Will Murphy ’23
The National Hockey League playoffs have earned a reputation as one of the most exciting postseasons in all of sports, and rightfully so. This year’s regular season has already gone down in history because of the Boston Bruins’ record-breaking run to 63 wins and a whopping 135 points. However, the two previous record-holders for regular season wins ultimately came up short in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so the Bruins will be hoping to buck that trend with a run to the franchise’s seventh Stanley Cup. They will have the advantage of having one of the most talented rosters the league has seen in several seasons. Although the Bruins were dominant throughout the regular season, it is difficult to sustain said dominance in a playoff environment with elevated intensity.
The western conference’s top seed, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, boast an impressive 51 wins; however, they still aren’t the favorites to advance out of the west. That would be the defending champion, the Colorado Avalanche, who are preparing to take on the wild card the Seattle Kraken in first round. The Avalanche are led by the dynamic duo Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. MacKinnon leads the Avalanche in both total points and assists, with 111 and 69 respectively. Rantanen, the right-winger for Colorado, carries the heaviest load offensively for the Avalanche, notching a team-best 55 goals.
The Avalanche have also been the beneficiaries of consistent goalie play throughout the course of the season courtesy of Alexandar Georgiev. In 62 starts in the regular season Georgiev turned away just under 92 percent of the shots he faced, while allowing on average two and a half goals per game. Georgiev’s contributions will be particularly necessary in the playoffs as the games become tighter and every goal that much more important.
Veteran defenseman Devon Toews has been critical to the Avalanche’s success this season and will need to continue to excel in the playoffs if Colorado hopes to ultimately win the Stanley Cup. Toews’ presence will be especially important as he is one of the older, more experienced players on the Avalanche, who will likely look to him to lead his teammates by example on the ice. With MacKinnon and Rantanen leading an explosive offense, Toews anchoring a stout defense, and Georgiev shutting down opponent attacks, the Colorado Avalanche have a good chance to upset the favorite Boston Bruins and repeat as Stanley Cup champions, giving the franchise their fourth Stanley Cup Championship.
New York Rangers:
Joseph Quirk ’23
Top-to-bottom, the New York Rangers are, on paper, one of the best teams in hockey right now. This postseason, the Broadway Blueshirts, a historic Original Six franchise, will look to claim their fifth Stanley Cup and first in nearly 30 years.
This is a young but experienced Rangers team. Led by head coach Gerard Gallant, the Rangers made a run all the way to the Eastern Conference finals last season, where they ultimately fell to the then-defending Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Gallant is a successful head man. After a few mediocre seasons coaching the Columbus Blue Jackets, Gallant made his postseason debut in his second year with the Florida Panthers. He would then take the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup finals in their first season of existence. He has the knowledge and experience to coach in the playoffs and has been on the brink of winning the championship in the past.
Of course, the team around him helps. In net, Gallant can trust one of the top goaltenders in the league, Igor Shesterkin. The 27-year-old Russian netminder has taken a step back in his first season since winning the Vezina Trophy, posting only a .916 save percentage this season, but he is still one of the league’s top goalies. It helps that he has an elite defense around him, including Former Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox who provides an experienced defensive presence along with incredible offensive touch. The same can be said of team captain Jacob Trouba. Young defensemen K’Andre Miller and Braden Schneider are also developing quite nicely.
While the team’s defense does worry opposing teams, it is the elite offense that really terrifies them. The Rangers have two former top-2 draft selections still on their rookie contracts in Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko on their third line, alongside budding young center Filip Chytil. Chris Kreider scored over 50 goals last season and was part of this team the last time they made a Stanley Cup final run. Forwards Barclay Goodrow and Vincent Trocheck are both incredibly seasoned and experienced players that have played with championship contenders before. Yet none of these players mentioned are even amongst the top-4 of this team. Mika Zibanejad and Vladimir Tarasenko are consistently all-star caliber players and elite goal scorers, but even their star power pales in comparison to Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane. Panarin was a finalist for the Hart Trophy a few seasons ago when he posted 95 points (32 goals, 63 assists). He is a crafty puck handler and scorer, but he is even more dangerous when setting up his teammates. This season, Panarin has 92 points, with just three less goals. Kane is a multi-time champion and was a core member of a Chicago Blackhawks team that had a dynastic run. He, along with Panarin, are nearly surefire Hall of Famers.
All things considered, it shouldn’t even be questioned that the New York Rangers will win the Stanley Cup this season.