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Rick Zamperin: 16 teams, only one Stanley Cup winner

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday, June 11, 2017.
Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday, June 11, 2017. Mark Humphrey/ The Canadian Press, AP

16 teams are dreaming of becoming Stanley Cup champions later this spring, but only one will do so.

Will the Pittsburgh Penguins become the first team since the New York Islanders of the early 1980’s to win three consecutive titles?

Is this the year Alexander Ovehckin finally has his named inscribed on the Stanley Cup?

And can the Vegas Golden Knights do the unthinkable and be the first expansion team to hoist the cup?

The opening round of the NHL playoffs begin Wednesday night and for the next eight weeks, or so, hockey fans will be on edge.

READ MORE: Rick Zamperin: 3 reasons why the Maple Leafs and Jets will meet in the Stanley Cup final

Cheering on your favourite team during the regular season is one thing. Come playoff time, the excitement, anxiety and elation are racheted up ten-fold.

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Personally, I’m a nail biter. It’s a bad habit, I know. And when I’m watching the Maple Leafs in the playoffs my nail biting can get out of control. So much so (and I can’t believe that I’m admiting this) I wrap hockey tape around my finger nails. Problem solved, but I can’t lick any potato chip residue off my finger nails! So much for sacrificing my body for the team.

Okay, enough about me, it’s time to talk about which teams are going to survive round one of the post-season.

Colorado has had a fantastic year, but Nashville has been a buzzsaw this season and will take out the Avalanche in five games.

No Ryan Suter for Minnesota means no chance for the Wild against Winnipeg. I like the Jets to cruise to round two in five games.

The first upset comes out west where the playoff tested L.A. Kings show Vegas that the post-season is a different animal. Kings in six.

READ MORE: 5 things you should know about the Winnipeg Jets vs Minnesota Wild playoff series

The Ducks are red hot entering their series against the Sharks and will eliminate San Jose in a seven game slugfest.

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Much like the Avalanche, New Jersey has gone from rags-to-riches this year. But they can’t compete with the ultra-talented Lightning, who win this series in six.

Boston and Toronto, the only original six teams in the playoffs, will play seven gruelling games and the Maple Leafs’ depth up front will guide them to round two.

READ MORE: Toronto Maple Leafs to face Boston Bruins in first round of Stanley Cup playoffs

The Blue Jackets will give the Capitals all they can handle, but my gut says Washington squeeks by in six games.

And in the battle of Pennsylvania, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins have dominated the cross-state rival Flyers this year and will win this series in six games.

Fast forward to the Stanley Cup final. On Tuesday, I laid out three reasons why I thought the Leafs and Jets would play each other in the final. As much as I would like to see it happen, if I’m being honest with myself, it probably won’t materialize.

It is hard to bet against a repeat of last year’s final between Nashville and Pittsburgh. The Predators are the President’s Trophy winners (most points) while the Penguins are so good, especially come playoff time.

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But only one of those teams is going to go all the way, and that’s Nashville. I predict the Predators will beat the Lightning in seven thrilling games to win the Stanley Cup.

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