With the Regular Season coming to a close in just three weeks, playoff spots have begun to be clinched, and several playoff races are taking place in what looks to be another exciting Stanley Cup Playoffs.
What is going to make this year’s playoffs interesting is the number of teams who have a roster that is capable of winning a Stanley Cup, along with the number of teams who have a veteran that is most likely in one of their last chances to hoist Lord Stanley’s cup.
A few examples of these teams are Nashville, with Mike Fisher coming out of retirement at the trade deadline. Also the Bruins, with Zdeno Chara who is 40 and will be a free agent if he doesn’t sign a new contract with the Bruins, and finally Tampa Bay, with 38 year-old Chris Kunitz, who is on a one-year deal with the team.
So how do these teams stack up right now?
1. Nashville Predators: 47-14-10
The Predators are 13-1-1 in their last 15 games, and are showing no signs of slowing down. With 11 games remaining, Nashville is currently first in the league by two points, and first in the west by 7 points over Las Vegas.
With a roster that is four lines deep, one of the best home records in the league (25-7-4), and a goalie that is a possible Vezina Trophy winner, if the Predators can stay healthy, another appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals should be what they are aiming for.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning: 49-19-4
The Lightning are 11-3-1 in their last 15 games and have an incredibly deep roster after acquiring Defenseman Ryan McDonagh and Forward J.T. Miller from the Rangers at the Trade Deadline.
Tampa Bay is currently second in the league, 2 points behind Nashville, and first in the east, 4 points ahead of Boston.
With 10 games remaining in their season, the Lightning are aiming for a Stanley Cup Finals appearance, as they will be an extremely difficult match up for any team in the east.
Like Nashville, Tampa Bay also has four solid lines, and a possible Vezina Trophy winner in net.
3. Boston Bruins: 45-17-8
In what was sold as a rebuild, and a development season for young players, the Bruins have found themselves currently third in the league, with a chance to make a Stanley Cup Finals appearance.
The Bruins are battling some significant injuries, however, with Patrice Bergeron out with a fractured foot, Charlie McAvoy out the rest of the regular season with a sprained MCL in his left knee, Zdeno Chara day-to-day with a lower body injury, David Backes requiring several stitches near his knee after a skate blade cut him, and Jake DeBrusk day-to-day with an upper body injury.
If the Bruins want to make a deep playoff appearance, they will need to have most of these players back in order to even match up with teams such as Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh.
4. Winnipeg Jets: 43-19-10
The Winnipeg Jets are having a strong season, and are 10-4-1 in their last 15 games.
Winnipeg also holds the best home record of 26-7-2, and will definitely pose a problem to anyone that has to face them in the playoffs.
With Patrick Laine having an excellent second season, currently tied with Alexander Ovechkin for first in the league with 42 goals, and Veteran Forward Paul Stastny being acquired from St. Louis at the trade deadline, Winnipeg has the potential to go deep into the playoffs this year.
5. Las Vegas Golden Knights: 46-21-5
In their inaugural season, the Golden Knights have broken just about every possible record for an expansion team.
Vegas is 8-6-1 in their last 15 games, and currently sit second in the Western Conference, 7 points behind Nashville, and first in the Pacific Division ahead of San Jose by 8 points.
With a solid roster from the expansion draft, and the acquisition of Tomas Tatar from Detroit at the trade deadline, Vegas could be making a long post-season run in their first season.
Tampa Bay: www.isportsweb.com