It’s Almost Playoff Hockey Time

As we kick off March, we are looking at the final month of the NHL season, prior to the commencement of (my strong opinion) the most entertaining playoffs of all major sports. The passion and tenacity are unmatched, as these sickos play through injuries that would put my washed-up body in a hospital for months just for hopes of hoisting the sought-after Stanley Cup. 

In the Eastern Conference, the current favorites are the Bruins, Lightning, and Capitals. If forced to choose from this bunch, I would lean towards the latter two teams. The Capitals are always dangerous, and made some strong upgrades recently by picking up Ilya Kovalchuk and Brenden Dillon. However, I think they would struggle against Boston and Tampa in a 7-game series. I believe the Bruins made team-improving, financial-savvy deals at the deadline that should make them a very tough out come playoff time. Their top line of Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak is arguably the best in hockey. With the addition of Ondrej Kase, who has shown big-time talent flashes, this bolsters their depth to provide more offense behind that first line. It gives them a plethora of options to jumble their 2nd and 3rd lines with guys like Jake DeBrusk, Charlie Coyle, and David Krejci. Quite frankly, this team will be deep and loaded. If Tuuka Rask is on his game, another title could be on its way to Boston. The Lightning on the other hand are also deep and talented. After last years demoralizing first-round exit to the 8 seed Columbus Blue Jackets, they now have the motivation factor as well. Tampa’s big addition at the trade deadline was adding Blake Coleman from New Jersey. Due to the price they paid for him, they are sure to have some financial issues this off-season, most likely having to move guys like Tyler Johnson or Yanni Gourde. This leads me to believe that it’s win now for Tampa. Head Coach Jon Cooper should be able to have a field day with the current lineup he has now. Their star trio (Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Steven Stamkos) goes head-to-head with Boston’s as one of the best in the league. These guys score in bunches and are a matchup nightmare for opponents. That aforementioned adversity they faced last year should ultimately help them this post-season. As any hockey fan knows, anything can happen in these playoffs. However, I would be shocked if one of the two powerhouses of Boston or Tampa Bay don’t advance to represent the Eastern Conference in this year’s Stanley Cup.

Taking a look at the Western Conference, we also have a couple strong favorites – the defending champion St. Louis Blues and the Colorado Avalanche. The Blues had a magical run last year and I believe are a little bit overvalued based on that. This Avalanche team is fast and exciting and tons of fun to watch. I’m definitely excited to watch Nathan Mackinnon and Cale Makar again during the 2020 playoffs. However, I worry that their lack of experience could be what does them in during a tough 7 game series. The team I love in the West is the Dallas Stars. I currently hold a future wager on them from the beginning of this year at odds of 15-1. At time of writing, they hold odds of 10-1, which I still see as pretty good value. Goaltending plays an uber-important role when it comes to playoff hockey, and I love the tandem of Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin. Khudobin leads the league in save percentage and both goalies have goals against averages below 2.5. Pretty impressive. I like how balanced this Stars team is. They have extremely talented players in Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Joe Pavelski, but no one has the astronomical personal stats that you see from players on the Bruins and Lightning. I really think this will serve a major purpose come playoff time as they’ll be able to grind opposing teams down and battle through a tough playoff series.

FINAL PREDICTIONS:

Stanley Cup: Stars over Bruins in 7 games

Dark Horses: Arizona Coyotes (West), Philadelphia Flyers (East)