Forecasting who will raise Lord Stanley’s Cup

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Forecasting who will raise Lord Stanley’s Cup

Spring is in the air. With it comes the return of frisbees, short sleeves and playoff beards. 

Yes, it’s that time of year. The quest to raise Lord Stanley’s cup begins on Wednesday, and this year’s chase might be the best in years.

The Western Conference is filled with teams — such as the Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings — that have the talent and experience to win the Cup. In the Eastern Conference, the Presidents’ Trophy winning Bruins ran away with the best record in the conference with 117 points, while Pittsburgh is determined to prove that it can still compete for the Cup.

The beauty of these playoffs is that it is like the NCAA basketball tournament, anything can happen. An eight-seed can win the Cup, and a clear favorite can be eliminated in the first round. Everything that I write might seem foolish and make me look like I know nothing about hockey. But I will attempt to replicate what will happen during the next few months.

Eastern Conference

When you compare the two conferences, the East is clearly the weaker of the two.

Only three teams, the Bruins, Penguins and Lightning, have more than 100 points on the regular season, compared to six in the west. The easiest thing to do would be to declare the Bruins as the conference’s representative in the Stanley Cup Finals; and that’s what I will do.

They should be an easy team for the Red Wings, who barely made the playoffs after switching conferences in the offseason; the Lightning or Canadians are nothing to worry about.

The biggest challenge for the Bruins might be Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, who have not forgotten last year’s disappointing Eastern Conference finals, when the Bruins swept the Penguins in four games.

This year might be different, as the 2009 Stanley Cup champs have something to prove, not only to the league, but also themselves. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was once considered the league’s best, but now has to prove his worth after he was replaced as the starter in last year’s playoffs. Crosby might have two Olympic Gold medals, but only one Stanley Cup ring.

This one might go to a game seven, as both teams feature the elite players of the league, such as Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. Goaltending differentiates the teams. Tuuka Rask had a terrific regular season after replacing Tim Thomas in Boston last year. The Bruins will raise, or stand next to, the Prince of Wales Trophy as the Eastern Conference Champions.

Western Conference

With so many viable options, choosing which team will go to the Finals from the West might be just as hard this year as picking the Final Four.

The key for this year’s playoffs will be experience, which is what the Blackhawks have. The team is returning a majority of its players from last year’s championship team and has a experienced core of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Kieth and Brent Seabrook. Injuries to Kane and Toews might be a blessing in disguise. The ailments provided rest, something the pair did not have after participating in the Olympic games.

The most intriguing first-round matchup in either conference will be the Blues vs. the Blackhawks. A month ago, the Blues were thought of as the best team in the NHL, the team that no one wanted to face. But now the Blues, who won only three of the last 10 games in the regular season, are the a preferable matchup for Chicago. It will be a rough series, possibly of the seven-game variety, but the Blackhawks have been here before and should survive the Blues. 

The Avalanche should have little trouble with the Wild. Even though the Avalanche won the regular season series with the Blackhawks 4-1, the game is different in the playoffs. It might come down to coaching, and even though rookie Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy has been fantastic in his first year, the pressure is elevated in the playoffs. It is unclear if Colorado’s leading scorer Matt Duchene will be back after suffering a left knee injury in March. Even if he does return, he will be rusty and won’t be able to help the Avalanche, who will fall to the Hawks in seven games. 

On the other side of the Western Conference playoff bracket, the Kings pose the greatest threat to the Blackhawks, as the Ducks and Sharks have a history of choking in the playoffs. A Blackhawks-Kings Western Conference Finals would come down to goaltending as it did in last year’s conference finals. Jonathan Quick is a strong goalie, but the Blackhawks have an experienced defense and a goalie of their own, Corey Crawford, who has been there before. 

That means we’re headed to a rematch of last year’s Stanley Cup Finals.

Stanley Cup Final

So it’s a rematch of last year’s final, but unfortunately for my Blackhawks, the result will not be the same.

I will admit I think the Bruins will win the Cup no matter what team comes out of the West. Every series in the West will be tough and whoever comes out on top will be battered and bruised. The matchups will mostly be the same as it was a year ago, but the Bruins’ road to the Finals is what will make the difference.

Competing for nearly one and half years straight with little breaks will catch up with the Blackhawks, who had to beat three elite teams to make the Finals, ultimately resulting in a Bruins parade — just like they had in 2011.

Michal is a freshman in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] and @bennythebull94.