The National Hockey League is down to 4 teams remaining. One of those teams will hoist the Stanley Cup in June. It’ll be a new team with the Penguins losing in Round 2. Here is a look at our previews.
Eastern Conference: Tampa Bay Lightning (Atlantic No. 1) vs. Washington Capitals (Metro No. 1)
Preview: The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals will square off in the Eastern Conference Finals in the NHL Playoffs. The Lightning will have home ice advantage during this series based on finishing the regular season ahead of the Capitals. Tampa Bay advanced to the Conference Finals by defeating the Boston Bruins in 5 games. The Washington Capitals advanced by finally defeating their longtime rival, Pittsburgh Penguins, in 6 games.
The Lightning were the highest scoring team during the regular season, averaging 3.5 goals per game. They have used this offensive firepower to propel them to the Conference Finals. Nikita Kucherov leads the Lightning in both goals (6) and points (12) in the playoffs, but Tampa Bay has plenty of depth. The Lightning also have a terrific goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy has only allowed 2.2 goals against in the playoffs, and also has a solid defense in front of him.
The Washington Capitals were finally able to get past the Penguins, and now are hoping to win a Stanley Cup. The Capitals ended a 20 year Conference Finals drought by beating the Penguins in an overtime thriller in game 6. Alex Ovechkin has been a monster in these playoffs scoring 8 goals and tallying 15 points. Ovechkin will also be making his first appearance in the Conference Finals in what has been a terrific career. The Capitals are hoping that Nicklas Backstrom can suit up for game 1 after missing the last game due to a hand injury.
Pick: The Tampa Bay Lightning have more experience and have the better goalie in Vasilevskiy. The Lightning have more depth in their offensive lines and their defensive lines. The Lightning do not have Alex Ovechkin, and that will be the difference in this series. Ovechkin will make the most of his first Conference Finals experience. Washington Capitals will win a 7 game series.
Western Conference: Winnipeg Jets (Central No. 2) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (Pacific No. 1)
Preview: Two of the NHL’s most surprising teams will meet in the Western Conference Finals. The Winnipeg Jets will have home ice advantage during this series, after finishing 5 points ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights during the regular season. Vegas reached the Conference Finals by defeating the San Jose Sharks in 6 games. The Jets were able to win a game 7 on the road in Nashville by defeating the Predators 5 to 1.
The Winnipeg Jets finished the regular season with the second most points during the regular season and feature a high powered offense. The Jets finished 2nd in the NHL in goals per game during the regular season with 3.3. During the playoff run, it has been Mark Scheifele who has done most of the damage for the Jets. Scheifele has scored 11 goals and racked up 16 points so far in these playoffs. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck has been solid in net, and the Jets look like the favorites in the Western Conference.
The Vegas Golden Knights have reached the Conference Finals in the first season of the franchise. They have been the biggest story in the NHL all season long, and the city of Vegas has fallen in love with their team. The key to the Knights success has been the incredible play of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury has plenty of postseason experience and in these playoffs has allowed just 1.53 goals against per game. The Knights don’t feature a real offensive star, but are able to score enough goals to sneak out wins.
Pick: This should be an incredible series that feature a lot of close, low scoring games. The Jets will have to figure out a way to score goals against Fleury if they want to advance. Vegas has been the best story in the NHL all season, and the story doesn’t end here. The Vegas Golden Knights will defeat the Winnipeg Jets in 6 games.