Due to the Coronavirus, the NHL Regular Season had to end early and was condensed. The NHL decided to take 24 of the 31 teams to the playoffs in a bracket format. The playoffs will start Saturday August 1st. There are a lot of good teams and good players that will be competing to host the Stanley Cup. A lot of players could be rusty since they have not played in months or the rest is what they needed. As a hockey fan and Penguins fan I cannot wait to watch.
Eastern Conference Champions: Tampa Bay Lightning
Picking a winner from the dominant Eastern Conference was very difficult for me. There were many strong and dominant teams I considered such as the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, and Pittsburgh Penguins. I did not pick the Boston Bruins because even though they were the best team and have a dominant roster, they were the only team with at least 100 points and the President’s Trophy Winner usually never wins the Stanley Cup. I did not pick the Washington Capitals because they are not a fast enough team like they used to be. Even though they have snipers in Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk, they do not have the speed that is crucial in the playoffs. I also did not pick the Penguins for a few reasons. One reason is Matt Murray is inconsistent. Even though he is most likely going to be the backup goalie, there is a chance he could start as head coach Mike Sullivan has not given any word yet as who will be the starting netminder. Also, Jake Guentzel is finally coming back and he is a player the Penguins need however, he will experience some rust as he has not played in over five months. The Tampa Bay Lightning are also one of the best teams from top to bottom. Andrei Vasilevskiy is one of the best goalies in the league. They also have a much improved defensive core being led by Victor Hedman. The team captain and superstar Steven Stamkos still wants his first ring and will give it his all to win as his window is closing soon.
Western Conference Standings: Vegas Golden Knights
I feel like the Vegas Golden Knights will come out of the West and make it to the Stanley Cup. They won the Pacific Division and was third in the West. They also ended the season on a two game win streak and finished their last 10 games 8-2. Anybody that watches hockey understands that success in the playoffs is determined off of the teams momentum and if they are on a streak. Well, Vegas has both. The Golden Knights have an elite goaltending core in Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner. Vegas also has a lot of depth that has been a key part of their success. Vegas does not have a superstar skater but they have a lot of solid players that contribute.
Stanley Cup Finals Champion: Tampa Bay Lightning
I think the Tampa Bay Lightning will win the Stanley Cup in 6 games. The Lightning will win their second cup in franchise history. More importantly Steven Stamkos will finally get the Stanley Cup he deserves. The Lightning will take advantage of the Golden Knights not having a superstar. The Lightning have superstars as well as a more balanced lineup. Also, Vasilevskiy has been the best goalie in the league this year and will outplay Fleury.