Hope you didn't blink because the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs are mere days away. The grueling, months-long road begins on Wednesday and, as we look ahead, there are plenty of questions to be answered.

Who's the biggest sleeper in the field? Which teams should you root for? Root against? Who's going to win the Cup? 

Our CBS Sports team of hockey writers -- Pete Blackburn, Cody Benjamin and Kevin Skiver -- have come together to take a crack at answering some of those questions and more.

Are we buying the Lightning as clear favorites?

Blackburn: I mean, yeah, there's no reason they shouldn't be. They were the best team in hockey wire-to-wire and they've got all the pieces you look for in a true contender. With that being said, we're hitting a point now where everything sort of resets, and the Lightning's issues of closing the deal in the postseason are pretty well-documented. I wouldn't blame people for having doubts, especially if Victor Hedman's injury issues linger, but there's no argument against the Lightning being clear favorites over the field.

Benjamin: Yes. Let's not overthink this. Tampa was so dominant this year that everyone started taking their steadiness for granted months ago. Is the pressure on them? Heck yes. But you absolutely do not stumble your way into 62 wins. Can they be beaten? Sure. But there's nothing scarier in this year's playoffs than the thought of facing their offense for an entire series.

Skiver: Yes. There're a lot of things standing in the Lightning's way. A loaded Eastern Conference, a plucky Blue Jackets team in the first round and the fact that the President's Trophy winner hasn't won the Stanley Cup since 2013. In spite of all of that, this Lightning team is too special to ignore. Nikita Kucherov is having a historic season from the wing spot, Steven Stamkos and Braden Point are helping pave the way and Andrei Vasilevskiy could win the Vezina Trophy this year. With all of that in mind, I think you'd be crazy to not consider Tampa Bay to be favorites -- even though I don't necessarily think that translates to them winning the Cup.

Besides Tampa, which team has the most pressure on them?

Blackburn: Toronto. Sure, the Leafs may not have the immediate window that the Blue Jackets or Sharks are staring down. But they are right back to where they were last postseason, facing the team that has been their postseason boogeyman for the past decade. They took the Bruins to seven games last year and added John Tavares and Jake Muzzin this year, hoping it would be enough to put them over the top. If it's not, there's going to be a ton of frustration in Toronto and mounting pressure on Mike Babcock, who has been one-and-done in his last four playoff appearances. 

Benjamin: This depends on what kind of pressure we're talking about, because the Capitals, Penguins and Blue Jackets all stand out in different ways here. Like it or not, Washington is going to feel burdened to repeat after returning to the dance. Pittsburgh didn't come roaring into the postseason, but it's fair to wonder how many serious Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin runs they have left. And Columbus backed itself into a corner by loading up at the deadline, although maybe their pressure gauge has dropped solely because they're up against the Lightning to start.

Skiver: Columbus. Believe it or not, I'm going with Tampa Bay's opponent in the opening series if we are talking pressure. The Blue Jackets barely eking into the playoffs after the deadline they had is not promising. Franchise players Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky are probably walking after this year, and Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel are eligible for free agency as well. The Blue Jackets, you have to play the Lightning tough -- if not win the series -- to show those guys they mean business long-term. This team's future is bleak if it doesn't retain anybody this offseason, and let's not forget that Ottawa holds all their draft picks.

Will Toronto finally beat Boston?

Blackburn: Probably not. As a Bruins fan, I'm certainly not whistling past the graveyard. Even with their inconsistent play and defensive deficiencies, Toronto is still a team worth fearing. They've got so much talent up front that they're certainly capable of getting hot and outgunning the Bruins to the second round. But ultimately I don't have enough faith in their coaching to say they've got a great shot at avoiding another early exit.

Benjamin: Nope. Any other year, the Maple Leafs would be tempting (aren't they always?), and we're not going to pretend John Tavares can't be a factor this time around. But who's betting against Boston right now? Outside of the Lightning, arguably no one's been more impressive as a total package, especially considering the injuries they overcame.

Skiver: Yes. Last postseason, the Bruins survived the Maple Leafs in seven games in the first round and they went 3-1 against them this year. OK, now throw all of that information out. The Maple Leafs have to -- and I mean HAVE TO -- steal one at TD Garden to win this series. The Maple Leafs will finally beat the Bruins this year, with John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner leading a formidable offensive attack. They'll need to get on Tuukka Rask a lot to notch the win, but they have the talent to do it.

