The Hockey Fanatic is back! After taking a month away from blogging about hockey (as a result of the devastating Humboldt Bronco accident) I have decided to return with a post on the NHL’s final four.
We didn’t even make any playoff predictions this year. However, we did make some regular season predictions as to which team would win the President’s trophy as regular season champ. Interesting to note that we had Washington at number two and Nashville and number six. Both look good as they enter the final four in the quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Honestly in my NHL Bracket challenge I picked Nashville to win the Stanley Cup. In my heart I wanted to pick the Winnipeg Jets, but I’m a firm believer that you have to lose first before you can win it all… and Nashville did that last year as they lost in the finals to the Penguins in six games. So this year I felt that whomever was going to win the West would win the Stanley Cup.
About this Year’s Final Four
As are many hockey fans, I am excited for the Conference Finals this year. We have four exciting teams looking to win it all. Here’s a look at the NHL’s final four in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Tampa Bay Lightning (54-23-5) for 113 points in the regular season vs. the Washington Capitals (49-26-7) for 105 points. Bother teams lead their respective division this season so it’s fitting to see them face off against each other in the Eastern Conference finals. Let’s Look at how these teams match up and why they will win.
Tampa Bay Lightning (54-23-5)
You know watching a lot of the playoff preview shows this season, for some reason there were not a lot of people picking the Lightning to come out of the East. A bit surprising to this hockey fan as Steve Yzerman has assembled a strong team in south Florida. The Lightning scored a league leading 296 goals during the regular season, and while the playoffs are much tighter this team can put the puck in the net. Here are 5 reasons why the Lightning will win:
- No Pressure – The Lightning were off to a tremendous start during the regular season and while they did slow down a little, they have been pretty consistent in the post season. Other teams in the final four (Capitals, and Preds) will definitely have more pressure on them to win. The Lightning are quietly going about their game and are getting the job done. #CoolAsACucumber
- Goaltending – Andrei Vasilevsky has been a beast for the Lightning between the pipes this season. Unless he gets injured, we see this guy playing lights out hovkey the rest of the way. #SecondComing
- Firepower – as mentioned the Lightning led the league in goals this season and their offense in the best in the NHL for a number of reasons. Tampa Bay has a balanced attack with highly skilled forwards, strong compete and some of the game’s best shooters. When you have Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos leading the way, you have to be careful of allowing the Bolt forwards to have too much time in the offensive zone. #DeadlyFinish
- Lethal Powerplay – for the better part of the season, the Bolts powerplay has been unreal. With all of the offensive firepower mentioned above, you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the Sin-bin when you are playing the Lightning. With Victor Hedman on the backend setting things up, the powerplay for the Lightning often boasts four forwards and gets the job done more often than not. #PPSnipes
- Coaching – Jon Cooper has won at every level he has coached at. #NuffSaid.
Washington Capitals (49-26-7)
Here’s why the Capitals will win.
- Ovie – Alexander Ovechkin is the greatest scorer of his generation and one of the best of all-time. He is due to hoist the Holy Grail and experience hockey supremacy. He has been a beast in the playoffs and is playing as smart of hockey as he ever has in the NHL. He’s a kind soul that has off the wall compete levels. He alone may just carry the Capitals to their first ever Stanely Cup championship. #Great8
- Intangibles – its time for the Capitals to get that monkey off of their back. They have finally beat the Pittsburgh Penguins and cross that bridge, now it’s time to take the next step. #NotThisTime
- Offense – if anyone can match the Lightning’s offensive output, it’s the Washington Capitals. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, and TJ Oshie have what it takes to light the lamp in the NHL postseason. #BigGoals
- Goaltending – Braden Holtby has re-emerged as the brick wall that he has been in previous seasons. He has the second highest save percentage in NHL history and could be the reason why opposing teams become frustrated. #MrSavePercentage
- Coaching – Barry Trotz is a fantastic coach. He handles the stars well and is not afraid to leverage rookie talent when he needs to. This man is deserving of a Cup win. #LeaderOfMen
On the Western Conference side of things you have the first-year expansion Vegas Golden Knights (51-24-7) and the Winnipeg Jets (52-20-10). Two amazing teams that have reached the final four in different fashions.
Here’s why they will win:
Vegas Golden Knights (51-24-7)
No one and I mean no one thought that the Golden Knights would reach the final four in the Stanley Cup playoffs in their first season of play. Vegas sportsbooks could take a huge hit if the Knights win the Stanley Cup.
