Another year, another round of hype surrounding Stanley Cup contenders and their hockey fans. This is part of our Stanley Cup prediction series. The Western Conference was covered the other day and it can be viewed if you’re interested:
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (A1) VS COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (WC2)
- Offence: Bolts
- Defence: Bolts
- Powerplay: Bolts
- Penalty Kill: Blue Jackets
- Goaltending: Bolts
- Bolts: Nikita Kucherov
- Blue Jackets: Sergei Bobrovsky
One of the most intriguing series of the playoffs, The Jackets barely punched their stamp to the post season to have a date with the Lightning. The Lightning had one of the most dominant regular seasons in recent memory. Their speed and skill is simply unmatched and at times look like they play on a different level altogether. The only way the Jackets have a chance of winning is if Bobrovsky stands on his head every game. Kucherov has had a season to remember with 128 points which was the most anyone has scored in over 23 years. He isn’t likely to slump but it’s the playoffs,a nything can happen.
- The Lightning will easily handle this in 5 games. Bobs will steal one game.
WASHINGTON CAPITALS (M1) VS CAROLINA HURRICANES (WC2)
- Offence: Caps
- Defence: Canes
- Powerplay: Caps
- Penalty Kill: Canes
- Goaltending: Canes
- Canes: Sebastian Aho
- Caps: Alex Ovechkin
This is pretty uncharted territory. The Canes haven’t been in the dance for over 10 years and the Caps have never met them in the playoffs before. The Canes have been the best feel-good story in a long time with the whole storm surge promotion and theatric post game celebrations. They’ve also been red hot since the new year with only the Blues having a better record since January 1st. The Caps will be looking to repeat as champs and pretty much have the same team as last season.
- The Caps will take the inexperienced Canes to 6 games and increase their chances in repeating as champs.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (M3) VS NEW YORK ISLANDERS (M2)
- Offence: Pens
- Defence: Islanders
- Powerplay: Pens
- Penalty Kill: Islanders
- Goaltending: Islanders
- Pens: Kris Letang
- Islanders: Matthew Barzal
The Penguins had a rough start to their season but have bounced back nicely. Never count them out because they have absolute game-breakers like Crosby and Malkin. They face a stingy Islanders team who made a surprise turnaround without their former star, John Tavares. For Pittsburgh to beat the Isles, they need to work the powerplay and Letang has to work the powerplay as a quarter back. He is the only defenceman on the team that can work it as well as he can and he holds a lot of the responsibilty on the back end for that squad as well.
Since the Islanders play a stingy game, everyone has to play a defence first, neutral zone trap kind of game. That is why guys like Barzal and Lee have seen a dip in their scoring. Barzal is one of the guys on the team that can light it up offensively if given an opportunity. He needs to create some for his team if they have a shot. The Pens are a loose team so don’t be surprised if the Isles win at least one game in a goal fest.
It is not a David vs Goliath match up and it’s going to be good with a potential for a rivalry to be made but it is going to the Pens. 6 games are needed there.
BOSTON BRUINS (A2) VS TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (A3)
- Offence: Leafs
- Defence: Bruins
- Powerplay: Bruins
- Penalty Kill: Bruins
- Goaltending: Leafs
- Leafs: John Tavares
- Bruins: Brad Marchand
Once again, these two rivalries face each other in the first round. If history indicates anything, its that the Bruins have had their number on the Leafs and will have a good chance to beat them again this season although it will be close. Both teams have lines that can light it up offensively and have excellent powerplays. There won’t be a shortage on offence, that’s for sure.
Brad Marchand will play a key role for the Bruins to see if he can get under the Leafs skin but he’ll be more likely to score as he has taken on a more offensive role in the last 2 years.
- Very tough to call but I think the Leafs will finally exorcise their demons and take this 7.