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The 2016 Stanley Cup went to the Pittsburgh Penguins after they defeated the San Jose Sharks in six games. (Source: Michael Righi / flickr)

With just a few games remaining in the regular season, the NHL playoffs are right around the corner. The chase for the Stanley Cup has players, fans and organizations excited for the season’s future.

Last season, the Pittsburgh Penguins took the Stanley Cup back home after defeating the San Jose Sharks in six games in the Stanley Cup finals. However, this year looks like it could play out much differently.

This year’s Penguins are playing just as strong as last year’s squad. Unfortunately for them, Pittsburgh will be without one of their top defensemen in this year’s playoffs.

According to NHL.com, Penguins’ Kris Letang is “to have surgery for herniated disk, expected to miss 4-6 months.”

Last year’s Stanley Cup runner up, the San Jose Sharks, are also making a return trip to the playoffs and hope to snatch their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

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After being the 2016 Stanley Cup runner-up, the San Jose Sharks hope to make their way back to the finals this year. (Source: Tribune News Service)

The Sharks are relative newcomers to the league, having only been in the NHL for twenty-six years.

Like clockwork, the old powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks have also made their way into the playoffs and are looking as strong as ever.

The Blackhawks have fans all across the country and on Weber State’s campus. Even WSU hockey captain Jake Webber is a life-long Chicago fan.

“The Hawks are looking really good this year. The young talent is playing amazing, and they have been winning consistently,” said Webber.

Another team who constantly makes the playoffs but has never won a Cup is the Washington Capitals.

The Capitals, led by Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin, have posted the most points in the league twice in the last eight years but haven’t been to a Stanley Cup Final since the 1997–98 season.

The Minnesota Wild have surprised everyone around the league this year, looking like very strong competitors for the Cup with the help of the recently acquired Eric Staal, formerly of the Carolina Hurricanes.

The best hockey still comes from the north, as five of the six Canadian NHL teams made the playoffs. Two notable Canadian teams are the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Captain of the Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid is someone to watch out for. He is the league leader in points with 95. (Source: Tribune News Service)

These two teams are led by the youngest guys in the league, as they look to make names for themselves in this year’s playoffs. The Oilers captain is second-year man Connor McDavid, the league leader in points with 95.

The top rookie of this last year’s draft, Auston Matthews, plays for Maple Leafs and has his team in the Wild Card race. While they could miss the playoffs altogether, that would be unlikely.

“The kid is absolutely unreal,” said WSU hockey player Lakoda Coleman. “He surprised the league with his incredible skills this season.”

The playoffs start today, and with some teams still very close to making the jump, it’s going to get extra competitive.

Once the playoffs start, the chase for the Stanley Cup continues until one team stands above the other.

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