As the NHL regular season comes to a close, officially ending on April 11, hockey fans are beginning to look forward to the always-exciting Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As of April 6, eight teams have officially clinched a playoff spot. Favored to finish first in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference, the Canadiens are predicted to play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. Montreal’s success can be paid largely to their extremely talented goaltender Carey Price. Leading the league in all recorded goalie stats, Price currently has a 1.93 goals against average, a .935 save percentage, 42 wins and nine shutouts.
Another Canadien that has helped lock down Montreal’s playoff spot is Max Pacioretty, who is currently leading the league with the best plus minus record while also placing fourth in league for most goals. The Tampa Bay Lightning also clinched a playoff spot early and are predicted to finish second in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference. While the fate of Tampa’s schedule will be decided throughout the next few days, it is believed that the Lightning will be facing off against the Boston Bruins in the first round.
Lightning players to watch throughout their playoff run are right winger Nikita Kucherov, who currently posses the second best plus-minus of the league, and centre Steven Stamkos who is tied for second-most goals in the league, with a whopping 42. Stamkos is tied with New York Ranger Rick Nash, whose team has also guaranteed themselves a place in the upcoming playoffs. The Rangers are expected to match up against the Detroit Red Wings, a team that has made the playoffs for the past 23 consecutive years. While this is an impressive feat, the Red Wings have recently been outperformed by teams such as the Bruins and the Washington Capitals.
Unlike the many teams still fighting to see their names on the playoff bracket, the Washington Capitals have successfully secured their spot. Two players that have helped them do this are centerman Nicklas Backstrom and left-winger Alex Ovechkin. Alex Ovechkin has had yet another standout season while wearing the Washington jersey. Currently holding the record for most goals of the 2014-2015 season, his total career goals tally to nearly 480, breaking the franchise record. Capitals fans can only hope that lucky number eight can continue on his hot streak throughout the games ahead and help the Capitals bring home the hardware.
Other teams that are guaranteed a shot at lifting Lord Stanley are the St. Louis Blues, the Nashville Predators and the Anaheim Ducks. Colgate students should pay special attention to Anaheim as they fight for the cup, supporting #62, former ‘Gate student and men’s ice hockey player, Chris Wagner. Throughout the 2014-2015 season, Wagner has represented the Ducks as a right wing in eight games, playing against teams such as the Boston Bruins, the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils.
Another former Colgate player who has recently made his way to the big leagues is Kyle Baun, the grandson of legendary Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Bobby Baun. On March 26 Baun signed on to play the 2015-2016 season wearing the Chicago red, white and black. Baun will not be assisting the Black Hawks during the upcoming playoffs, but the team is predicted to play the Winnipeg Jets in the first round.
So what other teams are we going to see competing for the cup? As of right now, multiple teams are in the running. However, the teams that are likely to clinch a spot, if they win their remaining regular season games, are the Minnesota Wild, the Vancouver Canucks, the New York Islanders and the Calgary Flames, as well as the predicted teams mentioned throughout. While some teams may clinch a spot at the very last second, the Stanley Cup is anyone’s once the playoffs begin. Don’t let division and conference leaders fool you. Slates are wiped clean come playoff time and upsets are ordinary. So start filling out your brackets and washing your old smelly jerseys because the title for the 2014-2015 NHL champions is up for grabs.