Stanley Cup Playoffs: All you need to know10th Apr 2018 |
Will Sidney pick up his third consecutive cup for Penguins or can the new kids on the block, The Vegas Golden Knights reign supreme?
The most anticipated time of the year is here and the race for the Cup has begun.
31 teams in the NHL have been battling it out this season over 82 games and 16 teams are left standing.
Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins have hoisted the cup the last two years and they have their eyes set on lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup yet again.
On the other side of the playoffs, we see the new kids on the block Vegas Golden Knights, going for their first ever playoff run. This seasons expansion team outdone themselves in the regular season and won the Pacific division.
Do you agree with our predictions below or will you back an outsider? Check out the latest NHL odds on Lenny’s Sportsbook.
Nashville Predators – Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche clinched the playoff spot in the last game of the regular season in the deciding game versus St. Louis Blues. Avs came out on top whilst the Blues were sent on an early holiday.
Nashville on the other hand have been a force to be reckoned with throughout the entire season. Last season they finished runner up in the finals against Penguins and this time, the predators are here for revenge.
The core part of the team is still kept. Pekka Rinne is still the starting goaltender and the key to a possible success is sitting on his shoulders. PK Subban and Roman Josi will lead the team from the blue-lines and the two swedes Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson will be the ones expected to put on the points.
Colorado Avalanche on the other hand rely on Nathan MacKinnon, the Calder Memorial Trophy winner from 2014 has been in lethal form for the Avs this season scoring 39 goals in 74 games. The underestimated Finn Mikko Rantanen has also been a key to Avs regular season success, putting on 84 points in 81 regular games. The talented Russian goaltender Semyon Varlamov is the first choice in goal for Head Coach Jared Bednar.
Nashville are the bookies favourites to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup. The Avalanche will merely be a minor bump in the ride. We think Nashville is going to win it in 5.
Winnipeg Jets – Minnesota Wild
In one corner we have the Finnish sensation Patrick Laine. The teenager that amassed 44 goals in the regular season, only beaten by Alex Ovechkin. In the other corner we have Mikael Granlund, the Finnish left wing, who’s complete two-way game has been the backbone of the Wild organisation for the past seasons.. Another vital injection this season for the Wild has been Eric Staal, a center that joined from the New York Rangers. He has been revitalised under General Manager Chuck Fletcher and lead the Wild in points this regular season.
It’s not gonna be easy, but Winnipeg Jets should get the job done in this one. The Jets goaltender Hellebuyck’s regular season GAA was at .236 comparing to Wild’s Devan Dubnyk’s .252. Laine, Scheifele and Wheeler should have this in the bag in 6 games.
Vegas Golden Knights – Los Angeles Kings
The oh so unpredictable Golden Knights are doing their first ever run for the cup. They are facing the 2012 & 2014 Stanley Cup winners in LA Kings. Vegas has much to thank William Karlsson for, their leading goalscorer and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury who helped Penguins to win the cup the past two seasons.
LA Kings, on the other hand, has a very experienced team, a solid goaltender in Jonathan Quick and one of the league’s best centers in Slovenian international Anze Kopitar. Another key piece in the LA Kings roster is the former Norris Trophy winner Drew Doughty, having one of the league’s best defensemen in the team will be invaluable for a contender.
Vegas was almost unstoppable on home ice during regular season and we think that they will continue their run against the LA Kings. It’s gonna be a long and hard fought battle that we think Vegas will win in 7 games.
Anaheim Ducks – San Jose Sharks
The battle of California. Southern California team Anaheim Ducks faces off against the arch-rivals, The North Californian team San Jose Sharks. It’s going to be a heavy battle as both teams posts some of the bigger guys in the league.
The Ducks finished 2nd in the Pacific Division and the Sharks finished just one point shy, putting them into the 3rd spot. Ducks have an experienced team and if they are going to come out on top, players such as Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler will have to play their hearts out.
