside from the obvious attraction of a marquee meeting between two strong puck-possession teams, there's an interesting narrative angle to this one. On one side, the Red Wings are one of the NHL's most dependable teams, an older club with a long reputation for excellence that may be in its twilight years. On the other is one of the league's top up-and-comers. Youth vs. the old guard is always an intriguing battle. 

    Recent History: These two teams have never met in the playoffs. The Lightning won the season series by a 3-1 margin but were shutout and fell 4-0 in the last tilt between these clubs. 

    Likelihood of the Matchup: If the playoffs started today, these two teams would meet. 

Nashville Predators vs. Los Angeles Kings

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    Why We'd Love to See It: The Nashville Predators are coming off an extremely disappointing season but have consistently been one of the best teams in the West this year and look poised to win the toughest division in hockey. The Los Angeles Kings are coming off a championship run, but they have been thoroughly mediocre this year and could miss the playoffs. At first blush, this looks like teams going in opposite directions. But both are quality, and there's no way of knowing who would survive an encounter between the two.

    Recent History: These teams have never before met in the playoffs. Nashville won all three season meetings, but the hockey was shockingly good and the results close in all counts. There was a 4-3 shootout win, a 7-6 overtime decision and two weeks ago a third-period comeback that saw the Preds win 2-1 in regulation. 

    Likelihood of the Matchup: The Kings would need to unseat the Winnipeg Jets (L.A. is presently two points back) in the final wild-card slot, and Nashville would need to pass Anaheim (there is presently a three-point gap, with the Predators holding a game in hand) to claim first in the West. 

Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins

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    Why We'd Love to See It: Regardless of how good or bad these two teams are, this is a series that never seems to disappoint. It's an Original Six rivalry featuring two teams with incredibly loud and passionate fans. The two teams see each other a lot and play extremely different styles of hockey; it's a high-stakes clash between speed and brawn.  

    Recent History: The history alone makes this worthwhile. These teams have met four times in the postseason since 2008, with three of those series going to seven games. Montreal swept the season series, but there is no guarantee it'd do the same in the playoffs. 

    Likelihood of the Matchup: If the playoffs started today, these two teams would meet. 

    Statistics courtesy of NHL.com