Stanley Cup Playoffs Predictions: Stanley Cup Finals
If you had the Las Vegas Golden Knights and the Washington Capitals meeting in the Stanley Cup Finals, congratulations! If you’re like most of us, you didn’t think this matchup would happen in a million years. Now that both teams have made it this far, neither one wants to go home empty handed. Playing hockey in June is the ultimate goal, but for one team, they are going home with nothing, falling just short of winning it all. Let’s take a look at who is winning the 2017-18 Stanley Cup!
Las Vegas Golden Knights vs. Washington Capitals
What a ride it has been for this Las Vegas team. They’ve done something even Vegas didn’t believe was possible!
How did they do this? Well in short– they’ve had elite goaltending, their players played at another level and their head coach was the perfect man for this team. Now they just have to put all the pieces together and go all out in this last round.
Standing in their way are the Washington Capitals– a team that hasn’t made it this far in over 20 years. For one player specifically, Alex Ovechkin, this is the moment he’s been waiting for. For years we’ve been talking about how much better Sidney Crosby has been because of his multiple Stanley Cups he’s won, but in the next two weeks, Ovi will have the chance to change that and join the elite hockey group of Stanley Cup champions.
So who wins this series? Simple– first team to win four game! Ok, that was lame. Let’s go deeper into the matchup.
Let’s look at the Golden Knights. There’s no question that they’ve come this far because of Marc-Andre Fleury, and that is going to be true again in the finals. He’s outplayed every goalie he’s faced in these playoffs. He’s been the team’s best player. That will need to be true again if they want to accomplish the impossible. His 1.68 GAA and .947 SV% in these playoffs is on another level. He’s the key to Las Vegas winning it all.
On the other side, the Washington Capitals deserve to be here. Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov have lead the way up front for their team. They are one-two in scoring in the playoffs. For all the criticism Ovechkin has taken over the years for “choking” come playoff time, he’s answer back in a big way this year.
When you dig deeper into the numbers, like the last round, this series is going to be decided by the power play/penalty kill. The Capitals have scored 17 PPG this postseason, the most of any team, giving them a 28.8% power play efficiency. That is beyond elite at this stage of the playoffs. On the flip side, Las Vegas sits at 17.6%, which is decent, but in no way elite.
If you look at the penalty kill numbers, Vegas does a better job in that category. Their 82.5% PK is ranked second amongst qualifying teams (min.10 games). As for the Capitals, they sit at 75.4%, sixth amongst qualifying teams.
It’s not a huge gap, but Washington does have the slight edge in that category, and that’s a huge factor.
The wildcards in this series will be Braden Holtby and William Karlsson. Remember when Holtby didn’t start the first two games of the playoffs because Trotz was somehow convinced that Philipp Grubauer was the solution to all their problems? Good times. Once the Caps lost their first two games, Holtby took back his starting job and hasn’t looked back. He’s been the elite goalie we all knew he was. He shut the door in game six and seven for the Capitals, not allowing a goal in either game, helping his team defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven.
For William Karlsson, it’s about what he’s still capable of doing! He’s been alright in these playoffs, but he’s going to need to step it up to another level. He’s been Las Vegas’ best player all season long, and that needs to be the case in the next round. Yes Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith are big factors for this team, but Karlsson is the key piece of the three. When all three are working, they can’t be stopped. Those three will also have the task of slowing down Ovechkin, and that is going to take an entire army of players. No way is Ovechkin letting anyone take that Stanley Cup away from him!
So, who is walking away a champion in June?
Prediction: Washington in 6
Yup, this is the year for Ovechkin.
In their series against Tampa Bay, they won three games on the road, including the first two. Yes they lost both games at home like the Lightning, but they went on the road for game seven and played almost a perfect road hockey game. They couldn’t be stopped. Winning hockey games in the playoffs is hard, winning three games in a series on the road is about impossible. The Capitals were able to do that.
Marc-Andre Fleury is going to have his hands full again in this series, and so far he’s done more than anyone thought possible, but the task at hand, stopping Ovechkin, might just be too much at this point. As mentioned above, there’s no chance anyone takes the Stanley Cup away from Ovi, not at this stage. He’s won’t allow it to happen. He’s on another level right now. His teammates know what it would mean for Ovechkin to win a Cup, how it would quiet all the “haters” out there. Goodluck slowing him down.
The Las Vegas Golden Knights story has been great, but it won’t finish with a Stanley Cup.