The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Finals start tonight with the Tampa Bay Lightning facing off against the Washington Capitals. The other series, featuring the Winnipeg Jets vs the Vegas Golden Knights, begins tomorrow. Here are some notes, the schedule and my revised predictions for Round 3.
Notes & Stats:
- Last season, Washington lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round (again), Tampa Bay and Winnipeg missed the playoffs and Vegas was preparing for the expansion draft. What a year this has been.
- The Lightning have returned to the East final for the third time in four years. In the last 20 years, only seven other teams have advanced to the conference final three times in a four-year span: Chicago Blackhawks (2013, 2014, 2015), New York Rangers (2013, 2014, 2015), Los Angeles Kings (2012, 2013, 2014), Detroit Red Wings (2007, 2008, 2009), New Jersey Devils (2000, 2001, 2003), Colorado Avalanche (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002) and Dallas Stars (1998, 1999, 2000).
- The Jets won the WHA championship, called the Avco World Trophy, in 1976, 1978 and 1979. They made the finals in 5 of the league’s seven seasons. In 1979, the Jets defeated Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers.
- Since joining the NHL for the 1979-80 season, the Jets have never advanced past the second round of the playoffs. This includes the Atlanta Thrashers who relocated to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season. (The Arizona Coyotes made it to the Conference Finals in 2011-12, only to be defeated by the Kings.)
- Finally, I have always watched the Stanley Cup Playoffs faithfully, regardless of the teams playing. The NHL playoffs are unlike any other sport. I can’t remember the last time I missed them. But between Sportsnet and the NHL officiating, my patience is wearing thin. This season has been the worst and I don’t know how much more I can stomach. The level of officiating seems to be at an all-time low, with all teams impacted by officials who seem to believe they are above the game. They are affecting the outcome of games, including here in the playoffs. And since Rogers took over games from CBC and TSN, the broadcasts are unbearable to watch. From Ron MacLean and Kelly Hrudey to Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson. The commentary and analysis is so biased now. I’ll be thinking long and hard about renewing my subscription to Rogers NHL Live. I love hockey. Always will. But I have no respect left for Rogers and Sportsnet.
(P1) Vegas Golden Knights vs (C2) Winnipeg Jets – WINNIPEG in 6
(A1) Tampa Bay Lightning vs (M1) Washington Capitals – WASHINGTON in 7
STANLEY CUP FINAL
Before Round 1 – BOSTON over WINNIPEG
Before Round 2 – BOSTON over WINNIPEG
Before Round 3 – WASHINGTON over WINNIPEG
Conn Smythe Trophy Winner: Alexander Ovechkin
Second-Round Record: 2-2
Overall Record: 8-4