2014-15 NHL Preview: Early Stanley Cup Outlook

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The Stanley Cup Playoffs are widely considered some of the toughest in the sports world as it is a grind. The playoffs are designed to break teams and players down to the point where they can no longer go on. It is the second season after one that is grinding in itself. The regular season is a long set of games where players have to stay mentally tough as well as physically tough. The sport values physicality as the players have to fly down the ice as fast as they can while risking the chance that another player will take them out with a big hit. They also have to know how to dish it out as a player that can’t hit has to have a certain level of skill reserved for the elite of the elite. After a full season of dodging and dishing out big hits while travelling and pushing your body to its limits the best teams and players it he league find their way to the playoffs only to extend their punishment. In the playoffs everything gets worse as well when the checking gets tighter and the ice seems to shrink. To potentially go through 28 games of this tight checking, physical version of the game in a short period of time is a daunting to anyone. It also serves a purpose as the NHL playoffs are meant to weed out the weaker teams and find the best. The weaker teams will not be able to last through these games as their worst parts will be exposed. If they are too young the inexperience will show when they young players are pushed too far. If they are too old the players will not be able to keep the energy up throughout the playoffs and will fall off as the playoffs move on. Weaknesses in the defence or offence will be exposed when a team is able to prepare for those weaknesses more than ever. Meanwhile the best teams in the league are the ones who can survive everything that the playoffs throw at them. They have the energy to last through the entire playoffs while they have enough experience not to panic when something inevitably goes wrong. They have the least amount of holes throughout the team and can find that extra gear when it matters most to finish important games. The long and tough road to the Stanley Cup is essentially just punishment but those teams that enjoy the punishment and embrace the punishment are the ones that will come out on top. As that road begins there is little that is known but plenty to talk about as every team takes the first step towards that long path to the Staley Cup, but who can come out on top?

 

Eastern Conference

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The Eastern Conference has always been the offensive conference with some of the best goal scorers in the league. They focus on the sill of the game and are exciting to watch but that style has not paid off in the championship realm. The East has lost the last three Stanley Cup championships with Los Angeles and Chicago taking those championships. The conference is back for another season and looking to end the slide of straight losses in the finals. The representatives will look very familiar for the East this year as only the Toronto Maple Leafs will enter the playoffs without getting there a year before. The Leafs and the Columbus Blue Jackets will take their spots in the wild card with the Leafs fighting to get in and the Blue Jackets fighting to get into the top three. They will be forced to take on the best teams in the divisions to make their way to the Stanley Cup. It will not be an easy road for either of them as they will face two of the more consistent regular season teams in the league in Boston and Pittsburgh. The Atlantic will be led into the playoffs by the Bruins once again as they will finish first while the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens join them. Out of these three and the wild card team that will join them it seems clear that the Bruins are the best of the bunch. They will not walk through though as the Canadiens or Lightning could test them but they will finish on top representing the Atlantic Division in the conference finals. In the Metropolitan division the Pittsburgh Penguins will lead the charge while the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers join them. The Penguins will be the best team heading into the playoffs but they may not be able to sustain as they fall to the usual pressure of the playoffs. Instead it will be the New York Rangers who will take the Metropolitan section of the bracket and get close to another appearance in the Stanley Cup finals. They will face off in the Conference finals against the Boston Bruins in a matchup of two teams that are built for the playoffs. They are tough and skilled teams that can make these long runs in the playoffs but this time it will be the Bruins who come out on top and take the conference title in their quest to become the Stanley Cup champions.

Atlantic Division:
1. Boston Bruins
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Montreal Canadiens
Metropolitan Division:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. New York Rangers
3. Philadelphia Flyers
Wild Card:
7. Columbus Blue Jackets
8. Toronto Maple Leafs

Eastern Conference Champion:
boston_bruins

 

Western Conference Champion:

western_conference_logo

The “West is Best” or at least they have been best in the last three years winning all three Stanley Cup Championships. Those championships have been split between two teams as the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings are the only two teams to win a Stanley Cup in the last three years. Both teams will once again be in the playoffs and looking to make it four in a row. The Kings will try to make it two in a row for themselves but they will not do it from the front of the Pacific Division. The Anaheim Ducks will be the top team in the division for another year and will go into the playoffs with plenty of promise. Joining the Kings and Ducks will be the other Californian team in the San Jose Sharks. The Ducks will try to translate a great season into a great playoff run and could do it. The Sharks on the other hand are trying to avoid another embarrassing finish to a season after continually having great regulars seasons but never finding the success that they are expected to have in the playoffs. The Blackhawks will take the top spot in their division and will be joined by similar teams in the St. Louis Blues and the Colorado Avalanche. The Blues will look to translate regular season into playoffs with a very talented team and a great defence. The inexperienced Avalanche will try to make an impact with one of the youngest teams in the league. All of these teams will also be joined by the two wild card teams in the Vancouver Canucks and Dallas Stars. In the Central Division playoffs the Stars will join the other teams but will not have a great time in the division losing to the Blackhawks in the first round while the Blues take down the inexperienced Avalanche. The Pacific Division will be another close battle and the Vancouver Canucks will try to make some noise when they join as the wild card team. The series with the Ducks could be a great one but the Ducks will come out on top while the Kings take out the Sharks who continue to disappoint in the playoffs. The Ducks will take over the division beating the Blackhawks and bringing a new face into the finals. The Ducks will make their way to the finals where they look to keep the West on top against the Boston Bruins.

Central Division:
1. Chicago Blackhawks
2. St. Louis Blues
3. Colorado Avalanche
Pacific Division:
4. Anaheim Ducks
5. Los Angeles Kings
6. San Jose Sharks
Wild Card:
7. Vancouver Canucks
8. Dallas Stars

Western Conference Champion:
anaheim_ducks

 

2015 Stanley Cup Champions
The Anaheim Ducks and Boston Bruins will face off in the Stanley Cup Finals this year as both teams will make it through the long run to the Cup. The Bruins are built for the playoffs with a great mix of talent and grit that can get them through. The Ducks are built much the same way but have a little bit extra in the skill department. It will be a hard-fought battle but in the end the West will rule again as the Ducks are a better team with more power this year than they have had before as their team is better and will get the win.

anaheim_ducks

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