Finally! It’s reached that point in 2017 that every hockey fan dreams about: the start of the NHL Playoffs. In an elimination style tournament consisting of four rounds of best-of-seven series, the better teams are typically the ones who come out on top, but which team will prove their worth and earn the right to be called this year’s Stanley Cup Champions?
While the first round is coming to an end, it looks like the teams that will emerge through the grueling postseason are not the ones who were favored at the start of the postseason. After top seeds, like the Blackhawks, have struggled against lower seeds, it appears that the Stanley Cup can belong to anyone this year. Here is a look at the four teams I think can win it all.
The first team that could win it all is the Pittsburgh Penguins. The defending Stanley Cup champion may find the road to a repeat difficult without top defenseman Kris Letang, but with players like Sydney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, it’s hard to bet against the team. After dominating their first round and winning the series 4-1, their coaching and experience should be enough to take them to the big dance.
The second team is the Nashville Predators. After doing something that no NHL team has ever done by sweeping the number one seed Chicago Blackhawks 4-0, there is no question that momentum is on their side. With a dominant defense and a goalie like Pekka Rinne, who stopped almost every shot he faced, expect to see the Predators playing in the finals as long as their offense is able to continue their outstanding performances.
The next team is the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks have had their share of playoff nightmares over the years, but after dominating the Calgary Flames 4-0, perhaps the team has found the groove they need in order to make a run at the cup. No team has allowed fewer goals per game (2.40) and with the help of Rickard Rakell, who is ranked fifth in goals, anything is possible, and this team seems to have all of the right tools to win it all.
The final team that could make a run for the Stanley Cup is the Toronto Maple Leafs. They have looked solid so far and after going toe-to-toe and winning back-to-back overtime games against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals, it’s hard to say that they don’t have momentum on their side. The play of rookies Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander have been vital for the Leafs; their speed and aggression should help them in their hunt for the cup.
When the dust has settled and the chaos of the NHL Playoffs are coming to a conclusion, expect to see the Pittsburgh Penguins hoisting the Stanley Cup, for back-to-back years, after defeating the Nashville Predators in the final series.
Until then, there is only one thing that fans can do and that’s enjoy the excitement that comes along with playoff hockey.