San Jose can boast with a team involving the current Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns, a very experienced core in Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski and possibly the best shutdown defenseman in the league in Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
The Ducks should be seen as slight favourites as they have the home ice advantage in the series. We wouldn’t be surprised if the Sharks come from behind to win the series in 7 games.
Tampa Bay Lightning – New Jersey Devils
The Devils of New Jersey finally finished a season above their rivals in New York, the Rangers and gets a go at the cup. It’s deemed to be an impossible task though as they face off against Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightnings from Florida have always been favoured to go far in the Stanley Cup in recent years and have a team to do so.
Nikita Kucherov has dominated the ice for his team this season and the new goaltender Andriy Vasilevskiy has not disappointed anyone. When you add elite players such as Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman into the mix, you can understand why they are favourites in this match-up.
The Devils had a good season, or even a great one by their measures. They acquired Taylor Hall from Edmonton Oilers and boy, has he been firing it up for the reds. He tallied 39 goals this season and ended up with 93 points in 73 games. The 1st overall pick in the last year’s draft, Nico Hischier has also had a great season, posting 52 points in his first ever NHL season.
Tampa should be able to make the process short, the question is, how short? We believe that the Devils can pick up at least one win, so we’d go for Tampa Bay in 5 games.
Boston Bruins – Toronto Maple Leafs
Two Original Six teams clash in the first round. The Boston Bruins take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs have undergone a serious re-build in recent years and can finally rely on their talents Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner. Matthews has had his season hindered by injuries, but still managed to put on 63 points in 62 games.
What they’ve lacked in recent years is experience, so General Manager Lou Lamoriello added Patrick Marleau before the season and spiced it up with Tomas Plekanec this winter. This gives them a nice mix of experience and speed.
The Boston Bruins on the other hand have a team that could possibly go all the way, with a competent goaltender in Tuukka Rask, speed and grit in Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak and a fierce slap shot in Zdeno Chara. Add one of the league’s best center depths in Bergeron, Krejci and Backes and you have a team that could well go all the way.
The young guns of Toronto can definitely light it up, but Boston’s grit and firepower should help them overcome the leafs in 5 games.
Washington Capitals – Columbus Blue Jackets
Alex Ovechkin tallied 49 goals for The Capitals in the regular season and won his 5th Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the league’s best goalscorer for the 5th time in 6 years. There is no one quite like Ovie, and that’s what makes Capitals very dangerous. Nicklas Bäckström is one of the league’s best playmakers and has been a very important ingredient in creating those goals for Ovechkin and this duo can’t be underestimated in any way.
The Blue Jackets from Columbus have their own Russian magician. He goes by the nickname ‘Bread Man’ and is better known as Artemi Panarin. They also have a very talented defender in Seth Jones, who they acquired from Nashville Predators for former first line center Ryan Johansen and a solid goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky.
They made it to the playoffs but the story ends here as the Capitals, led by Ovechkin should make the process relatively short and take this series in 6 games.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Philadelphia Flyers
Penguins, the reigning Stanley Cup champions, start their series against rivals Philadelphia Flyers. Let the battle of Pennsylvania begin.
Sidney Crosby and the Penguins are one of the most feared teams in the league, what else is new? This doesn’t mean that this will be an easy one as this long rivalry between the teams dates back to 1967. If Flyers get to stop Penguins race to the cup, then going through to the next round will just feel like a bonus.
The flyers captain Claude Giroux has been mentioned by many as a possible candidate for the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP in the regular season. If he can continue his fine form, then there’s a chance for an upset. Flyers goaltender situation is far from good though as the team has been switching between Neuvirth, Elliott and Mrazek during the regular season.
Surely the Penguins should have this one in the bag but Philly won’t give up that easy. Therefore, we think this series will be decided in 6 games in favour for the Penguins.
Who are you backing?
Do you agree with our predictions or will you back an outsider? Check out the latest NHL odds on Lenny’s Sportsbook now.