It is the best time of year to be a hockey fan. The Stanley Cup Playoff begin in just two days. The Stanley Cup is the most difficult trophy to win in all of North American sports. Over two a grueling three months a team needs four victories over four rounds to get their names on the Stanley Cup. Let’s dive right into the Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview.
Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview
Washington Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricanes
The defending Stanley Cup Champions are looking to repeat as champions this year as well. The task will not be an easy one as the Capitals take on the upstart Carolina Hurricanes. This year things will be different for Washington. After getting winning the Stanley Cup last season, the Capitals have no pressure this season. However, the Hurricanes also have no pressure on them. While many people thought Carolina, nobody thought it would happen.
Washington own a 4-0 regular season record over Carolina. But throw those stats out the window come playoff time. The x-factor for both teams will be the goaltending. Washington has Braden Holtby while Carolina has the tandem of Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney. It will be interesting to see who Carolina starts in the first game. For Washington it will come down to Tom Wilson. Wilson’s physical play allows Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov the space they need to make plays.
New York Islanders vs Pittsburgh Penguins
This is a very intriguing matchup in the playoffs. The Islanders and Penguins have a storied history of playing each in the playoffs. The Islanders have won three of four meetings in the playoffs. The last time these two met in the playoffs, the Penguins were victorious in six games. However, every one of those games were very close. This time around the Islanders will have home ice. The Nassau Coliseum will be rocking once the playoffs start. The Islanders feed from the crowd and the energy from the fans will be important.
For a team like Pittsburgh starting on the road with such a veteran lineup will not both them. The Islanders and Penguins split the season series 2-2. Keep your eyes on this series because it has the chance of going seven games. Under head coach Barry Trotz, the Islanders are very strong defensively. Not to mention Trotz has the formula to beat the Penguins. The real question is can the Islanders goaltending which has been so good, stop the high powered Penguins offense.
Nashville Predators vs. Dallas Stars
On the final day of the regular season, the Nashville Predators clinched their second consecutive Central Division title. And just like with the Islanders, Bridgestone Arena will be factor for the Predators come playoff. The Predators feed off the crowd and Nashville is hoping the fans will be back to their ways from 2017. On the other side of the equation, it took the Dallas Stars until the final week to clinch a playoff spot. Just like with all of these series, goaltending will be important.
The playoffs have not been too kind for Pekka Rinne. With all of his accolades Rinne has fallen short in the playoffs. As a matter fact, Rinne has been the reason why the Predators have come short in the playoffs. On the other hand, Ben Bishop can steal this series for Dallas. Bishop has the experience to carry a team on his back deep in the playoffs. And with all the fire power the Stars have, Dallas can match goal for goal with Nashville. Both teams are good defensively, so it will come down to goaltending.
Winnipeg Jets vs. St. Louis Blues
Heading into the playoffs, one team is looking for confidence, while the other team is riding a tidal wave of momentum. The series between Winnipeg and St. Louis could be one of the best in the playoffs. As a matter fact, there is so much star power on the ice, don’t blink too quickly or else you might miss something. Entering the playoffs, the St. Louis Blues are one of the hottest teams in the NHL. It is a remarkable story considering how bad the season started off for the Blues. After firing their coach and hitting rock bottom at the end of January, the Blues began a remarkable run up the standings. One of the main reasons for the Blues success was Jordan Binnington. Binnington helped solidly the Blues goaltending position. He will need to keep his level high come playoff time.
On the other hand, the Winnipeg Jets are struggling coming into the playoffs. Even though the Jets have one of the deepest teams in the NHL, Winnipeg is very vulnerable. Something is not clicking for the Jets. Winnipeg let the division title slip through their fingers. Going into the playoffs, the Jets will need to find their mojo again. Connor Hellebuyck was big for the Jets last year in the playoffs. However, this season was not one of his best. To go along with Hellebuyck’s inconsistencies, Patrik Laine took a step back. Not to mention Laine was in the doghouse for most of the season. Laine will need to find his scoring touch for the Jets to have success. Another x-factor will be health of the Jets defense. Josh Morrissey and Dustin Byfuglien are back in the lineup and were backbones for the Jets defense.
Best of the Rest:
Two teams that have not been mentioned are the Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche. Both teams have tough matchups in the playoffs. Columbus will square off against the best team in the league in the Tampa Bay Lightning. While the Avalanche will take on the best team in the West in the Calgary Flames. It took both teams until the final days of the season to make the playoffs. On paper, the Columbus Blue Jackets can match talent with the Lightning. While, Calgary’s depth might be too much for the Avalanche to handle.
Through the season the Avalanche have been a one line team. With Mikko Rantanen still out of the lineup, it will be on Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon to provide the offense. However, down the stretch Philipp Grubauer has played excellent for Colorado. He could frustrate the Flames enough to where the Avalanche could steal a game or two.
On the hand while Columbus has the talent to match the Lightning on paper, it will come down to Sergei Bobrovsky. Like with Rinne, Bobrovsky has not got it done in the playoffs. He will need to this season, if the Blue Jackets want any success in the playoffs. It will be very difficult as the Lightning have the best offense in the league. Tampa is led by Hart Trophy favorite Nikita Kucherov. In order for this series to be close, Columbus will need to steal a game on the road or this series will be over quickly. However, the one thing going in favor of Columbus, everyone expects Tampa Bay to win.
With the playoffs right around the corner, stay tuned to Murphys Hockey Law for everything Stanley Cup Playoffs.