Stanley Cup Playoffs Hype Rankings: Which series are must-see?

The National Hockey League's playoff format has once again yielded a postseason bounty of rivalry series, potential thrillers and odd matchups that would otherwise seem like the product of a dartboard and a blindfold.

Which ones are worth your time? Trust the ESPN Hype Rankings.

We rate each series based on several facets: star power, secondary plot lines, the hate factor, the controversy quotient (for potential violent acts or heinous actions), the arena atmosphere, the probability of a Game 7 and, last but not least, the "Beardosity" of a series, in which the face shrubbery of players is weighed as heavily as the fame of that series' players.

Each category is given a score of 1 to 10. Now, without further explanation of a completely subjective and arbitrary process, here are the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff Hype Rankings:



8. Calgary Flames vs. Colorado Avalanche



Star power: 7

Secondary plot lines: 2

Hate factor: 4

Controversy quotient: 3

Arena atmosphere: 8

Game 7 probability: 1

Beardosity: 6

Overall hype ranking: 31

The Flames have Johnny Gaudreau (a potential Hart Trophy nominee) and Mark Giordano (the favorite for the Norris Trophy) going againstNathan MacKinnonand one of the best lines in the NHL. What this series lacks, at first glance, is compelling plot lines, although there have been some contentious moments between the two teams over the past two seasons.

The biggest question looming over our ratings for this one: Does the existence of Ian Cole offset the lack of beard potential on the baby-faced Avs?



7. Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Columbus Blue Jackets



Star power: 8

Secondary plot lines: 9

Hate factor: 1

Controversy quotient: 2

Arena atmosphere: 8

Game 7 probability: 1

Beardosity: 5

Overall hype ranking: 34

The greatest juggernaut the NHL has seen in nearly 25 years takes on an interesting, if seemingly overmatched, opponent in Round 1: the Blue Jackets, who went all-in with trade deadline acquisitions of Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, and are poised to lose stars Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky to free agency.

The previous four series the Lightning have played outside of the conference final ended in five games. Columbus has never made it out of the first round in franchise history. This could go from "interesting setup" to "wait, it's over already?" pretty quickly.



6. Winnipeg Jets vs. St. Louis Blues



Star power: 6

Secondary plot lines: 3

Hate factor: 4

Controversy quotient: 6

Arena atmosphere: 8


Game 7 probability: 7

Beardosity: 6

Overall hype ranking: 40

Although these teams boast a good number of compelling players -- including Vladimir Tarasenko, Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine and rookie goaltending sensation Jordan Binnington -- this series has been shuffled off on American television to a network where it will preempt "Shark Tank" reruns.

The arenas will be hopping and the games could get nastier as the series goes on, but this is a series between a team that was in last place in January and a team that people had in the Stanley Cup Final before the season started (and before they tumbled into the No. 2 seed in the Central). Still, a Binnington-led upset bid could make this one interesting in a hurry.



5. Nashville Predators vs. Dallas Stars



Star power: 8

Secondary plot lines: 2

Hate factor: 6

Controversy quotient: 4

Arena atmosphere: 8

Game 7 probability: 6

Beardosity: 7

Overall hype ranking: 41

The Central Division's wacky final days produced this Winter Classic 2020 preview, as the Predators and Stars have a hoedown, er, showdown in the first round. Obviously, there are big names to watch on both teams, especially in goal, as Pekka Rinne and Ben Bishop could determine who advances (for better or worse). Ryan Ellis alone elevates the Beardosity here.

On the downside, there aren't a ton of compelling narratives heading into this series, outside of revisiting the fecal-based criticisms of Stars players by their team president. Given some antagonistic games between these two in recent years, this one could get a little rough, however.



4. Washington Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricanes



Star power: 7

Secondary plot lines: 8

Hate factor: 3

Controversy quotient: 9

Arena atmosphere: 7

Game 7 probability: 2

Beardosity: 6

Overall hype ranking: 42

With due respect to all the other lower-seeded teams, this is your Cinderella series. The "bunch of jerks" from Raleigh take on the reigning Stanley Cup champions, who dominated them 4-0-0 in the regular season. While there isn't much hate between these two yet, the existence of Tom Wilson in any series nearly maxes out the controversy quotient (as does the presence of outspoken Carolina owner Tom Dundon in a playoff series).

It's been a minute since we had a postseason game at the Hurricanes' home rink, so we might have underestimated the arena atmosphere. This could be a fun one. Or a short one. In either case, viva la Southeast Division, and let's watch Alex Ovechkin score more goals.



3. New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins



Star power: 7

Secondary plot lines: 9


Hate factor: 5

Controversy quotient: 6

Arena atmosphere: 8

Game 7 probability: 7

Beardosity: 6

Overall hype ranking: 48

Do the Penguins have another Stanley Cup run in them? Their bid for a three-peat was thwarted by the Capitals in the conference semifinals last season, and the coach behind the elimination is now behind the Islanders' bench to step up a classic confrontation: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel against the NHL's best defensive team in the regular season.

Two franchises that have some distinct playoff history, with some players who can bring a little nastiness. Playoff hockey returning to Nassau Coliseum ... if the fans there care one-tenth as much about the Penguins as they didaboutJohn Tavares' return to Long Island, it'll be intense.



2. San Jose Sharks vs. Vegas Golden Knights



Star power: 8

Secondary plot lines: 8

Hate factor: 8

Controversy quotient: 7

Arena atmosphere: 9

Game 7 probability: 8

Beardosity: 9

Overall hype ranking: 57

The Golden Knights eliminated the Sharks in six delightfully physical and contentious games last season, and there's no reason to expect anything less in this rematch. There are stars on both sides, two deafening arenas and (of course) some choice playoff beards.

But the underlying plot lines here are just terrific: the Sharks having gone all-in over the past two seasons vs. a Knights team that's significantly upgraded since last season's expansion shocker. Plus, San Jose's league-worst goaltending -- it had the lowest team save percentage in the NHL -- and second-best offense against Golden Knights star Marc-Andre Fleury.

This could be the best series of the first round and perhaps the entire playoffs.



1. Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs



Star power: 9

Secondary plot lines: 8

Hate factor: 9

Controversy quotient: 9

Arena atmosphere: 9

Game 7 probability: 10

Beardosity: 8

Overall hype ranking: 62

There's no logical reason that the second- and fifth-best teams in the NHL should face each other in the first round (and even less logic to have either of them advance to face the No. 1-seeded Lightning in Round 2).

With that established ... how fun is this going to be?

Last year's first-round battle gave us a three-game suspension to Leafs forward Nazem Kadri for boarding in Game 1. It gave us Bruins pest Brad Marchand licking the face of a Toronto player. It gave us a seven-game series of wild momentum swings between the oldest of old-school rivals. This year, we get John Tavares added to this feud that's produced two straight seven-game series. Let's go!
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