Who Will Win The NHL Stanley Cup?
By Scott Jarosz ’21
With March Madness now over, it is the National Hockey League’s turn to take center stage with the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Featuring eight teams each from the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference for a total of 16 teams, this year’s playoffs are sure to provide excitement once again. Last year’s champion, the Washington Capitals, are yet again in the playoff field and looking to take home the Stanley Cup for the second year in a row. However, this season, the Capitals have some serious contenders to prevent them from winning a repeat title. One such team looking to take home the hardware is the Boston Bruins, the second-seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins are the team that will win the Stanley Cup this year.
At second place in the Atlantic Division behind the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Bruins boast a regular season record of 49-24-9 and a total of 107 points. The Bruins’ record shows that they have been a powerhouse of a hockey team throughout the season, and head coach Bruce Cassidy feels confident that his team will maintain its success through the playoffs. According to 98.5 the Sports Hub, Cassidy said, “I like our team. We play hard. We were one of the better teams from start to finish I think in the National Hockey League, specifically the second half of the year. We’ve played well at the right times. We’ve earned our way…Guys should be excited to play.” Cassidy’s confidence in his team is not unfounded.
With one of the best lines in the NHL and two top-notch goaltenders, the Boston Bruins have all of the keys they need for a successful playoff run. The Bergeron-Marchand-Pastrnak line is a force that not many teams are able to reckon with. Marchand put up his first 100-point season; he is one of the six players across the league to reach at least 100 points and he tied in points with NHL-great Sidney Crosby. Pastrnak notched 38 goals and finished out the season with 81 points. Patrice Bergeron, a four-time Frank J. Selke Award winner and arguably the best defensive-forward the league has seen, claimed an impressive 32 goals and 79 points. Aside from the Bruins top line, center David Krejci is also going to be a key factor in the Bruins having a successful playoff run. Krejci is having one of his best seasons in a while this year and matched his career-high 73 points.
However, despite the individual player success on the team, one other reason why the Bruins will dominate the playoffs this year is because they can offer depth throughout their whole team. Every line that Cassidy puts out on the ice has a purpose, and all four lines have each seen success and contributed to the team, whether that be goal-scoring, keeping the pressure on the other team, or just playing physical.
And, while the Bruins have had their share of hardships this season (injuries—particularly those sustained by their defensemen), they have proved time and time again that they can come out on top, and a lot of that has to do with their coaching.
In addition to the tremendous success that the Bruins have had throughout the regular season, they have also proven to match up very well with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the past. For example in the 2012-13 NHL season, the Bruins beat the Maple Leafs 4 games to 3 in the first round of playoffs, which featured a game 7 where the Bruins came back from a 4-1 deficit to win not only the game, but the series as well. The Bruins and Maple Leafs met in the first round of the 2017-18 playoffs, and the Bruins took that series 4 games to 3 yet again.
If the Bruins can stay healthy and get by the Maple Leafs, they are very capable of making a run and taking home this year’s Stanley Cup trophy.
Who Will Win The NHL Stanley Cup?
Tampa Bay Lightning
By Gavin Woods ’22
The 2018-2019 Tampa Bay Lightning are going to win this year’s Stanley Cup. While this is by no means a “hot take,” as the Lightning currently lead the Eastern Conference, the numbers speak for themselves. The Lightning put up a historic regular season tying the all-time record of 62 wins, which was previously held by the 1995-1996 Detroit Red Wings. The Lightning have also shown an impressive clutch factor boasting the second most road wins, 30, in NHL history: one shy of tying with the 2005-2006 Detroit Red Wings.
Because the Lightning finished the regular season as the top seed, they will be facing the wild card Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of playoffs. The Blue Jackets would not pose a major threat to the far sounder Lightning squad, if it were not for the world-class goaltending of Russian keeper, Sergei Bobrovsky, who is a two-time Vezina Trophy winner. The Blue Jackets’ only shot at upsetting this powerhouse is if Bobrovsky can put up a career series. While this possibility seems unlikely due to the firepower of Tampa Bay’s offense, it is not uncommon for a keeper to become hot around playoff time.
Also in Tampa Bay’s favor over Columbus is the fact that during the regular season, the Lightning outscored Columbus 17-3. They also went 6-for-11 with the man advantage.
Barring a miracle from the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Tampa Bay lightning will proceed to the second round to play the winner of the Boston Bruins-Toronto Maple Leafs series. This will certainly be an entertaining series, as Toronto will look to extend their tremendous success at home.
