With Round One of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs officially over, we’ve learned one thing: these playoffs are extremely unpredictable. Most analysts and even fans picked the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Stanley Cup; they were by far the clear favorite to win it all. Now that that ship has sailed, it is very much evident that these playoffs can go in any direction. Out of the remaining eight teams, three of them have never won the Stanley Cup. So it is time to rank which of those three teams has the highest shot at ending their franchise’s Cup-winning drought for good.
3.) Columbus Blue Jackets
The ‘Cinderella Story’ of this year’s playoffs by far. The Columbus Blue Jackets recently overcame all odds and swept the President’s-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. With plenty of rest and long waiting their next opponent is none other than the Boston Bruins. The Bruins are going to be a very tough matchup, but that’s what was said about the Lightning. With the playoffs being so unpredictable, it is hard to easily decipher who is the stronger of the two in this matchup.
Columbus’s offense exploded in their previous series, scoring 19 goals in four games. 12 different players have contributed to the offense. This shows that Columbus has a team compiled of guys that pitch in each night; allowing for a balanced offense. Sergei Bobrovsky has been a phenomenal force so far. With a 2.01 goals against average and a .932 save percentage, Bobrovsky has a slight advantage over his opposing goal tender Tukka Rask. Rask, 32, has a .928 save percentage and a 2.31 goals against average.
Despite having a stronger offense, the equal goaltending will prove to be the difference-maker in this series. Boston has much more experience as well. This is why Columbus has the slimmer chances of the three teams to win their first Stanley Cup.
2.) St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues held off their previous opponent in the Winnipeg Jets, but now they may face an even tougher opponent in the Dallas Stars. The Stars looked as if they were going to be sent home early. However they managed to take down the Central Division Champion Nashville Predators in six games. Dallas has a lethal offense in Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin. They even have a solid defense in John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen. Dallas has 18 goals whereas St. Louis has scored 16 in the playoffs this year. The two are fairly even in offense.
Goal tending is going to be another deciding factor for this series. Dallas’ Ben Bishop has a.945 save percentage and a 1.89 goals against average which is outstanding for a goalie. St. Louis’s Jordan Binnington has a .908 save percentage and a 2.63 goals against average. Bishop also has 42 playoff games under his belt whereas Binnington has just six. With Dallas having just a bit more offensive firepower and more experienced goal tending, it is going to be tough for them to win this series. It is not impossible though.
St. Louis has shown that they know how to continuously fight with the deck stacked against them. Game five of round one showed that very clearly. With Winnipeg leading the game 2-0 the Blues eventually took their first lead with 15 seconds left in the game. They know how to battle hard and not give up, which is why they have a slightly higher chance than Columbus, but not the highest chances.
1.) San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks are just oozing with energy and momentum, that’s the simplest way to put it. After forcing a game seven, and even making that game very dramatic, the Sharks over came a 3-0 deficit to take the lead on a five-minute major penalty. Vegas’ Cody Eakin was called for cross checking Sharks’ forward Joe Pavelski. Pavelski was pushed to the ice after a faceoff which led to blood spilling onto the ice from his head. That five-minute major resulted in four powerplay goals from San Jose. The game would require overtime where unlikely-hero Barclay Goodrow scored the OT-winner to move the Sharks into the second round. They will face the Colorado Avalanche.
That comeback victory for San Jose is doing nothing, but energize this team. They’re going to have so much momentum and continue their success that they did in round one. Now, of course, the argument can be made that San Jose has shown signs of vulnerability; they are very much beatable. Yes, that is a very true statement, but players often say how once they get passed the first round, all they’re doing is riding a massive wave of energy and momentum. That is exactly what the Sharks are doing. They have the highest chance to win their first Stanley Cup out of this select three.
So, Columbus lacks playoff experience. St. Louis lacks playoff-experienced goaltending. These are the main reasons for why San Jose has the highest chances of winning their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. This isn’t to say that this year one of these teams will win. But rather who has the higher chance for success in the 2019 playoffs.