All hail Lord Stanley
Now that the regular season is over, the NHL is all set for playoffs. The season was exciting for some and disappointing for others.
The Tampa Bay Lightning ended the season with 128 points, just four shy of the record set by the Montreal Canadiens in 1977.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Wild finished last in the division for the first time since 2006 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
I’m banking on the St. Louis Blues making it out of the Central Division. St. Louis is the third seed, and they’re opposed by the Winnipeg Jets in the quarterfinal. The Blues have been hot as of late, winning eight of their last 10 games. Winnipeg is seeded higher than St. Louis, but they recorded the same number of points in the regular season.
In the semifinal, I think they’ll face off against Nashville. The first-seeded Predators face a mediocre Dallas Stars team in the first round, who they should dispose of with ease. I think St. Louis will take out the Predators in the semifinals, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nashville win either.
A few weeks ago, I would have bet on the Vegas Golden Knights to make it to the Stanley Cup, but they’ve taken a dive since then. In their last 10 games, they’ve only won three. I think Vegas has what it takes to defeat the San Jose Sharks, but they won’t get any further.
As a result, I believe the Calgary Flames will win the Pacific. Calgary has the best record in the West, and I’m betting on them fighting through the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas to get to the Western Conference Finals. Once there, I think Calgary will end St. Louis’ run and make it to the Stanley Cup.
The Metropolitan Division is the tightest division in the NHL. The four teams competing are separated by just five points. Washington claimed the first seed, and they face the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round. Given the Caps’ playoff experience from last season, I think they’ll prevail in that series.
The Pittsburgh Penguins challenge the New York Islanders in the other quarterfinal matchup. While the Penguins have more experience, I’m banking on the Islanders winning that matchup.
I think New York’s league-leading defense will carry them through Washington too. The Capitals could have another championship run in them, but I’m willing to bet on the underdog. Defense wins championships, and no team has a better defense than New York.
As much as I like to root for the underdog, I’m not going to stick my neck out for any team against Tampa this year. Led by Nikita Kucherov, who led the NHL in assists (87) and power play points (48) by wide margins, the Lightning are my pick to win the Stanley Cup.
They’re opposed by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the quarterfinal. Columbus has been playing great hockey lately, but it won’t be enough.
They will then play either the Boston Bruins or Toronto Maple Leafs. I’m predicting Boston to win that battle due to Toronto’s questionable goalie situation.
Tampa Bay will take down the Bruins, dismantle the Islanders’ defense and douse the Flames in the Stanley Cup. The Lightning have dominated this season like no other team has done in a long time.