On Monday May 28th, at 8pm, the puck will drop in Las Vegas to start the first game of an historic Stanley Cup Finals. Instead previewing the series in our usual, we invited each of a writers to contribute giving you a plethora of insights into what will undoubtedly be a superb swansong to the 2017/18 NHL season.
Stanley Cup Predictions
My Pick: Capitals in 6
Full disclosure: I have a complicated relationship with the Washington Capitals. After being my bandwagon team of choice for seasons, I finally gave up on them this offseason. I just couldn’t handle being disappointed after such high hopes. And their offseason did not set them up well for the future. Might as well get off the boat before it sinks. But this team is essentially the same team that I fell in love with and I’m back!
But, emotions aside, why will they win? Goaltending wins Stanley Cups. Marc-Andre Fleury has been locked in so far this playoffs with a 16.99 GSAA. Braden Holtby is third with a measly 4.87 GSAA. Here’s the rub: Braden Holtby has not given up a goal in the last 160 minutes. That is eight periods of hockey. He is somehow the better of the two goalies right now, when the other has a .947 save percentage. Which ever netminder maintains their performance the best will be the one lifting the Stanley Cup.
Who will score on them? Vegas has one job. Cover Alex Ovechkin in the left circle. Or else he’ll do this. Repeatedly.
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) May 24, 2018
Nate Schmidt, you have one job. And it’s shutdown your former team’s best player. Do it. For Vegas, most of their scoring has been coming from the top line of Jon Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith. If they can manage to get David Perron back healthy and have a second line as a scoring threat, Vegas can have a chance to beat Holtby. Otherwise, Washington can shut down one line and win it all. Go Caps!
My Pick: Carl’s Caps in 7.
By the standards set by every other expansion team to join the NHL, the Vegas Golden Knights have no right getting this far. But it turns out that signing an excellent head coach and the 11th best player from each team puts you in a surprisingly good place. The Caps have eschewed their tradition of choking in the playoffs and have beaten the odds twice to see off the Penguins and the Lightning.
The Knights and the Caps met just twice in the regular season, and the boys from the desert took the points in both games. The Caps were shut out in their first visit, but the second game saw seven goals scored. The new kids on the ice have found new depth in the roster over the playoffs, in the last series five different skaters scored game winning goals.
Of course that makes it difficult to pick a #histicking favourite for Vegas, Alex Tuch, William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault each have two GWGs each in the playoffs, but Reilly Smith is also a dark horse. For Washington it’s more clear-cut, big Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov are bringing home the points.
As mentioned before, the goalie battle in this series will be key, both Fleury and Holtby are exceptional goalies and although we’ve seen little mistakes from both, if game seven comes down to a shootout (please don’t let it) then you may as well toss a coin to decide the winner.
The biggest storyline in the final, for the east at least, is Ovi. It looks like this is the big forward’s only chance at getting his name on the cup, that’s going to drive some big plays and I think Ovi, as well as Kuznetsov and Backstrom have the edge over Gallant’s newbies. It’s gonna be a tough fight though which is why I think the Caps will need all seven games to lift the cup.
My Pick: Golden Knights in 7
This is going to be a series for the ages with two teams that have never been to a Cup Final, and one in it’s Inaugural Season. No matter what happens, people will be talking about this one for a long time to come. In addition, both teams have netminders who are playing some of their best hockey of the season, if not their careers.
While the Capitals were probably central on a lot of brackets, the Golden Knights started the postseason as a fairy tale, but both teams appear to be peaking at the right time.
But, at the end of the day, this is Vegas and the house always wins.
Marc-Andre Fleury has risen from the ashes to re-invent himself in Vegas after an already outstanding career in Pittsburgh, and Jon Marchessault has proven time and again that the Florida Panthers misfired when they exposed him in the expansion draft. The Vegas Golden Knights are far from being a mirage in the desert.
Both teams are a little banged up, but unless the lower body injury Fleury is reportedly nursing turns into a major issue (he is expected to start Game 1), I’m putting my money on Vegas. The way both Fleury and Holtby have been playing this could very well wind up being an epic goalie duel with the first one to blink sending the house of cards to the ground.
The Vegas Golden Knights rose up in the desert in the wake of a horrific shooting that resulted in 58 lives lost and countless more injured. The Knights stepped up and carried the city on their backs giving them something to cheer for. Today, they stand four wins away from re-writing the rule book for an expansion team as they head into battle for the right to raise the Stanley Cup in their first season.
A couple of months ago this was highly improbable, but they’ve already proven over and over again that anything is possible.
Conn Smythe Winner: Marc-Andre Fleury
My Pick: Golden Knights in 7
So it comes down to the Washington Capitals vs the Vegas Golden Knights, just like I predicted… Just don’t go look for my bracket where I had both these teams out round one. So many narratives to this, GM vs his old team, either Ovi wins a cup or an expansion team does. So who do I have?
I am picking the Vegas Golden Knights. There are a few reasons for this, and none of them really have to do with anything logical, but nothing in these playoffs has been logical. The first reason is, the Capitals may have beaten the Pens, but their TRUE enemy is now. Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury has decided to be one of the best goalies ever in a postseason these playoffs. He sits at a .947 Save Percentage these playoffs and is the main reason Vegas is in the finals. He was also the main reason the Capitals lost last year. So, how fitting would it be for Fleury to once again knock off the Capitals, causing them all the more pain?
The other reason, I am DONE betting against Vegas. All year I figured there would be some regression. Easy schedule to start. Wins They lose their first three goalies. They keep winning. Go through a dip in play. They keep winning. All through the playoffs where murder is legal. They keep winning. Up against a dominant looking Jets team? You guessed it.
Anyways, Vegas has defied all odds, and there’s going to be a movie about them anyways, it would be very anti-climactic if they end up losing. That’s why the Vegas Golden Knights are my pick.
(p.s. Because it’s Washington, the series will go 7 and Nate Schmidt will score the OT winning goal)
— The 4th Line Hockey Podcast (@4thLinePodcast) May 27, 2018