- All the Odds are against them… or are they? At the start of the season, Westgate Superbook gave the Golden Knights 300-1 preseason odds before changing those odds to 500-1 to encourage betting — the worst odds in the NHL. #Yikes
- Management/Coaching – George McPhee builds a winner wherever he goes (take note Edmonton Oilers). Gerard Gallant will be the NHL’s coach of the year regardless of if they win the Cup or not. You have to think Florida’a management issue from last season will continue to bite them in the ass for a few years to come. #HowDoYouLikeMeNowFlorida
- Aggressive Forecheck – have you watched many Golden Knights games this season? These guys are relentless on the puck. I’ve never seen such an aggressive forecheck. They scored 272 goals in the regular season (only three teams scored more) so it is definitely working for them. #Relentless
- Castoffs Mentality – ok so a half a billion dollars will get you some pretty good players. In all fairness the NHL has set the Vegas Golden Knights up for success by defining the expansion draft rules so that teams hadto get creative when protecting players. Some teams did a great job or protecting their players, but others (see Florida Panthers) set themselves back a few years while allowing great players to join the Golden Knights in Nevada. Players like James Neal, Marc-Andre Fleury, David Perron, Johnathan Marchessault, and William Karlsson were cast off from their previous teams only to put up nearly 300 points collectively in the regular season. #TakeThat
- Lack of Losing Trends – the Golden Knights have never lost four times to the same team. As it is, I think that the Edmonton Oilers are the only team that has beaten them more than twice. The Knights simply do not know how to lose. They play to win. #BestExpansionTeamEver
Winnipeg Jets – (52-20-10)
Welcome to the North, home of Whiteouts and Winnipeg Jets. Here is a look at why the Jets will win.
- Best in the West – The Predators were the best team in the regular season having amassed 117 points over their 82 games, however the Jets were second putting up 114 points of their own. To be the best you have to beat the best. The Jets just bested the Nashville Predators in a great seven game series. Dare we say they are the best in the West? #BuiltToWin
- Defense – They say defense wins championship’s right? Well the Jets have have a solid core of defensemen with Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Tobias Enstrom, Tyler Myers and Josh Morrissey . Their defense is so good that they can punish you physically, jump into the play and score goals and you’re not going to have much time and space in the Jets zone. #BandOfBrothers
- Offence – the Jets can score, and they can score in bunches just as they did against Nashville in the second round. The Jets scored 277 goals in the regular season, only the Tampa Bay Lightning scored more. They have all four lines that can contribute a goal when you need it. Mark Scheifele has 11 goals in the first two rounds and leads all players in the playoffs. Ovie has 8 thus far in case you are counting. Trade deadline pickup Paul Stastny has scored some timely goals himself and has 14 points through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Captain Blake Wheeler is typically near the leader board in assists. On the back end. Big Buff has been piling up the goals as well through the first two rounds. #DangleSnipeCelly
- Hometown Fans provide a boost – Winnipeg is hockey crazy right now. The atmosphere in Winnipeg is amazing and the fans have picked up where they left off. The loudest place in the NHL this playoff is Winnipeg. They have some of the best chants in the league. Manitoba has been waiting for this for a longtime. Opposing coaches have said that you cannot even communicate on the bench for the first six or seven minutes of a game in Winnipeg. Being somewhat close to Humboldt, Saskatchewan, you almost have to think that the Hockey Gods want Winnipeg to win for the people of the prairies. #WelcomeToWinnipeg #HumboldtStrong
- Well Balanced team – the Winnipeg Jets have become one of the most balanced teams in the NHL. They have solid defense, an emerging all-star goaltender in Connor Hellebuyck and creativity from forwards such as the ones mentioned above. The Jets are the real deal. They have scoring balance on all four lines and can win the 2-1 game or the 7-4 game. Add to that a solid coaching staff with guys like Charlie Huddy and Paul Maurice and this team is on the rise. #Balance
This is the best final four in the NHL that we have seen in quite some time. And even though many of us feel that it is time for the NHL to change their playoff format so that the best teams do not meet in the first or second round (wasn’t that Jets/Preds series a beauty?) this year’s final four is stellar. We can only say one thing… may the best team win. Let’s go boys!
Who we are picking
From the eastern conference we are going with the Tampa By Lightning in six games over the Capitals. On the western side (and I am no way trying to jinx the Jets) but we are going to go with Winnipeg in seven games. The Golden Knights are that good and they could come out and head to the finals in their first season. Crazy.
NHL Conference Game Dates
Tampa Bay Lightning (Atlantic 1) vs. Washington Capitals (Metropolitan 1)
Friday, May 11, 8 p.m.: Capitals @ Lightning | NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports
Sunday, May 13, 8 p.m.: Capitals @ Lightning | NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports
Tuesday, May 15, 8 p.m.: Lightning @ Capitals | NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports
Thursday, May 17, 8 p.m.: Lightning @ Capitals | NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports
*Saturday, May 19, 7:15 p.m.: Capitals @ Lightning | NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
*Monday, May 21, 8 p.m.: Lightning @ Capitals | NBCSN, CBC, SN1, TVA Sports
*Wednesday, May 23, 8 p.m.: Capitals @ Lightning | NBCSN, CBC, SN1, TVA Sports
Winnipeg Jets (Central 2) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (Pacific 1)
Saturday, May 12, 7 p.m.: Golden Knights @ Jets | NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
Monday, May 14, 8 p.m.: Golden Knights @ Jets | NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports
Wednesday, May 16, 9 p.m.: Jets @ Golden Knights | NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports
Friday, May 18, 8 p.m.: Jets @ Golden Knights | NBCSN, CBC, SN1, TVA Sports
*Sunday, May 20, 3 p.m.: Golden Knights @ Jets | NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports
*Tuesday, May 22, 9 p.m.: Jets @ Golden Knights | NBCSN, CBC, SN1, TVA Sports
*Thursday, May 24, 8 p.m.: Golden Knights @ Jets | NBCSN, CBC, SN1, TVA Sports