After more than 2500 regular season contests and nearly 80 postseason games, it is time for the Stanley Cup Finals. It is personally my favorite time of year in the sports calendar (even if the Wings aren’t apart of the series). The Finals are the culmination of a long and rigorous hockey season and they represent the pinnacle of the entire sport. Hockey fans of all ages have dreamed of having their name engraved on Lord Stanley’s Cup; and for 20 lucky individuals, it will be their time to hoist the cup victoriously. But who will it be? Will it be the upstart franchise who will win their first Cup in as many attempts? or will it be a team who has a scorn star and fan base? Either way we will be in for an exciting finish to what has been a great year for the NHL (and a less than spectacular one for Detroit.) Here’s how I see the Stanley Cup Finals shaking out and who I see coming out as the 2018 champion.
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Washington Capitals
For the first time since 1996, both teams in the Stanley Cup Finals will be chasing their first championship. Both Vegas and Washington have made it to the final round of the playoffs and are looking to win just one more and emerge as a champion. Both teams have a lot of storylines following them into this series and it looks like it will be an exciting one. On one side, the Capitals supplanted their second round barricade and just kept on going. Now they have made it to the Finals and will attempt to win the first Stanley Cup of Alex Ovechkin’s illustrious career. Ovi is one of the last remaining NHL stars without a Cup and will be relied on heavily in this series. On the other side, the Golden Knights have a star of their own that has propelled them through the postseason. Marc-Andre Fleury has been absolutely outstanding this postseason. He has 0.947 SV%, 1.68 GAA and four shutouts (all leading the league this postseason). Look for him to remain hot and to continue to carry the Golden Knights in this series.
This matchup will be a classic case of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Washington’s fire power (66 total goals scored in the playoffs) will have to find a way to break through Fleury’s stellar play. While Vegas has some capable goal scorers on their team, they do not have the offensive potential to match the Capitals in a scoring contest. This series will come down to either Ovechkin and company putting a lot of pucks past Fleury or Braden Holtby keeping the scores low to keep them in games.
In most series, I tend to go with the better goaltender but I have a feeling about this Washington team. The Capitals played well in the last round, holding a charged Lightning team to 0 goals in the last seven periods of their Eastern Conference Finals series and looked like a serious contender. I see the Capitals carrying this momentum into the Stanley Cup Finals and using it to get some early games in this series. Look for a great matchup with lots of outstanding performances, but expect Washington to emerge and make up for their embarrassing performance in 1998 versus the Red Wings.