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The top challengers for the Predators, Lightning

After a surprising run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017, the Predators appear to be one of the heavy favorites to represent the West in 2018. Who will give them the toughest challenge? Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we've cleared the NHL trade deadline and the playoff picture is starting to take shape, it's never too soon to start thinking about potential playoff matchups.

Unless something crazy happens, the postseason will begin with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators as the top seeds and the clear-cut favorites to represent their conferences in the Stanley Cup Final.

While the Lightning and Predators are well stacked, in years past it hasn't paid to be the No. 1 seed. In fact, the 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks are the last team to win their conference and reach the Cup Final.

There are a few possible explanations for the struggles of top seeds. There is a high degree of luck involved in a seven-game series. Sometimes injuries play a role. Teams can also be better than their overall record indicates, especially following deadline deals. But most often, it's matchups that dictate whether a team moves on.

So will we see the Predators and Lightning buck the trend? Which teams could give them the toughest time? Let's have a look.