With the trade deadline approaching it is time for the teams hoping to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to try and acquire whichever pieces of their respective puzzles they need. Some teams need a backup goaltender. Some need a right shot defenceman or perhaps a second or third line center. There are always a variety of players available and when a team makes the right moves it could be the difference between hoisting the Stanley Cup and hoisting your golf bag. Here is a look at a few teams that could be sipping from Lord Stanley’s mug in June.
Starting with the best record in the league going into the trade deadline, the Washington Capitals are playing their best hockey in a decade. A lot of a team’s success can be attributed to their goaltender and Washington is no different. Braden Holtby is leading the league in wins, has a .924 save percentage and a 2.17 goals against average, all near the top of the league. Goaltending aside, the Capitals have the most prolific scorer in this generation in Alex Ovechkin. With 39 goals and more to come, Washington, on paper, has the offence and defence to go all the way. What has yet to be seen is if they have the heart and stamina that other teams like Chicago and Los Angeles have shown in recent years.
Vegas Odds: 13/4 Prediction: Lose in Stanley Cup final
New York Rangers
A lot of people are looking at the Florida Panthers as the number two in the Eastern Conference but I think they are still a little inexperienced in the playoffs. This is where the New York Rangers get the edge. They have the experience and depth to make a run in the playoffs. They will most likely make a play for an experienced forward and possibly another defenceman and coupled with arguably the best goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist they have a good chance to make it far into the playoffs.
Vegas Odds: 15/1 Prediction: Lose in Eastern Conference final
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings started the season a little slow but have come around as of late and are playing some good hockey.They are winning more consistently and find themselves four points clear of the Anaheim Ducks and five ahead of the San Jose Sharks in the extremely tough Pacific Division. Always a team to fear in the playoffs, Los Angeles still has their core of players that won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014. This core includes Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick and Norris Trophy candidate Drew Doughty who are all more than capable of bringing their ‘A’ game in the playoffs.
Vegas Odds: 10/1 Prediction: Lose in Western Conference final
Last year’s Stanley Cup Champions look very similar to the Chicago Blackhawks of this year and that spells trouble to the rest of the teams that make the playoffs. One point behind division rival Dallas, the Blackhawks are firing on all cylinders. Although they don’t have much room to work with in terms of salary cap space they don’t have a lot of holes to fill in their roster. In fact they were in a similar situation last year and they found a way to win with the team that Stan Bowman built and that Joel Quenneville coaches. They have a tremendous amount of depth players to compliment their talented core players like Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Artemi Panarin and with Corey Crawford playing great and now the addition of two-time champion Andrew Ladd, there is no stopping the Blackhawks. Oh yeah, and Patrick Kane is lighting up the NHL right now.
Vegas Odds: 13/2 Prediction: Win Stanley Cup