One-on-One: Who will win the Stanley Cup?

St. Louis Blues

BY BEAU WOODCOCK

 

So far this NHL season, the St. Louis Blues have been the most impressive team.

While still under the radar, the Blues have proved themselves as the best team in the competitive Central Division. Their long-time rival, the Chicago Blackhawks, still look shell-shocked from their early playoffs exit last season. Neither Winnipeg nor Colorado pose a significant enough threat considering their previous season and still might be a flash in the pan.

Elsewhere in the Western Conference, the Blues aren’t threatened by the Kings, who don’t have a bonafide top goal scorer that can come close to Jaden Schwartz. While the Vegas story is really exciting, realistically it is not a team built to win a Cup in its inaugural season.

Not to mention – Schwartz is quietly one of the best and most productive scorers in the NHL this season. Vladimir Tarasenko still has that incredible star power that he hasn’t even fully displayed yet this season. They finally have stable goaltending, with Jake Allen showing significant improvement between the pipes from last season.

As for the Eastern Conference, Jack will try and sell you on the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team led by the injury-prone Steven Stamkos. Nikita Kucherov and several others have been impressive, but the roster overall has been top-heavy and has weaknesses farther down the lineup. Most of the other teams are a step down this season in the East, including Pittsburgh, that is going to start feeling the effects of the salary cap sooner rather than later.

The St. Louis Blues are poised to finally add a Stanley Cup banner to the rafters of Scottrade Center. With consistent scoring from all four lines, much improved goaltending and a coaching staff with the players’ full support, the city of St. Louis has a lot to be excited about.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

BY JACK SIMZYK

 

The most impressive team this NHL season dons a lightning bolt on their chests. That’s because the Tampa Bay Lightning are the best team in the NHL right now.

Sure, one might say that it’s a cliché pick, simply because they’re in first place of the NHL, but there’s more to it than that. The Lightning don’t just lead league standings, they’re also first in goals scored, goal differential and goals per game.

Their high-powered offense features Nikita Kucherov, the league’s top goal scorer. Kucherov is second in points only behind teammate Steven Stamkos, who has set up his teammates efficiently by recording the most assists on the season.

Not only do the Lightning boast the league’s best offense, they also have a top-tier goaltender anchoring the team. Andrei Vasilevskiy leads the league in wins and is top-10 in save percentage. The team is also top-10 in the league for least goals against.

As for their special teams, the Lightning have the second-best power play percentage in the league and are ninth for penalty kill percentage.

When it comes to squaring up against other top teams, the Lightning are highly successful. So far this season, they beat the powerhouse Washington Capitals in an overtime thriller, outscored the defending-champion Pittsburgh Penguins 12-5 in two meetings with them, and won two games against the Columbus Blue Jackets, another top team in the standings.

The Lightning also defeated the St. Louis Blues this season, which happens to be Beau’s choice as the best team. That’s a pretty questionable pick.

The Blues may have started hot, but they are headed nowhere. If you need proof, just look at the their track record in the playoffs. They’re a top regular season team infamous for not being able to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Here’s a newsflash for Beau and all the other Blues believers out there: you can’t win the Stanley Cup if you’re not even in the Finals.

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