The NFL season is finally here and the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals have each been in the playoffs in five of the last six years.
But the NHL has gone on hiatus for the past two seasons, and it seems unlikely that the Penguins will be back in the postseason again this year.
The Penguins’ season ended on a sour note, and they lost in the Stanley Cup final to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Now, the Pens and Capitals will battle for the top spot in the Atlantic Division.
The NHL has a bye this season, so the playoffs are not officially in the books until April.
The season will continue until June 8, and the NHL will begin play again on March 16.
So which team will get the best of the playoff field?
Here are the top contenders for the Eastern Conference: Washington Capitals: They finished the season strong, winning the Presidents’ Trophy, the Norris Trophy and the Vezina Trophy.
They were also one of the NHL’s best teams, finishing with the league’s best record and best goal differential.
The Capitals also had the NHL leading average save percentage at .918.
The Caps’ defense also held the league lead in hits (7th), blocked shots (11th) and shots faced (16th).
They were first in the league in goals against average and penalty minutes allowed.
The Washington Capitals are led by captain Alex Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 33 goals.
Washington has been a very good team, but it will be interesting to see how the team performs this year and if it can contend for the Stanley Cups again.
The New York Islanders: The Islanders made it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
They have not been able to win a playoff series since 2012 and have missed the playoffs each of the past five seasons.
The Isles won the Presidents Trophy, a Vezna Trophy and a Hart Trophy this year, but were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This year, the Islanders were able to get back into the postseason after being swept in both the Presidents and Norris Trophies.
The Islanders are led the Atlantic by captain John Tavares, who has 24 goals, 46 assists and 59 points in 51 games.
Tavares has been fantastic for the Islanders this year as well, scoring five goals and four assists.
The Rangers, Sabres and Islanders are the only teams with winning records this season.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins finished the regular season strong.
They finished with the NHL lead in goals (37), goals against (22), power-play goals (2) and points (22).
They also led the league with an average goal differential of +5.1.
The Pens are led in scoring by forward Sidney Crosby, who scored 33 goals and had 39 points.
Crosby is second in the NHL in scoring with 23 goals, including five game-winning goals.
The top offensive players on the Penguins are winger Evgeni Malkin (18 goals), center Sidney Crosby (17), defenseman Kris Letang (17) and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (16).
The Penguins were the NHL MVP this season with 27 points.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will hope to repeat this success in the regular-season finale.
The Minnesota Wild: The Wild finished the year strong.
The Wild won the Stanley Championship, the Presidents Cup and the Hart Trophy.
The team also won the Atlantic division, which is tied for the best record in the League.
The first team to beat the Penguins in the Eastern Final will likely be the Wild.
The teams are also tied for second in goals scored, third in goals allowed and fifth in goals-against average.
The two teams will battle in the Western Conference Finals on April 2.
This will be the first year since 2003 when the Wild has won the conference finals.
The Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks will play in the next two playoff rounds, but the Stanley Series will be played in seven rounds instead of eight.
The Oilers and Canucks are tied for third in the Pacific Division.
Winnipeg Jets: The Jets have been a pretty solid team throughout the regular seasons.
They won the Eastern and Western Conference titles and the Presidents trophies, but they have missed out on the Stanley Playoffs since 2013.
They are also one the NHLs best teams.
The Jets are led with captain Connor Hellebuyck, who had 35 goals and 62 points in 63 games this season and also led all rookies with seven power-plays goals.
Hellebidks power-game is also a big reason why the Jets were so good this year: He is an excellent passer.
Hellbuyck has also helped the Jets out on offense, scoring a team-high 10 goals in 12 games.
Winnipeg will be looking to bounce back in this year’s playoffs.
The Buffalo Sabres have been very strong this season thanks to captain Jack Eichel.
He has 31 goals and 66 points in 75 games.
Eichen has had a lot of success with the Sabres this year with the team winning seven straight playoff games. The