Stanley Cup predictions

The NHL’s 100th season only has a little than than 2 months to go before the end of the regular season. The league is starting to show which teams are great, good, decent, bad, and the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche are the worst team in the NHL and soon enough will be officially eliminated from the playoffs. As of February 24th, they have a record of 16-40-3 (35 points). The league’s best, the Washington Capitals, have 87 points.

The Western Conference has been weaker this year, with a few really good teams and then some disappointing teams. The Minnesota Wild have played their best hockey in franchise history and have a nice 3 point lead over Chicago. The San Jose Sharks also have a comfortable 3 point lead over Anaheim and Edmonton thanks to SJ defenseman Brent Burns’ 5 goals in the last 4 games.

As for the Eastern Conference, the worst team is just 12 points (6 games behind) out of a playoff spot, and the Atlantic division is still up for grabs where the Capitals have a good 5 point lead over Pittsburgh. This year, even with the Capitals great 40-12-7 record, they are not big favorites for winning the Stanley Cup. They have not made it past the second round since the 1997-98 season.

The Chicago Blackhawks are always favorites with superstars Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Corey Crawford, but some of their stars aren’t stepping up. Jonathan Toews has just 44 points this year, even though he missed 9 games, it’s still not his standard, but recently he put up 3 goals and 2 assists vs. Minnesota, so Chicago is hoping this might be his turnaround. Brent Seabrook also hasn’t been very productive with a -1/ plus-minus rating and only scoring 3 goals.

Another popular contender is last year’s runner-up, the San Jose Sharks. They’ve been playing good this year, and have been keeping Connor McDavid, and the Oilers, out of the top spot in the division, but they were best known for their play on the road, which was the best in 2015-16, but they already have more road losses this year than all of last year.

My last honorable mention, for possible contender, is the reigning champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins. This year they have 3 guys with 50+ points, which leads the league, but they’re having trouble catching up to Washington for the division lead. They have been deadly at home – winning 24 games, but have won only 13 on the road, which will be a big problem once they enter their opponent’s playoff atmosphere arena.

My main prediction to win it all this year is the Minnesota Wild. I’m trying to not be biased, but after watching this team win and win over and over, they really qualify as contenders. They have 8 players with at least 30 points, and 10 players with up to 10+ goals. This team doesn’t have a ton of superstars, but they mainly just work hard and have a team with great chemistry. A lot of this is thanks to new head coach Bruce Boudreau, who has the best winning record, percentage wise, in the NHL. In the offseason they added Eric Staal who has been a great addition to the team for just $3.5 million per year.

They also made a smart signing in getting Chris Stewart, who is a well-liked guy in the locker room. The younger players have really stepped up too. Nino Niederreiter is tied with Mikael Granlund with 19 goals, and  Granlund also leads the team, and is 12th in the league, with 55 points. Also, 5 of the 10 top plus-minus players in the NHL are Wild players, with Ryan Suter leading the league with a +33 rating. This team is not only contenders now but also for the future too; being the 10th youngest team in the league with an average age of 26.96. 

The main reason to the Wild’s success is goalie Devan Dubnyk though. He has by far put up the best numbers in the NHL, leading all goalies with 32 wins, a .933 save percentage, is 2nd place with a 2.01 goals against average (GAA), and is tied 4th with 5 shutouts this season. He’s been lights out and has really proved he is worthy of winning the Vezina Trophy (awarded to the best goalie during that season).

Note: All data presented is as of February 24th.

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