NPF: CUP PREVIEW

There is so much going on in the world at this moment and the overwhelming majority of it is awful. That, combined with the fact that I'm something of an expert on the Golden Knights (that is a joke, but I did do a serviceable writeup for Deadspin), means I'm going to treat myself and write about the Stanley Cup Finals.

Overall, both teams somewhat surprisingly beat deeper teams, Winnipeg and Tampa Bay. Those teams have more talent spread out over more spots in the lineup. In the end, Winnipeg's gaggle of goal scoring forwards couldn't overcome VGK's terrifying speed and a hot Fleury gave the latter a real edge in net over one of the weaker, or maybe just "least great", netminder in the playoffs in Hellebuyck. They just ran Winnipeg ragged like they do everyone else.

Washington couldn't match Tampa for talent, but it too had the edge in net with Hotlby on his game and, honestly, they have one of the greatest players of all time looking possessed. Washington's four lines can't compete with TB's four lines on paper, but one team has Ovechkin and the other doesn't. He has worn the playoff choker label for a decade and this year has shot it to hell. He's one of maybe three players in this era who can totally take over games, and he's doing it.

These two teams create a very interesting set of matchups.

GOAL: Tough call here. Fleury is playing the best hockey of his life and has two Stanley Cup rings. Holtby is playing outstanding as well and has never won the big one. In terms of the way they are playing right now it's a toss-up. Based on overall body of work and "intangibles" like experience and composure under pressure a slight edge has to go to Fleury. Advantage: VGK

DEFENSE: Big mismatch here, with the Caps' six an obviously stronger group. That said, VGK's overmatched D has played better than anyone could expect all year so why stop now. The speed of Vegas's forwards keeps pressure off them and woo boy does Fleury bail them out a lot. John Carlson is probably going to win the Norris Trophy this year and he earned it. Carlson, Orlov, and Niskanen are all better than any individual d-man on Vegas. Kempny can fly and that will help a lot in this series. The one weak link for DC is Brooks Orpik, who has had a great long career but is not the fleetest of foot anymore – he will have trouble with this gang. Conversely, the Ovechkin line is going to be matched up with…Brayden McNabb and Nate Schmidt. OK. Advantage: Caps

FORWARDS: VGK is fast, fast, fast. The bottom two lines aren't flush with talent but this team is out to make every game a track meet. As crazy as it sounds, the Karlsson-Marchessault-Smith line has been as good or better than the Ovechkin-Wilson-Kuznetsov line all year. Let's just say both teams' top lines are a big reason why they're here. The second lines give a small edge to Vegas; I'd want Backstrom and Oshie on paper but there's no denying that Neal-Perron-Haula, unbelievably, has been stellar all year. Both teams have active, fast fourth lines that don't score much. The third lines will be key. Burakovsky finally stirred to life 15 games into the playoffs, and Eller and Connolly are guys who have played a lot of hockey. Eakin-Tuch-Carpenter is more of a track team than a super-skilled line, but that speed generates a ton of scoring chances for them. Tough call here. The Ovechkin line is unstoppable at the moment, but it's delusional to ignore what the Karlsson top line has done this season, which is little short of incredible. Have to call this a draw: DC's bottom six are slightly better, while VGK's top six have the edge…but the Caps have Ovechkin. Advantage: Draw

Prediction: Caps in 7. The only thing I'm actually confident about is that this will be a long series. Vegas is obviously an incredible story, but if DC keeps up the level of play they've displayed in these playoffs they will be there tooth and nail for the Knights.

8 thoughts on “NPF: CUP PREVIEW”

  • FWIW, Brooks Orpik leads all players in the playoffs in plus/minus. +15, and the next-best is +10.

  • Hockey? Meh (and I'm in Minnesota). The new site template? Yesss.

    I suggest this tweak, though. Scrolling backgrounds with complex images are dizzying. Plus, it looks way cooler.

    body.custom-background {background-attachment: fixed;}

  • c u n d gulag says:

    What's a Stanley Cup!

    I'm a NY Rangers fan, and we've won ONE in almost 80 years, so I kinda forgot that there was such a thing.

  • Bitter Scribe says:

    I'm rooting for the Golden Knights. It would just be too deliciously bizarre to have an expansion team win it all in its first year.

    Everyone kept saying Vegas didn't have the depth to compete with this or that, but as Ed points out so well, their third and fourth lines keep performing.

    An interesting internet rumor–I have no idea if there's anything to this: A number of people allegedly made token good-luck bets, $10 or so, on the Golden Knights to win the Cup at the beginning of the season, when the odds were 500 to 1. Now the Vegas sports books are tearing their hair out.

  • 3 cups and 4 finals appearances for Fleury. Playing for Vegas has given him new life as a starting goalie.
    Also, w Fleury being out for a while at the beginning of the season, he wasn't run into the ground and tired by the end of the season as he was under Bylsma in Pittsburgh when he gave up a ton of goals as he did in 2012 and 2013.

    Even getting to another final w Vegas might do wonders for Fleury's reputation in the league and would it be a stretch to see him get HOF consideration after being the butt of jokes for years? Stranger things have happened.

  • The new layout completely breaks my system. Not only that, it's a horrible waste of layout space with huge gaping sections of nothing.

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