I don’t care what your favorite sport is, when it comes to the playoffs, nothing can top the NHL. Yes, I’m well aware that hockey is not as popular as football or basketball, and I’m not even saying that hockey is my favorite sport, but every single playoff game, whether my team is playing or not, keeps you on the edge of your seat. It’s also the hardest sport to win a championship in. Playing highly physical games every other night from April all the way to June really tests the guts and determination of each team.
I’m extremely excited for the playoffs because I get to see if my Pittsburgh Penguins can repeat as champions, and while I think they have a shot, it won’t come easy at all, due to how hard it is to win a Stanley Cup. They have some stiff competition in their way, including a tough first round matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets. While I do think the Pens have a shot to win it all again, there are also other teams I think have a very good shot at lifting Lord Stanley. Here are the five teams I think can the Stanley Cup.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
Is this pick because I’m a bit of a homer? Yes. Am I worried that the Penguins will be without star defenseman Kris Letang for the entire playoffs, and are still an injured team getting ready for the first round? You’re goddamn right I am, but last time I checked the best player in the world (Sidney Crosby) is still on the team and is still healthy. I know it takes more than just one player to win a Stanley Cup, but the Penguins have a team that knows what it takes to win a championship, as well as a damn good coach in Mike Sullivan. It won’t come easy as they have Columbus in the first round, most likely a first place Washington Capitals team in the second round, and whoever comes out of the West in the Finals. If Evgeni Malkin can come back and make an impact, I like the Pens’ chances, but man is it going to be tough. Guess we’ll have to tune in and see.
2. Washington Capitals
Let’s get one thing straight, I hate the Washington Capitals, I hate Alexander Ovechkin, and I love how they choke in the playoffs every year, but unfortunately, I think that’s all going to change in these playoffs. I would love for nothing more than the Caps to blow it in the first or second round this year, but I just have a hard time believing that they don’t win it all this year. For a second straight year they took home the Presidents Trophy, and top to bottom they’re clearly one of the two to three best teams in the league. I’ll reiterate my hate for Ovechkin, but I’m not stupid enough to think that he’s not one of the best players in the league, and it would be great for him to finally lift the Cup instead of being the perennial loser that he already is.
3. Chicago Blackhawks
If there’s one team in the playoffs that knows a thing or two about winning the Stanley Cup, it’s the Chicago Blackhawks, who won three titles from 2010 to 2015. At the top of the Western Conference again, the Hawks look to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals after getting bounced in a thrilling Game 7 against the St. Louis Blues in the first round. In each of their previous three Cup runs, Chicago has their Big 3 of captain Jonathan Toews, defenseman Duncan Keith, and winger and one of the best players in the world in Patrick Kane. The West is obviously no joke, but I have a real hard time betting against Chicago coming out of that conference.
4. San Jose Sharks
I know that the Sharks are only a sixth-seed, but I think that they are a scary sixth-seed, and upsets are not uncommon at all in the NHL Playoffs. Maybe last year changed my views on them, but I personally think that San Jose is as good as anyone, and they have a great chance at making a deep run in the playoffs like they did last season. Led by (in my opinion at least) the best defenseman in the game in Brent Burns, the Sharks are one of the most physical teams in all of hockey and have the potential to give teams a lot of trouble with their size. The wounds are still fresh from their loss in last year’s Stanley Cup Final, and that is going to motivate them.
5. Minnesota Wild
I don’t feel great about this pick because much like the Washington Capitals, the Minnesota Wild seem to choke in the playoffs every year, but I really like their team this year. Finishing with 106 points and second in the Western Conference, the Wild seem poised to go on a deep playoff run this year. The problem for them is that they’re eventually going to run into their fellow MidWestern foe in the Blackhawks, who have had the Wild’s number the past few years. If they can get past Chicago, the Wild could very well be poised to lift the Cup this year.