The race for Lord Stanley’s Cup is on and the playoff picture is starting to take shape. There are still some teams on the verge of getting into one of the most exciting postseason events in all of sports, but the true contenders have all made their cases.
The Eastern Conference has seen a power shift as it has quickly gone from the Metropolitan division to the Atlantic. While aging stars like Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby still dominate the game, they now have company at the top with stars rising in the other division.
Tampa Bay seems to have finally put everything together as they are the first team to clinch a spot in the playoffs. They have an offense that has only been blanked twice so far this season, and they average over four goals per game.
The issue the Lightning have had in the past is that their offense goes cold in the playoffs and their defense/goaltending falters. Despite their past, they have stars on the offensive, defensive and goaltending facets of the game, which makes them the most dangerous team going into the playoffs.
Star power and playoff experience is crucial, and the Penguins and Capitals have that. Ovechkin and Crosby have battled for the Eastern Conference crown since they broke into the league in the mid 2000s. As long as they play at a high level with their Stanley Cup winning goalies, they should always be considered threats.
In the West, the Calgary Flames have proven to be dangerous, but their lack of a true presence in net will prove to be their downfall. The San Jose Sharks are the West’s best team with a good offense, stars on defense and a goalie in Martin Jones who can be unbeatable when he gets on a hot streak.
In the Central, the Nashville Predators emerged as the last team to get into the playoffs two seasons ago. They went to the Stanley Cup Finals that year and have been one of the league’s best teams since. With the best all-around team, the Predators will be difficult to bring down, especially of goalie Pekka Rinne gets hot.
Overall, I think Tampa will struggle with Washington leading to their downfall. Brayden Holtby will get hot again and lead the Capitals to another Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay Lightning seems to have a chance to make it into the Stanley Cup Finals. They had 112 points going into their game against the Washington Capitals on Saturday, Mar. 16.
The only other team close to that is the San Jose Sharks who had 94 points going into their Mar. 16 contest against the Nashville Predators.
It looks as though the other teams in the playoffs from the Atlantic Division will be the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins haven’t been looking great lately and the Maple Leafs have had some good games lately, but lost three of their last seven contests.
For the Metropolitan Division, it seems like the Washington Capitals, New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins are contenders.
The Capitals have won six of their last seven contests taking their only loss against the Penguins 5-3 on Mar. 12. The Islanders have won four of their last six games, taking their only losses on Mar. 3 and 9 against the Flyers.
It seems the Eastern Conference wild cards will be the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets. Both teams have had recent shutouts.
The Blue Jackets recorded their shutout Mar. 15 against the Hurricanes.The Hurricanes recorded theirs in their Mar. 11 contest against the Avalanche.
Central Division contenders are the Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues. The Jets are first place in their division, while the Predators are in second and Blues are in third.
Contenders for the Pacific Division are the San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames And Vegas Golden Knights. The Flames are in first place in the division taking wins in their last three games.
The Western Conference wild cards look like they’ll be the Dallas Stars and Arizona Coyotes.Both teams are fourth in their division and have won five of the last seven contests.
I believe that the Tampa Bay Lightning will be taking home the Stanley Cup this year. They’ve been looking pretty solid winning five of their last six contests, have already clinched their spot in the playoffs and lead the NHL in points.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning