Friday, May 11, 2018

NHL Playoffs Predictions 2017-18: Round Three

These have been exciting playoffs and the quality of hockey played just seems to get better every round.

Only four teams remain. Here's how they stack up.

For the record, my heart's with Fleury and Ovechkin, but as you'll see, my head doesn't fully agree...

Western Conference

Vegas Golden Knights (2) vs Winnipeg Jets (1)
My heart's with current playoff MVP Marc-André Fleury and the rest of the Golden Knights, but my head says it won't even be close. The way the Jets disposed of the Nashville Predators and dominated the important games tells me these guys are on a mission and virtually unstoppable. I mean, Vegas plays their extremely effective system at 99% capacity with a bunch of guys who rank anywhere between 70 and 87% (with most guys in the late 70s) on the "pure talent" scale, whereas Winnipeg plays their 90% effective system at 90% capacity with guys whose talent level ranks between 79-95% with three full lines of guys over 82%.

They're simply too big, too fast and too good.

Can Fleury steal one? Definitely. Two? Probably. Three? Possibly. Four? C'mon, he's not Patrick Roy, for the simple reason that no current NHL goalie can just decide to be infaillible and deliver on it. On the other side of the ice, Connor Hellebuyck probably had four "let's give 'em four" games to give this postseason, and not only did he already have them, he won a couple of them, too.

Jets in 6.

Eastern Conference

Washington Capitals (2) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (1)
Alex Ovechkin is a man on a mission: he wants that Stanley Cup and nothing will be able to stand in his way. The caveat? The guys who are determined to stop him are Norris nominee Victor Hedman, perennial All-Star and former New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh, legitimate top-2 defender Anton Stralman, future Norris hoarder Mikhail Sergachev, and finally-in-his-right-spot-as-a-number-five Dan Girardi with Anton Sustr and Braydon Coburn rounding out the D for good measure, and that's without mentioning that the Bolts have two Ovechkins of their own in former 50-goal menace Steven Stamkos and current top-5 world beater Nikita Kucherov while the Caps do not have top-level shut-down defenders.

Of course, the Pittsburgh Penguins just won consecutive Stanley Cups with essentially an AHL defence, but they had their entire offense; Washington is playing without Nicklas Backstrom, and should Lars Eller effectively replace him, there's no one to take Eller's 3C spot to shut down Tampa's offense.

Bolts in 7.

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