Stanley Cup predictions are streaming in now, right? If it’s too early, oh well, but this blog is predicting and hoping in an instant Cup Classic between the best team in the West and the best in the East: Wings vs. Rangers.
Each team could fall from their top standing, but with the records and winning streaks, the chances are looking pretty good right now. The Red Wings just acquired another defensive dude in Kyle Quincey who is happy to return to the Wings after a stint in Colorado. The Avalanche have had so many delays in their success that talented players get lost in a sea of mediocracy. Paul Stastny is a great player, but where’s the Cup for him?
Armed with Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Lidstrom, newer additions in Ian White, Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader have the Wings on a home-winning streak. In net, Jimmy Howard has returned after a broken finger after Joey MacDonald filled in. Despite the injury, the Wings were able to maintain an excellent record- a sure sign of a Cup team. The question is whether or not the goaltending tandem is really Stanly Cup material, because the rest of the team can hold its own. MacDonald let plenty of goals in; it was the defensive line and offensive scoring keeping the Wings in the game.
The New York Rangers are the best they have ever been. Torts and the crew have a system in place that has fans happy and the standings in their favor. Weathering a few losses, and trade rumors, New York is finally creating a team they have wanted to build based on a similar system the Wings use. When all the pieces fit, the entire puzzle falls into place and it works. Henrik Lundqvist is stellar in net and occasionally needs a break, but backup Biron holds it together.
Both teams have a great traveling fan base, both are Original 6, and both would draw ratings. There are enough high-profiled players who would make this year’s Stanley Cup run a media frenzy and great storytelling material.
On March 21st, the Detroit Red Wings will visit Madison Square Garden for a glimpse into what the playoff run could look like. This season, the defending Champions Bruins are still in the race, but as March approaches the time is narrowing on opportunities. Florida has rebuilt and looks promising. Whether the Panthers can keep the momentum going is another factor no one is certain of.
In the West, Vancouver could make it a close race. After last year’s mishap in Vancouver, the Canucks must repair that gap if they hope to beat the Wings. While St. Louis has come back strong, Nashville is closing in.
A dark horse may appear as a Penguins or perhaps the Chicago Blackhawks will regain their energy and make it a race. Whomever gets the opportunity will be making the case in the next few weeks, so hold on for the fury of the playoffs.