Wednesday, April 24, 2013

NHL Season Drawing to a Close: Who Will Win Stanley Cup?

Tony Esposito Signed Blackhawks Logo Hockey Puck
It seems a long time has passed since we last heard about the National Hockey League’s annoying lockout that basically cut the NHL season in half, but after three months, our mini-NHL regular season is coming to a close and the NHL Playoffs lie ahead on the horizon. With 16 teams emerging from the league, who among the hopefuls will earn the right to lift the Stanley Cup come summer?
For me, two teams have stood out above the rest of the NHL and will emerge in the playoffs as the best teams. Meeting in the Stanley Cup Finals will surely be the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks. The only two teams that have more than 30 wins this season, they should do well in the post-season and have the best players from around the league.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are led by Sydney Crosby, the once-in-a-generation type of player, who has already won a Stanley Cup and an Olympic Gold Medal with his country, Canada. Crosby currently leads the entire NHL in points with 56. Although his 15 goals this year aren’t all too impressive, Crosby’s 41 assists is for second in the league and signifies his skills as a distributer and teammate. Clearly the league’s best player and still young at 25, Crosby would love another Stanley Cup and another championship to his legacy.
But the Penguins are a deep team behind their captain. Chris Kunitz is 6th in the NHL in points and has 21 goals. Pascal Dupuis has 20 goals, making the Penguins a very difficult team to defend against from all over the ice rink.

 The Chicago Blackhawks are a team based more around their depth of impact players, but also have two stars near the top in statistical categories. Patrick Kane is a rising star in the NHL and has the 4th highest number of points with 51. Only 24, he has also experienced personal glory when he scored the overtime Stanley Cup clinching goal for the Blackhawks in 2010.
Jonathan Toews is also proving to be a young hero for the Blackhawks, and also stands tall with 46 points on the season. The young offensive tandem for Chicago is a powerful combination, and the pair should have a delightful postseason. The Blackhawks are clearly well prepared for the future with these two sensational guys.
Both of these teams have already clinched the best records in their respective conferences and have the history and players to rightly be dubbed favorites for the Stanley Cup Finals. But who will win it all?
That is the glorious question of the occasion. Both teams have nearly identical records, with 34 wins and 10 losses. However, only 5 of the Blackhawks’ losses have come in regulation, with 5 coming in overtime after draws. All 10 Penguins’ losses have been in regulation. In fact, they have won all 5 of their overtime games. Chicago has a solid 11-5 overtime record, showing their worth as well.
However, due to the perfection of the Penguins in clutch, overtime matches, and their fewer overtime appearances in general showing they take care of business by regulation, I will give them the edge for the Stanley Cup. Additionally, although both teams are laced with young talent, Sydney Crosby is the most special player of them all this year and will lead the Penguins to glory. I predict a thrilling 7 game series between the two teams, with Crosby setting up Pascal Dupuis for the vital championship-winning goal with under a minute left in game 7. Should be a fun NHL Playoffs indeed!
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