The NHL season is coming to a close and teams are beginning to look towards the Lord Stanley tournament for the cup. With around ten games left in the regular season it’s time to decide who the contenders are for the cup.
Yes the Penguins, an obvious choice. They have been Stanley Cup Champions for the past three years and looking to three-peat. As of right now, the Penguins are one of the scariest teams in the league. Of course everyone knows the two headed monster of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The acquisition of Derrick Brassard at the deadline created a three headed beast. They also have Phil Kessel, who as of right now has over 80 points, and is one of the hottest scoring players in the league. What makes this team even more deadly is that the four skaters listed above are four of the top scorers in the playoffs over the past three years. Matt Murray has also been rock solid in net. He also has playoff experience in net, which is huge considering goaltending wins championships.
What’s hotter than hot itself? The Nashville Predators. This team has gone above and beyond this season. With a Vezina Candidate in Pekka Rinne having an astounding 40 wins this season and posting 0.929 save percentage. Rinne is backed by a crazy offensive team that has walked all over the league. Not to mention the acquisitions of gritty forwards Ryan Hartman and Mike Fisher at the deadline. This team is built for a long run, making them a top contender this year. After losing to the Penguins in the finals last season, the Preds must be itching to win it all this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning
What can be said about the Tampa Bay Lightning? After having such bad luck last season, they have really made some positive strides. They have been absolutely amazing this year, as they are the best team in the NHL standings wise. This team has one of the deadliest offenses in the league. Nikita Kucherov who sits behind McDavid in scoring and Steven Stamkos has been terrific. Being paired up with Kucherov, Stamkos has found himself as more of a passer this season. They also acquired Ryan McDonagh to help booster an already top notch defensive core with players like Viktor Hedman and Anton Stralman. Also, Andrei Vasilevskiy is another Vezina candidate with 42 wins and a 0.921 save percentage this season.
Finally, a Canadian team that is considered a contender. This team is awesome to watch this year. They have so many weapons at their disposal. It’s hard to believe they have flown so low under the radar. Captain and all-star winger Blake Wheeler leads the way with 43 goals. Young sniper Patrik Laine is finally showing that their rebuild is paying off. Those are just two names. We can’t forget rookie Kyle Connor who has been having a hot streak of late. Connor has scored six goals in his past five games. Then you have their top two centreman in Mark Scheifele and recently acquired center Paul Stastny. Lastly, you can’t forget about the danish superstar known as Ehlers. This player makes scoring easy for Laine and has shown to be one of the fastest skaters in the league.
That is just the forwards, they also have a pair of big menacing defenseman in “Big Buff” aka Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers both standing over 6’5. And an all-star goaltender in Conor Hellbuyck. This team, even after having the season they are having, look to be underdogs. Don’t sleep on them though, they are that good and should have a good run at Lord Stanley this season.
Vegas Golden Knights
Viva Las Vegas! This team has been unbelievable. Somehow they have turned this inaugural season into a Cinderella story. Considered the laughing stock after making some questionable choices in the expansion draft they have found a way to be dominant making this misfit team a force to be reckoned with. William Karlsson after having 6 goals last season in Columbus has 39 goals in 75 games with Vegas. Another after thought in Florida, Jonathan Marchessault who has 69 points and has been just dominating like Karlsson.
This team is just full of players like this that are looking to shove it on all of the nay sayers. Lastly this team has star goalie Marc-Andre Fluery who was disregarded in Pittsburgh after Matt Murray took over and he has not disappointed with 27 wins in 42 games this season. This team is also 26-9-2 at home, and with having home ice advantage in the playoffs it makes it hard to believe this team would lose at home at all and with the buzz they have right now this team could walk to the finals.
Overall these are five teams that should be on your radar going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year. Expect these teams to make strides and hopefully, if this is one of your teams, this convinces you that it’s their time to win!