More likely to make another run to the SCF — Vegas or Washington?

Blackburn: Vegas. Their road to get there might be a little more difficult in terms of the number of very good teams they'll have to beat, but the Golden Knights added Mark Stone to an already impressive forward group and, from what we've seen in regular season, they have a higher ceiling than than Washington does. The Caps also just lost a top-four defenseman to injury in Michal Kempny, who was a massive piece in their run last year.

Benjamin: Vegas. Look, the Capitals actually deserve a ton of credit for avoiding a post-Cup slump, and Alex Ovechkin and Co. are more than capable of tapping into playoff experience to make another run. But all you need to do to answer this question is look at the conference matchups. The Golden Knights' path to a Final seems much more feasible, and then there's the fact they're on a roll anyway.

Skiver: Vegas. Even though Washington definitely got the friendlier first round matchup, I'd still take Vegas to the Finals before I took the Capitals. The Golden Knights reloaded at the deadline by adding Mark Stone and they've been streaking ever since. The Western Conference teams just doesn't have to deal with that insane Atlantic division either. If the Golden Knights can survive the Sharks, they can tear through a relatively inexperienced West better than the Capitals can slog through the utterly stacked East.

Who is your sleeper/dark horse?

Blackburn: Carolina. I'd love to say Vegas, but I don't really even consider them a dark horse at this point regardless of their lower seeding. Those who have paid attention know. As for Carolina, they're in the postseason picture for the first time in 10 years and going up against the reigning champs. I don't know how much I trust their goaltending, but I have a feeling they could be a team that catches lightning in a bottle in a pretty flawed section of the bracket and finds themselves in the Eastern Conference Final. 

Benjamin: Calgary. It seems weird to pick the NHL's second best team as a dark horse, but is anyone giving the Flames the respect they deserve? In the West, the Blues are the talk of the town, the Golden Knights are widely favored and the Jets, Sharks and Predators all have bigger spotlights. Sleep on Calgary all you want, but even with their so-so goalie duo, they boast one of the most balanced units in all of hockey. With five different 70-point standouts, they just might sneak their way to the Final.

Skiver: Dallas. I almost want to say the Blue Jackets here, but I can't put them over the Lightning. Also,  I think we're past the point of the Islanders being called sleepers. So I'm going out west to say the Stars. Dallas has the second-lowest goals against average in hockey (behind the Islanders), with duo Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin both landing in the top 15 in GAA. They'll need to be at their best against the Predators, but Nashville is hardly some kind of offensive juggernaut this year. The Stars' style of play could end up being a problem for the Central Division winners.

What team is the easiest to root for?

Blackburn: Carolina. Maybe this partially helps explain why I picked them as my sleeper. Carolina's rebranding and embracing of the "Bunch of Jerks" label has been a ton of fun to watch this year. They've got a nice mix of vets and young players who seem to get along really well and have endeared themselves to a non-traditional hockey market, much like the Golden Knights last year. 

Benjamin: Carolina. How can it be anyone but the team that's tasting the playoffs for the first time in 10 years? While Carolina isn't as sexy as other Eastern Conference contenders, not only would pulling for them mean pulling for the underdogs (and a rookie head coach) but immediately eliminating any chance of a Capitals repeat. A close second: The St. Louis "Comeback Kids" Blues.

Skiver: Calgary. It is genuinely difficult to root against the Flames this year. To have a team come out of nowhere like this and win a Pacific conference that should have been a two-team race between the Sharks and Golden Knights is nothing short of extraordinary. Mark Giordano is one of hockey's best defensemen right now, and Johnny Gaudreau finished just a point shy of 100. The only thing standing in Calgary's way is that they won the conference, so the team they're playing -- the Avalanche -- is instantly an underdog. But talking body of work? The Flames have earned all of their recognition, and that makes them lovable.

Easiest to root against?

Blackburn: Toronto. Listen, as someone from Boston, I know the last thing all of you want to see is another Boston title. But come on...if there's one thing that might be enough to put neutral fans on Boston's side, it's schadenfreude with regards to Toronto. Do you really want to see the most insufferable hockey market in North America experience the joy that has hilariously escaped them for so long?

