PHT Predicts who wins the Stanley Cup

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If we learned anything from last year’s playoffs it’s that anything can happen. We saw top seeds crumble in the playoffs last year in the Eastern Conference as the top three teams all lost in the first round creating mayhem for the rounds to follow. After all, it’s not every year when the seven seed hosts the eight seed in the conference final, but when Philadelphia did that last year against Montreal, it left prognosticators and self-appointed know-it-alls everywhere baffled.

The Western Conference last season was a bit more friendly to those who bet on the higher seeds to roll through. Top seeded San Jose made it all the way to the conference final against the second seeded Blackhawks while they each dispatched the the third seeded Canucks and fifth seeded Red Wings in the conference semis.

With things going half-and-half last year as far as long shots and favorites went, we’re going to err on the side of caution this year. Showing that we don’t give much thought to what happened in the past and it is what it is, we’re going out on a major league limb with who we think is going to take things in each conference.

In the Eastern Conference, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau has us sold on the Caps dedication to defense and playing a more sandpaper-like brand of hockey. Mix that in with the all-universe talent of Alexander Ovechkin and a supporting cast including a healthy Mike Green along with forwards Alex Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Knuble that mix of vertan savvy and youth has us buying heavily into the Caps. It might not be the high-flying offense we got used to in the past, but they’re consistent now and they’re good. With Michal Neuvirth set to start in goal for Washington, he’s been their steady man all season long.

The flash and dash is gone and boring steadiness is the rule of the day for Washington. While there’s always the threat of a team getting hot and going on a tear through the postseason, we’re sold on the Capitals out of the East.

The West makes us a bit more scared and why not, it’s loaded out West. We could see any of the top five teams making a run through the playoffs and finding a way to steal the Western Conference bid to the Stanley Cup final. Vancouver is the heavy atop the standings, the Sharks are on fire in the second half, Detroit has the veteran knowhow, Anaheim has the best line in the NHL and a potential game-stealing wild card in goal should Jonas Hiller return, and Nashville has the kind of goalie that can win you 16 games in the postseason with the nasty defense to support him.

The choices aren’t easy out West, but when it comes down to it all Vancouver is just disturbingly good. They’ve dealt with countless injuries along their blue line and yet still Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider won the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed. They continued to pound on teams after they had nothing to play for, and their offense boasts two 90+ point scorers in the Sedin twins including Art Ross Trophy winner Daniel.

Ryan Kesler is their top shutdown forward and even he had 40 goals this season. Factor in supporters like Alex Burrows, Mikael Samuelsson, and Mason Raymond and it boggles the mind to think what they can do in the playoffs. Vancouver is sickeningly good and they’ll show the West they mean business winning the Western Conference.

In the final, with two teams that have yet to win the Stanley Cup in franchise history, desperation takes on a whole new meaning but in the end, destiny belongs to the Canucks as they dispose of the Capitals. Canucks win the Stanley Cup in 6 games in what turns out to be a memorable and legendary series and gives Vancouver something major to celebrate in their 40th anniversary season.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.