Since deciding to restart my writing and set up my blog again, I was going to wait until the NHL Draft to do loads of opinion and analysis as hopefully the Edmonton Oilers lose the draft lottery and don’t get a chance at picking Auston Matthews first overall (If they do then expect a piece on the draft lottery) but with the NHL playoffs starting last night I thought I’d turn my attentions to the post-season and look at who I think will win the playoffs.
I’ll preface this by saying I am a Washington Capitals fan, and while my knowledge of the Capitals is far greater than my knowledge of any of the other 15 teams still in the hunt for the Stanley Cup, I’ll try to keep myself as neutral as possible.
Many have predicted the Capitals to go on to lift the cup, but the west looks strong and while I share the opinion that the Capitals are the East’s best chance (they are technically the best team in the league) but there are just as many teams in the west that have every right to have their names etched on the Cup.
Let’s start buy ruling out a few teams from the get go. In the East I can’t see the Philadelphia Flyers getting past the Capitals, and while one team will advance from round one I also don’t see either the New York Rangers or Pittsburgh Penguins going the distance. At the time of writing the Detroit Red Wings are already down in their series against the Tampa Bay Lightning and I don’t see the Red Wings really getting past last years’ runners up, that leaves the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders who I don’t see getting past the Lightning in round two (if I’m correct at the Lightning get there) so already in the East were down to the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Switching sides now, looking at the Western Conference, I think it’s a bit harder to pick my final two but because I have to I’m going to try.
Since 2010 the Chicago Blackhawks have won three cups and come in as the defending champions, just to see a change I don’t want them to win this year, but against the St Louis Blues I can see them getting through to round two so let’s rule out the Blues. St Louis aren’t a bad team, and despite taking a 1 – 0 lead in the series already, the Hawks have too many playoff performers so I can’t see them getting four wins. If Chicago get to round two then I see them taking on the Dallas Stars who are one of the most exciting teams in the league in my opinion, they take on the Minnesota Wild who will I do love the team, they’re not strong enough in my opinion to overcome the Stars, setting up a Stars/Hawks round two match up and that’s where I make my first pick for the Western Conference final as I think the Stars (much like the Capitals) are just opening the window on their time to win the cup and will go on to edge the Hawks in round two.
Now to pick the Stars opponents I’m going to be short and sweet by saying the Sharks and Kings faceoff in round one but neither will get past round two as one of the toughest matchups sees the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators battle it out for a chance to play the Kings or Sharks.
This is where it gets interesting for me and where the short and sweet stops. The Ducks are a team I admire, they’ve got the leadership in Ryan Getzlaf and some of the more exciting players in the league and while they do have a lot of youth in defense, they have some potential elite stars on their blueline in Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen, they also have one of my favourite young goalies in John Gibson.
Nashville on the other hand have another exciting roster, they commited daylight robbery to pick up Filip Forsberg at the 2013 trade deadline (I’m a Capitals fan and yes I’m STILL bitter) but when you look at the rest of the roster they Preds have some incredible youth like Ryan Johansen and Forsbeg mixed with some veterans like Mike Fisher and of course Shea Weber who is honestly one of the most terrifyingly strong men in the league. What stops the Predators from getting past the Ducks is goaltending, yes Pekka Rinne is a fantastic goalie, but I just don’t see him being able to stop the Ducks who boasted the best powerplay in the league this season.
So now we’ve picked our conference finalists, let’s pick our finalists.
First between the Capitals and Lightning, the Lightning know how to get their of course, but the Capitals have the better team (I can say that because statistically they have the best team) It’ll be a great goaltending battle between Braden Hotlby of the Caps and Ben Bishop of the Bolts. In three games this season the Capitals took all three wins, and while previous results don’t matter much, they can certainly allow for speculation. Both teams have some exciting youth (Kuznetsov and Burakovsky of Washington, Kuznetsov and Palat for Tampa Bay) I think the veteran leadership on the Capitals with former cup winners Justin Williams and Matt Niskanen to name two will allow the Capitals to make their first Stanley Cup finals since 1998.
On the otherside between the Stars and Ducks, very simple, the Ducks have proven winners with Getzlaf and Perry, but the Stars added to their already strong lineup bringing in two Cup winners from last year, signing Johnny Oduya and picking up Patrick Sharp in a trade which I think gives them the edge to set up an exciting Stars V Caps final.
So now to pick my winner, I want to say Washington, not just because I am a fan but because it’d be a great way to end an incredible year for the team in red. Ovechkin needs his cup, Holtby has the ability to backstop the team to glory and that’s where I make my decision.
If the Stars had better guys between the pipes then I could see them overcoming the Capitals, while the Stars certainly have two very solid goaltenders, they don’t have the right guys to lead them to victory.
So yes, you can say it’s me being biased but my pick for the cup is the Washington Capitals.
But don’t worry Stars fans, you’ll get many chances of the next couple of seasons I have no doubt about that.
Let me know in the comment section below who your pick is!