Benjamin: Boston. No offense to all the admirable work they've done this year, but it's got to be the Bruins. It's not that they're despicable, by any means. You could easily make the case that Pittsburgh is more "annoying." Or Columbus, for somehow always making the playoffs with these under-performing rosters. But few teams have been in contention for as long and as well as Boston has, plus it's about time we saw a swing of the Bruins-Leafs pendulum.

Skiver: Boston. This could go to any of the top three Atlantic teams, and rooting against Brad Marchand and for Patrice Bergeron is zero-sum, so there's no tipping point there. With that in mind, the Bruins are still the easiest to root against because the Red Sox and Patriots are coming off of championships seasons. Bostonians aren't getting tired of parades, but the rest of the country is getting sick of seeing them.

What's one matchup you most want to see?

Blackburn: Maple Leafs-Islanders. Yes, I know this doesn't really make sense considering I already said I didn't think Toronto would win and that they were the easiest team to root against, but Tavares Bowl brought a vicious playoff atmosphere during the regular season. Imagine the scene for the actual playoffs, with a spot in the Cup Final on the line? It seems unlikely, but the thought is worth salivating over.

Benjamin: Sharks-Lightning. Just for the pure talent and thrill of it in the Final. San Jose at its peak could give Tampa a run for its money, and yet the Lightning tout such an arsenal that this kind of series would be a must-watch offensive showcase. As for other rounds, a Bruins-Penguins conference final would be pretty edgy.

Skiver: Capitals-Islanders. It would be neat to have Barry Trotz going up against the team he won a championship with the year prior, and it would be a great way to flex just how special he's been on the bench for New York. The fact the Islanders have done what they've done without a single player over 62 points is wild, and it's a testament to how good the defense -- and coaching -- in has been. The Capitals, meanwhile, have the best goal-scorer in hockey, so the stylistic clash only adds to the intrigue. This would also mean we don't need to run back Capitals-Penguins. It isn't that that rivalry isn't amazing, it's just nice to try something new once in a while.

If you had to give one playoff guarantee, what would it be?

Blackburn: At times I'm going to feel like I want to live this way forever. At other times I'm going to want to die immediately.

Benjamin: The Winnipeg Jets will not make it to the conference finals. Even if the Blues' hot streak ends in the first round, I'm not sold on the Central Division runners-up. Nashville and, yes, even Dallas could easily beat them after that.

Skiver: The second round in the Atlantic part of the Eastern bracket is going to go to seven games. The Lightning will be in it, and whether they end up playing the Bruins or the Maple Leafs, those two teams are going to fight it out to move on. Tampa went 3-1 against both the Bruins and the Leafs this season, and even though I believe they're the clear favorites on paper I don't think there's any coasting. The Lightning have the talent to dominate this year, but plenty of other teams have the potential to beat them in a seven-game series.

What's your Stanley Cup Final prediction?

Blackburn: Lightning over Golden Knights. I know it's a boring pick but I can't talk myself out of picking Tampa just for the sake of it. They've been the best team all year long and I think this is finally the year that they're strong enough and complete enough to seal the deal.

Benjamin: Bruins over Sharks. Maybe I'm contradicting myself by picking Tampa, Washington and Vegas to lose before the Final, but in reality, I expect those three to be in the mix regardless. The Bruins just have so much going for them, and in a relatively murky West, I think a first-round upset of the Golden Knights could jump-start all that talent waiting to emerge in San Jose.

Skiver: At the beginning of the season, I picked the Maple Leafs over the Sharks, and I'd be remiss to not stick to it. This may fly in the face of what I've said about the Lightning, and it might be a pick made out of stubbornness more than anything, but the Maple Leafs have the pieces this year to end their Stanley Cup drought. Whether or not Tavares ends up being the difference remains to be seen, and it's going to be a long trek for Toronto, but their depth is no joke. In the west, the Sharks have a tall task ahead of them in Vegas, but they also have added key pieces to help their run and they have a Norris Trophy candidate in Brent Burns. Ultimately, offseason acquisitions rule the day, and I like the Leafs to win in six against the Sharks.