Tampa Bay Lightning
Vegas doesn’t have to worry much about the Eastern Conference, but we’d be remiss to list contenders without including a team that has been near the top of the NHL in points from start to finish. Tampa Bay has more firepower than any offense in the league, led by Hart Trophy candidate Nikita Kucherov and linemate Steven Stamkos. If that’s not enough, the Lightning has Vezina Trophy candidate Andrei Vasilevskiy, who leads all goalies in wins.
Last year’s Stanley Cup runners-up are on fire at the right time of the year. Nashville has the best record since the All-Star break by far, including a stretch of 14 wins in 15 games. Led by speedy wingers Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg, powered by a ferocious blue line including P.K. Subban and Roman Josi and backstopped by Pekka Rinne in goal, the Predators might be the class of the NHL.
Since the franchise moved to Winnipeg in 2011, the Jets have yet to win a single playoff game. That’s likely to change this year. Winnipeg is one of the most well-rounded teams from top to bottom, the only team in the league ranking in the top five in goals per game, fewest goals allowed per game, power play percentage and penalty kill. The Jets are piloted by the high-scoring trio of Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine.
San Jose Sharks
The Golden Knights wouldn’t have to face the Predators or Jets until the Western Conference Finals, but the Sharks stand in their way of making it there. The Pacific Division foes are familiar with Vegas after four meetings in the regular season, and since acquiring Evander Kane at the trade deadline, the Sharks have been an offensive juggernaut. Their average of 3.7 goals per game since that point leads the league.