The struggle was real with our Stanley Cup picks last year. Nobody picked the Penguins to win it all. Heck, only one person picked them to even make the Cup Final.
Undaunted, we’re back to try again. As always, feel free to add your picks in the comments section. Also, don’t forget to suggest we have no idea what we’re talking about. That’s important, too.
Mike Halford: Tampa Bay over St. Louis
I picked the Bolts last year and they did reasonably well, falling one game short of the final. So I’ll show some loyalty and pick them again. This year’s team is a virtual carbon copy — they kept Steve Stamkos and he looks to be fully recovered from his blood-clotting issue; Tyler Johnson is good to go after his wrist bugged him for much of last season; and they’re going to get a full year of Jonathan Drouin, who’s primed for a breakout campaign. Best of all, they didn’t have to lose anyone to get Nikita Kucherov signed.
Jason Brough: Pittsburgh over Chicago
It’s not impossible to repeat. Some team will do it again someday, and this year’s Penguins are a good bet to be that team. Unlike previous champs in the salary-cap era, the Pens didn’t have to cast off a bunch of key players. (I like Ben Lovejoy, but I think they can overcome his loss.) I do admit that I considered picking the Lightning. If it wasn’t Pittsburgh, it was gonna be Tampa Bay. But when Halford took the Bolts, it was an easy decision. I’ll take the team with Sidney Crosby on the first line, Evgeni Malkin on the second, and Phil Kessel on the third, with Kris Letang playing big minutes on the back end. As we saw last spring, that’s a tough team to beat. (Note: I’m assuming Crosby will be fine.)
Cam Tucker: Washington over Nashville
In our season preview, I predicted the Capitals would finally get beyond the second round of the playoffs, so why not pick them to go all the way? They have a loaded roster, led of course by Alex Ovechkin, and with the talent they have, they will eventually go deep into the postseason. Yes, even if that means going through Pittsburgh. If the Caps get hot in the playoffs — look out. They have the tools. It’s just a matter of putting it all together at the right time.
James O’Brien: Dallas over Pittsburgh
Allow yourself a moment to dream: two spectacularly entertaining teams — boasting flaws that actually make them more fun to watch — trading blows at the highest level. The Penguins ran roughshod over their competition once Mike Sullivan took over, but they will fall to an even better version of themselves. The Stars take the next step in aping the Penguins’ formula of dominating chances and camouflaging defensive shortcomings with fast puck movement. They only need slightly improved goaltending to win the Stanley Cup, and my vote is that they’ll get just that.
Joey Alfieri: Tampa Bay over Dallas
The Lightning have come close to hoisting the Cup in the last couple of seasons, but they’ve ultimately come up just short. I think this is the year they get the job done. They have a number of quality offensive weapons (Stamkos, Kucherov, Drouin, Palat, Killorn, Johnson), some strong depth on the blue line (Hedman, Stralman, Garrison, Coburn) and probably the best one, two punch in the league between the pipes with Bishop and Vasilevskiy. Tampa Bay may also be able to use Bishop as a bargaining chip to land themselves another quality piece before the trade deadline.
Adam Gretz: Nashville over Tampa Bay
I am buying the Nashville hype. Adding P.K. Subban
to a defense that already has Roman Josi
, Mattias Ekholm
and Ryan Ellis
probably makes it the best group in the league (and if it’s not the best, it is definitely in the discussion). In front of them they have an underrated group of forwards that has two cornerstone pieces in Filip Forsberg
and Ryan Johansen
, as well as another 30-goal guy in James Neal
. They were one of the top possession teams in the league last season and have impact players all over the roster. Goaltending is a bit of a question mark at this point, but if the rest of the roster plays up to its potential they shouldn’t need *great* goaltending to win.