The NHL regular season is quickly coming to an end and several teams remain in the hunt for the final playoff positions with just eight weeks remaining. In anticipation of what's to come, let's look at three postseason series we would love to see.
A battle between hockey's two most historic franchises is long overdue. It's been 40 years since these Original Six rivals met in the postseason and the time may finally be right for an epic showdown. Both organizations made major changes over the last few years and each team is playing at a very high level.
If this year's regular-season contests - two overtime thrillers - are any indication of what a playoff series would look like, fasten your seat belt and get ready for a wild ride. Speed, skill, and nearly 100 years of bad blood make for must-see TV.
The Maple Leafs have been considered among the Stanley Cup favorites since signing John Tavares this offseason, while the Canadiens entered the campaign appearing closer to the draft lottery than a playoff position.
But career seasons from Max Domi and Johnathan Drouin, incredible play from netminder Carey Price, and the return of rearguard Shea Weber have lifted the ceiling for a young Canadiens team that would give Toronto a serious headache over a seven-game playoff series.
Season series: Maple Leafs lead 2-0
The bad blood is real between these two Western Conference heavyweights, and it was best highlighted in an 8-5 Flames win at the Saddledome on New Year's Eve.
With what had been an extremely hostile contest reaching its conclusion and the result not in doubt, Flames forward Sam Bennett landed a late hit on Sharks defenseman Radim Simek, sparking outrage from San Jose. The clubs combined for 64 penalty minutes during the game's final 41 seconds.
Through three contests this season, the teams combined for 23 goals, 106 hits, and 110 penalty minutes. If that doesn't sound like a recipe for exciting playoff hockey, we're not sure what does.
Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Erik Karlsson, and Logan Couture highlight the star-studded rosters, and each team possesses an emerging young core behind those big names. The Flames' Bennett, Matthew Tkachuk, and Noah Hanifin, along with the Sharks' Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc represent the 23-and-under club looking to make their mark with a big postseason performance.
Season series: Sharks lead 2-1
Calgary Flames vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Of all the Stanley Cup Final rematches in play, this one seems the most likely to happen, and also comes with elevated stakes. The 2004 final will forever be remembered for Martin Gelinas' no-goal in Game 6, and the Flames have never been so well-equipped to gain retribution. On the flip side, the Lightning appear due for a championship, as they have for a few years now.
In a season marked by an uptick in goal-scoring, the Lightning and Flames each rank in the NHL's top three with 3.80 and 3.67 goals per game, respectively. Each dynamic offense features three players with 60 or more points, and combine to offer six of the league's top-20 scorers this season.
The Lightning have been the best regular-season team for back-to-back campaigns and have made three conference final appearances and one Stanley Cup Final appearance this decade - losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015. The Flames, on the other hand, have struggled to maintain a consistent playoff presence and have just one playoff series win to their name since the aforementioned 2004 final.
Not convinced? Well, you won't have to wait long to see, as these two juggernauts will do battle Tuesday night in Tampa Bay.
Season series: Lightning lead 1-0
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