We are on the eve of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and that is a great thing. This year has more quality teams than the past few in my opinion. There are going to be some excellent teams who get sent home after round one.
There are many ways to win a Stanley Cup and the Penguins have shown off a couple of them in the previous two seasons. They bullied their way to a championship by steamrolling teams with their process in 2015-16. Last year they rode incredible goaltending and shooting percentages while being outplayed most nights
What will the Penguins have in store this time around? It's a great question. The team is playing much better this season. Unfortunately, their goaltending had nowhere to go but down and it has. Matt Murray had a forgettable regular season in his first year away from Marc-Andre Fleury. What has been one of the pillars of the past two springs for Pittsburgh could potentially be a weakness and it isn't the kind of weakness that teams can just play through. below average goaltending sinks teams in small samples. It just does. If the team can get average goaltending they have an excellent shot at running the table again. I think Matt Murray is capable of kicking it in to gear. I'm just not confident enough to predict that.
Assuming the Penguins make it past round one they will have their hands full with Columbus or Washington. If they are fortunate enough to make the Eastern Conference Finals for the sixth time in the Crosby/Malkin era they will more than likely have Tampa Bay, Boston, or Toronto to deal with. The Eastern Conference is a buzz saw this year.
Out west you have the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets. I don't have a good feel for the Pacific Division other than the fact it would be surprising if they represented the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final. The Predators and Jets would be a crazy good Western Conference Finals except we will potentially receive that matchup a round early and I will be very disappointed if we don't get it.
I really like the Predators chances to win it all. They might have done just that in 2016-17 if Ryan Johansen didn't miss the Penguins series. We'll never know. Tampa Bay has been building towards another run for the Cup. I like their chances . Former Penguin and current fourth liner Chris Kunitz had 25 even-strength points on the year in his reduced role. They have the depth of recent Penguins champions have had up front.
So do I think the Penguins are going to three-peat? I don't.
I think they can. I just think of all the things that have to go right to win once, let alone twice in a row, and it would be tough to catch all the breaks a third consecutive year. If Matt Murray had a sample size that wasn't below average this year I would have definitely picked them to win it all. Ultimately, the east is incredibly deep and the odds of picking that side of the bracket correctly are pretty difficult. I could also easily see both of my Stanley Cup finalists bounced before the Conference Finals.
Congrats to the Predators on their first ever Stanley Cup and congrats to Filip Forsberg on the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Thanks for reading!