2019 NHL Playoff Preview

playoffpreviewThe Stanley Cup playoffs are back and the run towards one of the greatest trophies in sports in what is always one of the toughest paths to a championship.

The NHL has always put together what is essentially the toughest gauntlet which doesn’t necessarily reward the best teams in the league.

No matter the work that teams put into trying to get them to the playoffs the actual run to the playoffs comes down to a number of factors that nobody can really control.

Talent will always be the great equalizer in any sport but when it comes to the NHL playoffs it can sometimes take a back seat.

The most talented teams could easily see their best player fall into a slump at the worst time of the year.

They could come into the biggest time of the year and in four games won’t put up the points they usually do leading to the end of their season.

That is the truth of the playoffs though as players have been through plenty throughout the season.

With 82 games to play beginning in October, players have been through plenty in a long season for a physical sport.

The punishment they took makes it tough to stay up for the length of the season that they have all played.

Now they are facing a second season where four losses could make all of that work pointless.

It takes just one bad streak for some of the best players in the league in order not to move on to the next round of the playoffs.

Teams gather all of the talent they could to try to make sure that when they got to the playoffs those droughts weren’t going to affect them enough to eliminate them.

As much as they try to build that there are a lot of teams who are looking to a few players to lead them through the grind.

These players will get a lot of attention and they will have to get through the grind that is the playoffs.

The game is different in this second season as teams play harder and focus more on the stars of the game trying to shut them down.hockey-sidebar

They know a lot more about every team because it is now down to a series where tendencies and plays are dissected endlessly.

Along with all of this every player has to be able to keep that level of energy going after a long season into a time where they are playing every other day.

This is were things get tested to an extreme point as the best players in the game are now needing to be that much better.

It’s no longer a regular game because everything becomes more important and that run towards the Cup is a difficult one.

That is what awaits these teams as they head towards the playoffs with a difficult road ahead.

It won’t necessarily be the best team that wins but it will be the team that can stay healthy and get through the grind that is the second season.

eastern_conference_logo

The Eastern Conference has always been a conference with plenty of skill and speed making them an interesting group. The East has been a group of teams that rely on superstar athletes who can do some amazing things but aren’t necessarily built for the playoffs. Playoff hockey is a rougher version of the game where toughness can be the biggest factor in winning championships. Still, the game is a fast one and skill can dominate even if they take on teams built for the playoff run. Last year skill panned out for the Washington Capitals who rode Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Kuznetsov to their first Stanley Cup. It was a display in just what the East brings to the table as skill won out and there are eight teams looking to show that their style can win out this time around. Everyone this year will be looking to one team as the measuring stick to how good they can be and that measuring stick is the Tampa Bay Lightning. They are the perfect expression of the Eastern Conference with plenty of skill as the top scoring team in the league. Their depth makes them scary and every team will be looking to do what plenty of teams have been unable to do and shut them down. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Capitals are built in a similar fashion with plenty of skill up front but none have the same depth as the Lighting. The same can be said for the Blue Jackets who received an injection of skill at the trade deadline but still lack the depth. Carolina could be in between that skill loaded team and those defensive teams but their real advantage is that they have nothing to lose. Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins are built for the playoffs with a mix of skill and hard-nosed play that makes them a dark horse pick every time they enter the playoffs. The New York Islanders bring in the best defence in the league with only 191 goals against. Then there is the Pittsburgh Penguins who can’t be pointed to as being great anywhere but their experience in these games speaks for itself. Everyone will bring their own style but at the end of the day, the Lightning are coming off of one of the greatest seasons ever making them the favourites.

easternprediction

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The Western Conference is one where there is plenty of skill but where toughness seems to be a little more important. There are a lot of stars all over the ice in the west but the path always seems to be a little more of a fight. Instead of teams looking to make their way through the playoffs with the depth of superstars, they try to grind things out with a more defensive mindset. That’s not to say that the skill up front isn’t still there and that it won’t take focus this year as the west is beginning to become a conference with just as much talent as the east. That talent can be seen in one matchup as the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche display some of the best young players in the game. With Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan the west is being taken over by the young talent. Both teams are displaying the new wave but there are plenty of veterans throughout the western playoffs. The San Jose Sharks are full of these veterans and that could be their biggest strength as most of the team has been through this grind year after year. Although Dallas, Winnipeg, St. Louis and Nashville remain on the younger side of things they are still dependant on veterans who have been in the game for a number of years. Then there is Vegas who snuck up on everyone last year but couldn’t repeat the same success this time around. The Western Conference will have a fair share of teams with spectacular skill that will look to show that skill can overcome everything. These veteran teams who have been through the grind know that skill might only take you so far if you are not ready for the grind. Although every team has skill these veterans teams tend to go after things in a different way. They know how to shut down those skill teams but the Flames are the best team in the conference this year so not many have been able to do it this season. The playoffs are different though and once again the veterans teams will head in looking to get their shot at the Cup.

westernprediction

2019 Stanley Cup Finals:
The Sharks are going to bring the experience into the Finals that the Lightning can’t match but the Sharks will pay for that veteran presence. The Lightning are by no means a young team as they have plenty of veterans to hold them over but the difference will be the depth of talent that Tampa can bring. Although the Sharks have plenty of their own talent they cannot play the matchup game against a team with multiple lines to run through.

scprediction

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