Michael Pellegrino Staff Writer
Entering the final week of the regular season, the Tampa Bay Lightning have locked up the president’s trophy, securing home-ice throughout the playoffs. While Tampa may be the favorite, there are plenty of teams to look out for in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
1) Calgary Flames- Arguably the surprise of the season, the Flames find themselves at the top of the Western Conference, poised for a deep playoff run. Led by Johnny Gaudreau with an incredible 96 points this season, his play is key to their success. The big advantage for Calgary comes with their goaltending. Being able to have two options in Mike Smith and David Rittich is not something other playoff teams can say they have. Look out for Calgary to make some noise this year, and possibly set up a 2004 finals rematch with Tampa.
2) Boston Bruins- If Tampa Bay was not having a ludicrous season, the Bruins would be in a three-team race along with Calgary for the president’s trophy. The Bruins are currently at 103 points, second in the Atlantic division. Players like David Pastrank, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand are leading the charge for Boston. If this team can stay healthy, their core of experienced players will be the key to any playoff success.
3) Washington Capitals- The defending Stanley Cup Champions were having an up and down season, but lately, have picked things up just in time for the Playoffs. Three players with at least 70 points in Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Kuznetsov, combined with great goaltending from Braden Holtby, this Washington team is dangerous. They have the experience of winning it all last year and are clearly looking for more. Currently leading the Metro division, that home ice for the first couple of rounds could see Washington into a rematch of last year’s conference finals against the Lightning.
4) New York Islanders- Another very surprising team this season, New York is led at the helm by Barry Trotz, the coach of the Stanley Cup winning team last year, the Washington Capitals. Only three points behind the Capitals in the metro, the Islanders are a team that gets the job done by committee. Their player with the most points this season is Mathew Barzal, only with 62 points to his name. Many people including myself underestimated the value that Barry Trotz can bring to this team with his experience, if they match up with the Capitals, watch for a fun and explosive series.