Sound off: NHL stanley cup playoffs


The NHL playoffs are underway. The Collegian sports staff predicts who will come out on top.

Austin Nichols, news editor: St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues started off the 2013 NHL Playoffs with a win in overtime against the defending champions the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night.

Defense has been the name of the game for the Blues as of late. The key to the team’s success is whether the line of Chris Porter, Ryan Reaves and Adam Cracknell can continue their solid play the rest of playoff series. The trio ended up with 18 hits Tuesday, nine of which came from the rambunctious Reaves alone, in the overtime win against the Kings. The three were able to match-up with anyone the opposition threw at them.

Brian Elliott, Blues’ goaltender, is doing his best at protecting the net after a short stint in the minors earlier this season due to poor performance. Elliott set a record with 11 wins in April while in goal, the playoff game making 12 wins in a row. Outside of one goal allowed in Tuesday night’s game, which may have been deflected at the last minute, Elliott played a near perfect game in the net.

The Blues led the league in shots per game with 42.0, while their division rival and the number one seed in the West, the Chicago Blackhawks, followed closely behind with 37.0 shots per game. The Blues also found themselves tied for second in goals per game with two.

The Blues will have the opportunities to score during the playoffs. It will be up to Chris Stewart, the Blues’ point leader and leading scorer, captain David Backes and the rest of the Blues offense to capitalize, which has been a problem late in the season.

If the Blues continue their strong defensive play and find ways to score on offense, there is no reason the number four seed in the West division can’t make some noise, despite having to face the defending champs and potentially the best team in the NHL, the Blackhawks.

Mike Stanton, asst. news editor: Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins cruised through a lockout-shortened NHL schedule to claim the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Despite struggling with injuries all season, Pittsburgh was second in the league in points. Captain and star forward Sidney Crosby is out indefinitely after taking a puck to the jaw in late March, but the Penguins have plenty of depth to pick up his slack until he returns.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who struggled in last year’s playoffs, carries 23 wins and a .916 save percentage this year. After being sidelined with an injury for half the year, forward Evgeni Malkin scored 9 goals and had 24 assists.

The Penguins’ front line is a scoring machine. Three players, left wingers Chris Kunitz and James Neal and right winger Pascal Dupuis, all scored 20 or more goals. The team was first in the league in scoring and had the second-most efficient power play attack.

After boosting their lineup with veteran forwards Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow at the trade deadline, the Penguins’ lineup is even more deep and experienced. With Crosby set to return in the later rounds, don’t be surprised when the Stanley Cup returns to Pittsburgh in June.

Mark Kern, sports editor: The Chicago Blackhawks

Any time a NHL team goes 24 straight games without losing in regulation, they are a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup. Add a team that won the title three seasons ago with superstars such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and there is no doubt the Blackhawks are in great position to win their second title in four seasons.

Kane is one of the top five players in the world, ranking fifth in the NHL in both goals, 23, and points, 55.

The 24-year old is one of the fastest players in the NHL and forces defenses to have to keep an eye on him at all times.

Toews, who like Kane is still very young at 25, also has 23 goals on the season.

However, as good as their offense is, it is the goaltending that has the Blackhawks ready to roll in the Western Conference.

Both Ray Emery (17-1) and Corey Crawford (19-5-5) are tied for second in the NHL, giving up only 1.94 goals per game on the season.

Crawford got the start in the Blackhawks 2-1 overtime victory in game one against the Minnesota Wild, but both are more than capable of going on a run.

The talk at the beginning of the season was all about the Blackhawks, and because of their goaltending and explosive offense, they will be the team talked about at the end of the season as well.