The Stanley Cup Playoffs are finally here! After over 1,000 games played, 16 teams will do battle for the right to hoist Lord Stanley and reign supreme as NHL champions.
There are plenty of story lines heading into the playoffs this postseason, and matchups galore that’ll dictate how games unfold in the next few months.
Can the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-peat? Will the Las Vegas Golden Knights continue to shock the world? Is this the year the Washington Capitals finally put it altogether?
There are so many stories to tell! So I thought it’d be fun to give my prediction for each series, and predict who will win it all!
Do I need a flame shield? Should I upgrade my flame shield? Anyway…
Without further adieu, let’s jump in!
Nashville Predators vs. Colorado Avalanche
The Predators were a surprise team last season as a wild card when they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. They took the defending champion Penguins to six games, but fell just short on winning the Stanley Cup. This year, they jumped out as a strong contender led by the stellar goaltending of Pekke Rinne, and had contributions from they key players in Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg and Craig Smith. Not to mention bolstering one of the top defensive lines in P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis.
The Predators open up their series against the Colorado Avalanche, who are having a major bounce-back season of their own. Last season they finished with 48 points and 34 games under .500, and now have qualified for the playoffs at 43-30-9 as a wild card team. Led by scoring machine Nathan MacKinnon, who has had a MVP type season, the Avalanche could be a problematic matchup for the Predators.
Colorado has both the edge in the power play and penalty kill categories at 21.9 percent and 83.3 percent, making them formidable on scoring PPGs and killing penalties when shorthanded.
However, I think Nashville’s desire to get back to the Stanley Cup Final, and roster, will prove too much for the Av’s.
Prediction: Nashville in five.
Winnipeg Jets vs. Minnesota Wild
The Jets and the white-out attendance is a tough place for any team to travel to. The Jets lead the NHL in home wins at 32-7-2, and have home-ice advantage over the Wild. Placing second in the Central behind Nashville, Winnipeg looks to put Canada back on the map with a Stanley Cup victory in the Summer.
The state of hockey, however, has the experience needed to make a run of their own in these playoffs. After making the playoffs in each of the last six seasons, Minnesota has yet to make it to the Western Conference Final. Led by goal scorer Eric Staal (42) and Jason Zucker (33), the Wild look to put a lot of pressure on Jets netminder Connor Hellebuych — who has posted a 2.36 GAA and a .924 SV%.
Goals may be hard to come by in this series, but the Jets are nearly unbeatable at home, and if Patrick Laine gets hot, it may not be a long series for the Jets. Not to mention the Jets have the statistical advantage in every category over the Wild.
Prediction: Winnipeg in six.
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Los Angeles Kings
Raise your hand if you had the Golden Knights making the playoffs? Well if you did, then kudos to you. A team that many experts felt would do horrible in their first-year as a newly formed expansion team, said, “that’s cute.” Probably.
They won the Pacific Division and finished among one of the top teams with 109 points, and were lead by Hart candidate William Karlsson who put up 43 goals and 35 assists for the Knights. Vegas has been a proven contender since the start of the season, and they look to keep it going against the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings return to the playoffs after missing out on last year’s festivities. As always, the Kings are lead by Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar and most importantly, Jonathan Quick. Winning two Stanley Cups in a three-yer span, the Kings know how to win when the playoffs begin.
However, the Knights have no interest in letting that happen. Can the Knights continue to shock the world, and get to where they want to get? First thing’s first, win your opening round.
Prediction: Vegas in seven.
Anaheim Ducks vs. San Jose Sharks
The Ducks and Sharks are no strangers to one another in the Pacific Division, and both teams have had deep playoff runs in years past. But this year they’re paired up in the first round as the last two combatants in the Western Conference matchups.
The Sharks, however, have the statistical advantage over the Ducks in two key areas heading into Game 1. The Sharks average 3.01 goals per game, while the Ducks only give up 2.55 goals per game. However, the huge difference could come on the man-advantage where the Sharks have a 20.6 percent advantage, with a 84.8 penalty kill over the Ducks, according to NHL.com.
It’s Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf versus “Jumbo” Joe Thorton Joe Pavelski. Of course other players will chip in with their contributions, but it’ll be all eyes on star players during this series that’ll dictate the winner.
Prediction: Ducks in seven.