Can you believe it’s nearly playoff time?

Pretty soon, it’s do or die for the 16 teams that get a crack at the Stanley Cup. After the wild-card race comes to a close and the bracket is set, the real fun begins.

But let’s not forget to have some fun now, too. In the spirit of forecasting some big headlines (and giving you plenty of reason to slam my prognostication skills at a later date), here are five early -- and slightly bold -- predictions for the postseason:

1. The Chicago Blackhawks will win their fourth title in eight seasons

The Blackhawks would be in line for their fourth title in eight seasons if they haul in the Stanley Cup. USATSI

Does this count as bold?

The fact that a Stanley Cup championship this year would give Chicago its fourth in less than a decade maybe lessens the glamour of calling the Blackhawks future champs. But that doesn’t mean a run to the top wouldn’t be any less of a big deal, especially considering how long the Washington Capitals have been hyped as the NHL’s top dog this season and, don’t forget, the fact that the defending champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins, are far and away the league’s premier offensive firepower.

Speaking of the Pens ...

2. The Pittsburgh Penguins will be eliminated in the first round of the postseason


No one should be surprised if Pittsburgh goes deep into the playoffs. But the gut says maybe, just maybe, the Pens are closer to the worn-down team that suffered a 5-1 loss to Chicago this week than they are the league-leading offense. The talent is there, and so are the goals, so that’s a deadly mix to bet against. A defensive-minded club like the Columbus Blue Jackets, who Pittsburgh might very well face to start the playoffs, knows how to handle the Pens -- and give the long-banged-up reigning champs an early exit.

3. Auston Matthews will have more than one multiple-goal game

Auston Matthews figures to be the centerpiece of Toronto’s run in the postseason. USATSI

If the season ended now and the Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t get a chance to showcase Matthews in the postseason, the rookie still would have warranted headlines. And his offensive touch should be something we’re all watching when the real games begin.

Matthews broke Toronto’s rookie record for goals, kicking off the season with a four-goal performance against the Ottawa Senators. Let’s say the first-year standout does even more damage in a first-round postseason matchup with none other than ... the Senators.

And because he doesn’t seem to be slowing down as the playoffs draw closer, let’s pencil him in for not one but at least a handful of multiple-goal outings throughout the Maple Leafs’ Cup run.

4. The Washington Capitals will make it to the Stanley Cup Final

The real bold prediction would be to peg the Caps as first-time Cup winners, but if Chicago has the title locked down, it’s almost just as surreal to put Washington past the second round.

The Capitals have advanced past the first round of playoff action the past two seasons, but they haven’t had a shot at the Cup since 1997-98, when they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the championship series.

And while it seems a little too easy to pit Chicago and Washington against each other, if only because of the promising late-year success of underdogs like the Anaheim Ducks and Montreal Canadiens, it could surely unfold if the Caps’ dominant balance carries into the postseason (you’ll believe it when you see it, I know) and the team’s deadline moves keep paying off.

5. Carey Price will claim a shutout win against the New York Rangers

Carey Price has helped power the Canadiens’ top-five defense down the stretch. USATSI

We all know Price is one solid goalie. But he has also held opponents scoreless just three times in 2016-17, so keeping the Rangers -- a team that’s scoring more goals than all but two teams in the league -- off the board would be an achievement worth remembering in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

And yet, the way Montreal has quietly coasted into contention as a top-five defensive unit with a firm finish to the year, it certainly doesn’t seem too out of the question. We’ll see, of course, if the Rangers have anything to say about that.