Who Will Win the Stanley Cup?
Providence College Investigates: NHL
Justin Bishop ’24
Las Vegas Knights
The Las Vegas Golden Knights are the second most recent team to be added to the National Hockey League. The organization itself is four years old, founded in June of 2016. In their first season, 2017-2018, the team reached the Stanley Cup Final, which is a feat that no expansion team had ever done, but they ended up losing to the Washington Capitals in five games.
The Golden Knights have been dominant ever since their first season and show no signs of stopping. They have reached the playoffs every year, and finished each season in third place or above in their division. With no star piece set to leave in the most recent expansion draft, the Golden Knights look to bounce back after losing in the Conference Finals to the Montreal Canadiens this past season.
The loss of Vezina Trophy winner (Best Goaltender) Marc-Andre Fleury via trade to the Chicago Blackhawks is a huge one for the team, but they have a solid replacement with Robin Lehner. Lehner was a solid backup last year, posting a record of 13-4-2 with a 2.29 Goals Against Average (GAA) and a 0.913 Save Percentage (SV%) in 19 appearances.
The top 10 point scorers from last season are returning, and in addition, the 2017 second overall pick, Nolan Patrick, was just signed to a two-year contract. Keeping the players that produce the most, like forward Mark Stone, forward Reilly Smith, forward Jonathan Marchessault, and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, and adding depth with Patrick will help the team in the long run during the playoffs. Chandler Stephenson is currently leading the Golden Knights in points with nine through eight games and was a key part of the Knights’ third line last season and specifically during the playoffs. Before the season started, many hockey news outlets had Vegas power ranked in the top three in the league, behind the two-time defending champions Tampa Bay Lightning and the Colorado Avalanche.
Overall, Vegas has a stacked lineup and there is not a spot on their team in which they have a disadvantage. The Golden Knights’ first line can outperform any other team’s first line and their second line can play with any other team’s first line as well. The only question is if Lehner is ready to be the number-one goalie. So far this season, Vegas has underperformed greatly, posting a weak 4-4-0 record eight games into the season. It is better to start out slow and finish strong than to start strong and finish slow. The Golden Knights are currently riding a three-game win streak into a matchup against another underperforming team in the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, Nov. 2. Las Vegas will continue to pick up momentum as the season progresses and will be ready to claim the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup come June 2022.
Luke Sweeney ’24
With the first month of the NHL season wrapping up, we are getting an idea of which teams will be able to separate themselves from the pack and make a run at the cup later next year.
Much like last year’s NHL season, the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes have proven to be dominating forces in the east, as Carolina remains the final undefeated team in the league. The Hurricanes received criticism recently for replacing their previous goaltending tandem with Freddie Anderson from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Surprising to many, this trade has worked out seamlessly and given the Hurricanes a tremendous advantage between the posts.
The Florida Panthers were also undefeated until last Saturday, when they suffered a shootout loss to the Boston Bruins, another team that has looked extremely sharp in the first few weeks of the season.
In recent news, the Panther’s future success has been brought into question because of their head coach being forced to step down. Coach Joel Quenneville was forced to walk away from the team after news broke of the Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal. Clearly the team has not let its coaching staff’s issues affect their on-ice play, as they are among the best two teams in the league and continue to perform at an elite level.
Another team that has stood out among experts so far this season is the Colorado Avalanche. This past week the team went 2-1, sitting at 5-3 for the month of October. Nathan MacKinnon has dished out eight assists while only playing in six games.
The Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, and Colorado Avalanche are my picks for the league’s top teams after the first month of play. The Avalanche have the biggest potential to win the Stanley Cup this season. They have the talent and longevity to make a good playoff push after a long regular season that most teams in the NHL lack.
The Avalanche have always been one of the best teams in the league but lacked real playoff experience until the last few years. With a combination of playoff experience and a new stud goalie in Darcey Kuemper, the Avalanche finally have all of the tools that the team needs to hoist the cup.