Puck Set to Drop For Stanley Cup Playoffs

The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs will faceoff on April 10. The end goal: to hoist one of the most prestigious trophies in all of sports.

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The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs will faceoff on April 10. The end goal: to hoist one of the most prestigious trophies in all of sports.

Justin Ballou, Reporter

In the NHL, every possible scenario is on the table regarding playoffs. Several new teams are in the postseason every year, and unlike in other leagues, those teams can make a giant run like the Vegas Golden Knights did last year as an expansion team. The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs will faceoff on April 10. For those of you filling out Stanley Cup Playoff Brackets, these are the teams to pick.

Eastern Conference

Tampa Bay Lightning – the narrative of the entire regular season this year was “Everyone vs. Tampa Bay,” as the Lightning clinched the President’s Trophy in early March, granting them home-ice advantage throughout the entire postseason. The road to the cup will travel through Tampa Bay, and the Lightning has a very realistic shot of winning their first cup since 2004 in front of their home crowd. Their goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy, has performed exactly how his teammates need him to: not allowing many goals in close games and putting up a 93 percent save percentage according to NHL.com. From top to bottom, the Bolts’ roster is stacked with talent – Nikita Kucherov, Ryan McDonagh, Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos and Anthony Cirelli all are league leaders in different statistical categories. The Lightning hasn’t won the cup since 2004 when they defeated the Flames in the Stanley Cup Final, but this very well could be their year. With the “Thunder” provided by their crowd, Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay will be providing the home-ice advantage the team will need to make a deep playoff push.

Washington Capitals – last year’s Stanley Cup Champion, Washington Capitals, are right back in the playoffs to defend their title. The Capitals started the year slow, which is typical for a team coming off a title win, but picked it up as the year went on. Washington will have home-ice advantage in the first and second rounds of the playoffs after winning the Metropolitan Division for the fourth year in a row. Left Wing Alex Ovechkin continues to lead the league in goals, and the Capitals bring with them essentially the same roster as last season with Ovechkin, Oshie, Wilson, Backstrom and Kuznetsov leading the way and Holtby still in goal.

Western Conference

Calgary Flames – The Flames, although not loaded with a ton of talent, are a gritty team that seems to do all of the little things right; Calgary is third in the league in faceoff win percentage and first in shots allowed per game. Blocking shot attempts takes weight off of goalies Mike Smith and David Rittich and develops extra offensive breaks. Johnny Gaudreau leads Calgary in goals, assists and points. Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm and James Neal are also players to watch on the Flames’ roster. When watching the Flames play, it’s evident how solid all four of their lines are; there’s not much dropoff from their first line to their fourth line. The Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary is one of the largest arenas in the world, so expect their home crowd to be sold out and rocking each game.

Dallas Stars – The Stars are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2016 as a wildcard team. Their starting goalie Ben Bishop leads the league in save percentage, and the backup goaltender, Anton Khudobin, is sixth in save percentage. The trio of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza is the key to the Stars’ offense. Alexander Radulov has also caught fire offensively lately. The newly acquired Mats Zuccarello is back off an injury that he suffered in his first game with the Stars. Dallas traded for Zuccarello near the NHL Trade Deadline and have been chomping at the bit to get him back on the ice. The Stars also acquired a handful of players that have playoff experience (such as Jamie Oleksiak) that will help the young prospects on the roster prepare for the postseason.

The end goal for all 16 of the playoff teams is the same: to hoist one of the most prestigious trophies in all of sports and to have their name edged into the Stanley Cup Trophy, crowning them into hockey history.