16 NHL teams compete for the Stanley Cup

Daulton Bahm, Sports Copy Editor

The 2016 National Hockey League (NHL) Stanley Cup Playoffs kicked off April 13 and will last until mid-June. In the NHL, 16 of 30 teams make the playoffs, including the top with eight teams from each the Eastern and Western conferences. Three teams from each division make the playoffs along with two wild cards from each conference.
The playoffs began April 13 with the first round, and will end in mid-June after the Stanley Cup champions are named. Teams representing the Eastern Conference are the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers. Teams representing the Western Conference are the Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings. These 16 teams will all compete to become the next Stanley Cup Champion. The Washington Capitals finished the season with the best record in the NHL at 56-18-8 and are a heavy favorite to win the Stanley Cup.
The Carolina Hurricanes, the local NHL team based in Raleigh, N.C., failed to make the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season as they finished with a record of 35-31-16. The Hurricanes fell 10 points short of the last wild cardspot to the Philadelphia Flyers.
“The Hurricanes did much better than most expected, but still have a long way to go,” said Ryan Prusia, junior and Hurricanes fan.
Meanwhile, the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, once again made the playoffs, but lost in the first round to the St. Louis Blues in 7 games.
“It just doesn’t really feel right,” said Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks Right Wing, after the series loss to the St. Louis Blues.
In addition to the St. Louis Blues, the Western Conference was represented by Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild and the San Jose Sharks in the second round. In the Eastern Conference, the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders advanced to the second round.
As can be expected with the Stanley Cup Playoffs, some of the NHL playoff games are getting very heated, making playoff games more susceptible to fights and suspensions. The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins are in an especially heated series. Washington Capitals player Marcus Johansson collided with Penguins player Kris Letang, and Letang is facing a three-game suspension. This comes after a series of two other collisions, including one involving Tom Wilson of the Capitals and Conor Sheary of the Penguins.
“I just looked at it; he obviously leaves his feet, and hits me in the head. It’s the kind of play you want out of the league. Doesn’t look good,” said Johansson.
The playoffs consist of four rounds, with eight teams eliminated after the first round, four teams eliminated after the second round, two teams eliminated after the conference finals round and the Stanley Cup champions will be decided after the final round. Four best-of-seven series will take place, with home-ice advantage decided by the team with the better record. Teams with home-ice advantage play at home in games one, two, five and seven. Games five, six and seven are only played if necessary. The games will be televised on NBC, NBC Sports Network, CNBC, USA and the NHL Network.
The NHL playoffs will continue for several more weeks until the 2016 Stanley Cup Champions will be decided at some point in early June after the final round is complete.