The following matchup will likely prove to be the most testing for the Tampa Bay Lightning, where they will face-off against the winner of the Metropolitan Division. After handily defeating the wild card Carolina Hurricanes, the Washington Capitals will likely prove they deserve a shot at defending the Stanley Cup, beating either the Pittsburgh Penguins or the New York Islanders. Because of the superior talent within the Eastern Conference, this will probably be the most challenging step of Tampa Bay’s journey to the Stanley Cup finals. If the Lightning can hold out over the Capitals, they will almost certainly defeat the best the Western Conference has to offer: likely, the San Jose Sharks.
Key factors to the Lightning finishing what has been dubbed “one of the best regular seasons in NHL history” by the NHL, rest in the stats of their superstar roster; particularly their first line consisting of Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, and this year’s Art Ross Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov. All three of these players led the team with goals scored (Stamkos had 45 and Kucherov and Point each had 41). All three of these players were key factors in the Lightning scoring the most goals out of any NHL team this year with 325 goals —36 more than the second place San Jose Sharks.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have all of the tools for a successful playoff run, and, as seen by their success during the regular season, no team can really pose a serious enough threat to them. It is for this reason that I believe they will win the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Bruins Rally to Eliminate Leafs
By Jeremy Perrigo ’18
The Boston Bruins failed to eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second-straight game Monday night, as the team from the hub of Canada’s hockey world forced Game 7 with a 3-1 win at Air Canada Centre.
The final game of the best-of-seven series headed back to TD Garden Wednesday night, drawing eerie similarities to a first-round meeting between these two Original Six rivals five years ago.
In 2013, as most Bruins fans remember, Boston had a 3-1 series lead over Toronto in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The B’s went on to lose the following two games and were forced to face the Maple Leafs in Game 7, similar to their matchup this postseason.
In that game, two goals from Cody Franson, followed by goals from then-teammates Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri, propelled the Leafs to a 4-1 lead with less than 15 minutes remaining in the third period.
As the saying goes, the rest is history. Goals from Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic, and Patrice Bergeron brought the game back to even with 51 seconds remaining.
Bergeron would go on to score an emotional game-winning goal 6:05 into overtime to propel the Bruins into the second round. From there the team would defeat the New York Rangers in five games and sweep the Pittsburgh Penguins in four, before falling to the Chicago Blackhawks on home ice in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Now, many hockey-educated fans are quick to point out that this Toronto Maple Leafs team is not the team of 2013. Sure, they were the underdog team coming into this series, as they were back then, but their current roster looks dramatically different.
Then goaltender James Reimer has since moved on to Florida, and Frederik Andersen has won the starting role for Mike Babcock’s Maple Leafs. Kessel, after the organization spent years trying to build a team around him as their star player, has moved on to Pittsburgh, where he has won two Stanley Cups in a supporting-cast role to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Drafting Auston Matthews first overall in 2016 has been the biggest improvement for the Maple Leafs over the last two years. In his freshman and sophomore seasons Matthews lived up to the hype, recording 69 and 63 point seasons, respectively.
The Scottsdale, Arizona native and Toronto phenom remained mostly silent throughout the series, recording only one goal (albeit a beautiful one) and an assist leading up to Game 7, where he would be held off the board yet again.
That was perhaps the most troubling fact for Bruins fans, heading into the final game of the series. While it felt at times like Toronto had narrowly escaped destruction with at least two of their three victories in the series, they managed to do so largely without the help of their star player.
William Nylander, largely considered to be Matthews’ right hand man, as he literally played right wing on a first line centered by No. 34 for most of the season, went through a similar drought of postseason success. He recorded only one goal and one assist over the first six games of the series, which bounced him down to Toronto’s fourth line for games five and six. He would add two assists to his resume in Game 7.
Players noticeably absent from the scoresheet for the Bruins during those same two games when Nylander was on the fourth line, were David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Bergeron, who are better known as the components of Boston’s first line.
To put it even more into perspective as to how important these three are, in the Bruins’ first three wins of the series, they combined for 23 points. In the team’s three losses, they had zero.
Enter, Game 7.
The Bruins and Maple Leafs combined for five goals in the first period alone, as veteran Patrick Marleau opened the scoring with his third goal of the season just 2:05 into the game.
Bruins rookie Jake DeBrusk would tie the game before Marleau would put his team back ahead with his second of the night with a wrist shot from the right circle.
Two goals from Danton Heinen and Bergeron would give Boston a 3-2 lead heading into the second frame.
Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs 13-6 in the second period, the Bruins would allow the only two goals of the period, one to Travis Dermott, and another, a heart-breaking short-handed goal to Kasperi Kapanen.
Heading into the third, Boston’s season was on the ropes.
Only 1:10 into the period, Torey Krug fired a shot from the center of the blue line off the faceoff that rocketed past Andersen and into the net, tying the game 4-4. Just 4:15 later, DeBrusk would power to the net with a strong cut to the inside, sliding another puck past the Toronto netminder to give Boston the go-ahead goal.
From here, the rest is history.
Pastrnak would add another from the slot off a smart feed from Bergeron, and Marchand put the icing on top with an empty-net goal from center ice.
Boston would cruise to a 7-4 Game 7 victory, with seven points from its first line and six from its second line of DeBrusk, David Krejci, and Rick Nash.
And, for at least a night, the Bruins have reason to celebrate. After all, this is the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Tampa Bay Lightning wait rested at home as they open the second round against Boston Saturday at Amalie Arena.
Stay tuned, and if the regular season matchups were any indication, hockey fans should be in for another electric series between the B’s and Bolts.
NHL Playoff Preview
By Jeremy Perrigo ’18
Christmas has befallen the National Hockey League, as the 2018 playoffs have officially arrived. For those who follow the NHL with any sort of consistency, April marks the beginning of two and a half months of pure joy and entertainment, as 16 of the league’s best teams embark on a grueling journey in a quest for the crowned jewel of the hockey world: The Stanley Cup.
Part of the great allure of the NHL playoffs is the fact that every series is played in the best-of-seven format, where teams can play no fewer than four games per round. The physical endurance required for this style of competition makes the on ice performance of its participants that much more impressive.
While other sports, such as basketball, conduct their postseasons in a similar seven-game format, the unpredictable nature of hockey allows for more variance in the results of each series. Therefore, it is not incredibly uncommon for an “underdog” team to beat an opponent that is heavily favored.
In 2012, the Los Angeles Kings, who entered the tournament as the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference, famously defeated first place Vancouver Canucks in round one, the second place St. Louis Blues in round two, and the third place Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes in round three. This was all before the Kings went on to defeat the New Jersey Devils in the final and claimed their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Just last season, the Nashville Predators, the 16th out of 16 teams to qualify for the playoffs, swept the Western Conference Champion Chicago Blackhawks in four games. Nashville would continue their run through St. Louis and Anaheim, where they would eventually fall to the Pittsburgh Penguins, two wins short of the Stanley Cup.
Nashville has returned with a vengeance this season, claiming the league’s Presidents Trophy for the team with the most points in the regular season at 117. This marks a dramatic turnaround for the Predators from a year ago, where they went from never having the opportunity for home ice advantage in the playoffs, to being guaranteed that privilege all the way through to the final, should they return again this year.
While the club from Music City is a favorite for many to win the Stanley Cup this season, formidable opponents such as the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, and the divisional rival Winnipeg Jets may stand in their way.
While Tampa and Boston are both in the Eastern Conference and only have the potential of encountering Nashville in the final, a team like Winnipeg could present a roadblock as soon as the second round.
The Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild are the first round opponents for Nashville and Winnipeg, respectively. While both the Avalanche and Wild have had strong seasons in their own right, there are few that see either roster as capable of eliminating the Central Division powerhouses that have been their demise throughout the regular season. If these two matchups go the route of the statistician, a second round clash between the Predators and Jets is all but a lock.
Other notable series include the Kings and the new addition Vegas Golden Knights, who sarcastically tout themselves “proud member of the league’s original 31” teams. Vegas and L.A. have sized up well this season, each team winning two of four meetings, with an overtime victory each way.
Some doubt the Knight’s ability to hang with some of the NHL’s best (even after they clinched the Pacific Division title). Others see this uncertainty as just another opportunity to prove the hockey world wrong, as the team was widely expected to take up residence in the cellar of the NHL standings heading into its inaugural season.
Local interest will likely be focused on the Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, who last met up in the postseason back in 2013, where Boston memorably mounted a comeback in the third period of game seven, erasing a 4-1 deficit and winning the series off a shot from Patrice Bergeron in overtime. However, the Maple Leafs facing the Bruins this time around is a much newer and faster model than the version remembered from five years ago, and Boston is sure to have their hands full.
For fans, any first round series you decide to watch has a high chance of being worth the time spent, as the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs are shaping up to be one of the most exciting displays of athletic prowess that hockey has to offer.