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March to the Cup: Conference semi-finals voting open

March 27, 2020, 10:42 AM ET [1 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
March to the Cup is where you will vote on hypothetical playoff matchups in a bracket style setup mimicking the NCAA basketball tournaments. Here is the setup.

I’m going to seed all 31 teams based on the current overall standings with one play in game because of the odd number of teams. You will have a chance to vote on who you think should win the matchup. I’ll give some brief overviews and you’ll use those and your own intuition to make your selections. The results will be hidden until the next blog when the results are revealed. We will go round by round until we have a winner. Who knows? Maybe our selection will be the only winner this season.

This is all hypothetical. However you want to analyze things, go for it. If you want to assume every team has full health, go for it. Anything goes in the Coronavirus era of hypothetical playoff hockey.

We are now into the third round of March to the Cup. Today we will focus on the thirdround matchups in the Mario Lemiuex Division to widdle down to the final two teams on this side of the bracket. Here are the matchups. Vote for who you believe is the best candidate to move on.

We have two great matchups today. We’d be fortunate to see either on the real ice.

(2) St. Louis Blues vs (7) Pittsburgh Penguins

This matchup represents three of the last four Stanley Cups awarded in the league. They are both good teams. They are both fully healthy which means both squads will get a great player back in the lineup. For the Blues it is Vladimir Tarasenko and for the Penguins it is Jake Guentzel. Huge additions for both clubs. The top six for both clubs are solid



I happen to like the Penguins forward depth beyond the top six better than the Blues at this point.

Defensively I think the Blues have a slight edge. I think the Penguins boast the best pairing with Dumoulin-Letang, but overall the Blues is better. Justin Faulk is overrated, but he’s fine with Pietrangelo. Getting Marco Scandella was a nice cheap addition for the Blues to pair with Parayko. The Dunn-Bortuzzo pairing is better than Johnson-Schultz at the present moment.

Goaltending I’d have to lean towards the Blues based on this season. Tristan Jarry had a crazy hot start to the year, but predictably it is faded a bit. Matt Murray has been wildly inconsistent this season. Binnington had a lull a little while back, but has bounced back and has provided the more consistent goaltending. Binnington is a .923 goalie at 5v5 and Murray is at .904. Jarry has an impressive .927 in 34 games, but if you are confident in him then what do you make of Jake Allen, yes that Jake Allen, at .934(!) in 24 games? Binnington is also fourth best in 5v5 high-danger save percentage at .865.

The power play used to be a real strength for the Penguins, but it has been disjointed this year. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t a true difference maker either. The Blues on the other hand are third best in the NHL at 24.3%. For comparison sake the Penguins were 24.6% last year and led the league at 26.1% in 2017-18. Currently the Penguins are 19.9% and 16th overall in the league.

Personally, I think you can vote confidently for either team because it is a coin flip. It is a good matchup. We know the nature of this sport relies on hot streaks with both goal scorers and goaltenders. Good luck guessing who that would be here.

(2) St. Louis Blues vs (7) Pittsburgh Penguins
St. Louis Blues
Pittsburgh Penguins
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(3) Colorado Avalanche vs (11) Carolina Hurricanes

Another sweet matchup. Here are two teams who have robust analytical driven analysis and have some positive results. Carolina isn’t a true 11 seed. They are drowning in defensive injuries in reality. Here they are healthy and ready to go. The flip side to the Hurricanes health is the Avalanche will get Mikko Rantanen back and he is a huge addition.

The Avalanche have the more dynamic players with Nate MacKinnon and Cale Makar while the Hurricanes boast a deeper lineup (certainly not devoid of talent with Aho, Svechnikov, and Hamilton)

I think the biggest separation between the two clubs is in net. Phillip Grubauer and Pavel Francouz have both played well this season. Grubauer is third best in the league with 5v5 save percentage at .935 and Francouz is 18th at .925. James Reimer is league average at .920 while Peter Mrazek is an unimpressive .912.

I think having dynamic game breaking players with better goaltending is a good place to be heading into a series.

(3) Colorado Avalanche vs (11) Carolina Hurricanes
Colorado Avalanche
Carolina Hurricanes
Created with Quiz Maker

Well there you have it. A couple of great Conference Finals matchups. You’ll have the entire weekend to vote on these and the results will be here on Monday. Who will be representing the Mario Lemieux Division in the Stanley Cup Final?

Thanks for reading!
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