Congratulations to the St. Louis Blues, a team located in the muck of the NHL’s basement at the turn of the New Year, just to reverse their fortunes to a degree never seen before in the history of this league. The Blues are more hustle and muscular than dash and flash which makes their meteoric rise even more astonishing. However, our crystal ball doesn’t see a replica of another Stanley Cup in their future that means we must look elsewhere. Let us decide which groups are solid bets to add in our NHL selections.
Predicted Winner: Tampa Bay Lightning
Had the Lightning maintained goaltender Ben Bishop in the fold, rather than trading him away a few years back, we’d likely be considering Tampa Bay as the gold standard for professional baseball and the 2019 Stanley Cup winners. Instead, they warmed to Russian netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy, an superb goalie in his own right, but one who withered beneath the pressure of postseason play when he fell four consecutive games to the Blue Jackets in the first round and finished his brief playoff run with a 3.82 goals against average along with a dismal .856 save percentage over these four matches.
No matter the Lightning has a boatload of talent and are, far and away, the most explosive team in the NHL. Tampa Bay now knows that the regular season means nothing when the playoffs roll around, and competitions don’t cradle when they fall behind. The Lightning, for example their talented goalie, will probably be all the more fortunate next time around and although they may not tie a record for most wins in a season (62), since they did this past year, anticipate the Lightning to toughen up on defense and also be a far more formidable adversary once the postseason arrives.
Predicted Winner: Winnipeg Jets
Before you snicker, just how many of you picked the Blues to win the West this season, and the Stanley Cup at the turn of this New Year? Therefore, you will excuse me when I part company from the chalk lovers and the alleged pundits who believe just Calgary, St. Louis, Vegas, and San Jose could possibly emerge out of the West to compete for a Cup next year. Even though the Jets had a disappointing showing this season as compared to last, when they lost to a Cinderella team in their debut season, the Vegas Knights, at the Western Conference Finals, they still amassed 99 points and were bounced from the first round by the eventual Stanley Cup champs.
There are loads of contract situations to be solved and the defense must be stouter than they have been this past season. But injuries also hobbled the Jets and we hope to see the vital pieces of the mystery locked up and up to new deals with the only potential casualty being Jacob Trouba, that would be qualified for another mediation hearing before he becomes an unrestricted free agent the following year. Trouba is catnip to those groups searching for a youthful, offensive defenseman and although he would look great back again in a Jets’ uniform, he could fetch the missing pieces into the championship puzzle for Winnipeg.
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