The Journey to the Stanley Cup Begins
Written by: Jillian Dzieciol (Instagram @jilliandzieciol)
Playoffs are finally upon us. Time to get out your lucky jersey, sit on the same cushion of your couch, and stay up past midnight to celebrate the OT winner that took forever to go in.
16 teams begin this heart pounding journey for the Stanley cup, but only two will make it to the finals, and only one will take home the coveted Stanley cup.
Here’s a few things to watch out for in these match-ups.
Tampa Bay Lightning Vs. Columbus Blue Jackets: The Tampa Bay Lightening are first in the League with 62 wins, and they separate themselves from everyone else in the league by at least 21 points. In this first round of the playoffs watch out for the Lightening’s Nikita Kucherov, he’s the point leader of the NHL with 128 points. The Columbus Blue Jackets are sure to be a threat to Tampa Bay’s chance at advancing to the second round. The Blue Jackets’ Artemi Panarin is leading the team with 87 points, and he has proven since his rookie year with the Blackhawks, that he is a useful asset to the team in the playoffs.
Boston Bruins Vs. Toronto Maple Leafs: This matchup has the potential to quickly turn into a true battle. The Bruins lead the NHL in fighting majors, with 26. The Leafs stadium is the perfect stage for the gloves to be dropped with the highest average fan attendance of all the Playoff teams. The large crowd will be a great way for the teams to gain momentum from fights.
New York Islanders Vs. Pittsburg Penguins: The Penguins hope to have a successful first round and not allow their Stanley cup dreams to slip away from them. With 100 points, Pittsburg’s Sidney Crosby looks to run up the score while he’s on the ice. The Islanders need to step up their offensive game play. New York is 22nd in the NHL for goals scored with 223, putting them 48 goals behind Pittsburg in the regular season this year.
Washington Capitals Vs. Carolina Hurricanes: The Capitols have proven to be a force to be reckoned with. They are the defending Stanley Cup champions and won’t be easily beat. Alex Ovechkin is the NHL goal leader with 51 goals. However, the Hurricanes won’t be easy to defeat either with their league leading average of 34.4 shots per game.
Calgary Flames Vs. Colorado Avalanche: The Flames are ready to heat this competition up as they take the ice against Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche on April 11th at 9pm Central time. MacKinnon leads Colorado with 99 points. Calgary’s Mark Giordano will look to put a stop to MacKinnon’s offensive presence, as Giordano leads the NHL in Plus/Minus with 39.
San Jose Sharks Vs. Vegas Golden Knights: The Golden Knights are proving to the fans that expansion teams can be successful as soon as they begin playing. This is Vegas’ second season and second playoff appearance after being added into the NHL as an expansion team. The Sharks are going to have to utilize their playoff experience and attempt to keep Evander Kane out of the penalty box. Kane leads the league with 153 penalty minutes.
Nashville Predators Vs. Dallas Stars: The Stars are hoping for a stellar performance from their goalie Ben Bishop this postseason. Bishop is leading the NHL with a .934 save percentage. The Predators are going to attempt to attack that save percentage as Nashville’s goal leader Viktor Arvidsson takes the ice. Arvidsson has 34 goals so far this season.
Winnipeg Jets Vs. St. Louis Blues: The Blues lead the NHL in least goals allowed against, so the Jets will have to use their speed to fly as they take shots against St. Louis. The Jets will be looking for powerplay opportunities for Blake Wheeler to capitalize on and add to his point total. Wheeler currently leads Winnipeg with 33 power play points.
Surprisingly, the Chicago Blackhawks, after having won the Stanley cup 3 times in the past 9 years, will not be one of the lucky teams competing in the playoffs. They fell short of earning a wild card spot late in the season.
This is going to be a competitive playoff season. There’s sure to be heart wrenching overtimes, adrenaline filled penalty kills, and one team will make all their fans dreams come true. Who will it be?