Well, this is it folks – the moment every hockey fan has been waiting for: the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the first time since I started writing about sports, my hometown team is in there. They needed every point they could get, as they essentially snuck in between Philly and Florida for the final spot in the East.
In October, I made the bold prediction that the Washington Capitals would win their first Stanley Cup over the Edmonton Oilers. This was mostly due to the fact that I’m sick of hearing the Capitals dominate and see nothing come of it, plus I truly believe Alexander Ovechkin deserves at least one Cup to show for his sparkling career.
Now that they’re one of the remaining sixteen teams, and Edmonton so brilliantly flamed out of their spot, I have a new round of predictions for you. Playoffs start on Wednesday in Pittsburgh and Winnipeg simultaneously, while the first ever playoff game in Las Vegas will happen later that night. There are plenty of storylines to follows, so let’s dive in:
Philadelphia at Pittsburgh
The rumble in Pennsylvania would be enough of a storyline, as the rivalry can get pretty nasty in postseason play. It might not be as huge as Ovechkin-Crosby make their faceoffs, but the ’09 and ’12 rounds were particularly chippy. Instead, the most important aspect of these games are that Pittsburgh is hoping to make 2018 their third consecutive Stanley Cup year. Having knocked off the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators the last two seasons, they only need to face off against four more opponents and accumulate sixteen wins to make the team the first to get three consecutive Cups since the New York Islanders nabbed four from 1980-1983. Much of the Penguins squad that won the last two years is there, though they picked up Derick Brassard at the deadline to replace Nick Bonino as a third-line cog. They’ll look to stave off exhaustion to reach their dynasty, but Philadelphia looks to just be starting things. While Claude Giroux is suddenly a veteran, he managed to turn in the best single-season performance of his career, posting 102 points (34g, 64a) in a bid for MVP status. In leading the Flyers back to postseason contention, he’s brough along a slew of newcomers – Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov and the number 2 pick in the draft last year, Nolan Patrick. The team will look to overcome one of their biggest rivals to dismantle the tenth-longest Stanley Cup drought ever.
Previous Meetings: 1989, 1997, 2000, 2012 (Philadelphia); 2008, 2009 (Pittsburgh)
Pittsburgh in seven.