NHL Postseason Contenders and Pretenders

The+Nashville+Predators+and+Tampa+Bay+Lightning+are+top+teams+in+their+respective+conferences+and+are+looking+to+dethrone+the+former+champions%2C+the+Pittsburgh+Penguins.+Big+acquisitions+at+the+trade+deadline+should+boost+each+franchise.

The Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning are top teams in their respective conferences and are looking to dethrone the former champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Big acquisitions at the trade deadline should boost each franchise.

David Minster, Senior Sports Manager

With one month left in the NHL season, the playoffs are beginning to take shape. But which playoff teams and borderline-playoff teams are most likely to take home the Stanley Cup? Will the Pittsburgh Penguins accomplish the coveted “three-peat”? Can the Arizona Coyotes make the playoffs even though they are close to thirty points behind the second Wild Card spot? Here at the Maroon-News, it is our job to separate the league’s contenders from the pretenders. 

Contenders:

Tampa Bay Lightning:

After making moves at the trade deadline, the Tampa Bay Lightning became the favorites to win the Cup. The Lightning acquired Ryan McDonagh and JT Miller from the New York Rangers at the deadline, adding depth to an already-impressive Tampa Bay roster. Nikita Kucherov is leading the league in points and his teammate Steven Stamkos is not far behind. The Lightning’s offense is explosive, making each game significantly easier for goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who leads the league in wins. Tampa Bay is the team-to-beat in the East. 

Nashville Predators:

Although they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in last year’s Stanley Cup Final, the Predators are more than capable of taking the Cup this year. They have virtually the same team as last year, plus quality additions like Kyle Turris from the Ottawa Senators and Scott Hartnell from the Columbus Blue Jackets. The second-youngest NHL franchise behind the Las Vegas Golden Knights now has the playoff experience to compete for the cup. Look for the Predators to make a deep run this playoff season. 

Pretenders:

Washington Capitals:

Will this finally be the Washington Capitals’ year? Probably not. Since the 2007-2008 season, the Capitals have made the playoffs nine times, failing to reach the Stanley Cup Final every year. The Capitals are on pace to make the playoffs for the tenth time and this season is no different than in years past. Alex Ovechkin continues to defy Father Time and leads the league in goals, but even Ovi can’t get the Capitals over the hump. Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh can skate with Washington, making the Capitals one of the league’s biggest pretenders. 

Las Vegas Golden Knights:

Could anyone have predicted the Golden Knights’ unprecedented success in their first season as an NHL franchise? The Knights have defied all odds and have the most points in the Western Conference, but under the Knights’ armor are the biggest pretenders in the league. The Western Conference is dangerous and the Golden Knights do not have the playoff experience nor the firepower to make it to the Cup. Marc Andre-Fleury has been stellar all season, showing that he has not missed a beat since leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, over the past month, the team has proved vulnerable. In February, the Golden Knights went 8-6, but all six losses were against playoff-caliber teams like the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and Philadelphia Flyers. If the Golden Knights expect to make it to the Stanley Cup Final, the team must prove itself further against the league’s other powerhouses.  

Contact David Minster at [email protected]