George Alexander sports column

George A Portrait thumbnailThe National Hockey League kicks off the post season tonight as the Stanley Cup Playoffs open up on three fronts. The defending champion, Chicago Blackhawks visit their rival, St. Louis Blues in one of the contests.

GA Toews hoists the Stanley Cup

Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks hoists a Stanley Cup. Photo via Twitter.

Of course, Chicago is the team to beat once again in the NHL Playoffs. How can one argue against a club that has won the “Holy Grail” of hockey in three of the past six seasons. The core of the Hawks is virtually intact from from the beginning of their first recent Stanley Cup victory in 2010. Key players have only grew stronger over time.  In fact, Patrick Kane just won his first league scoring title by a country mile in the 2015-16 season. Goalie Corey Crawford is healthy and stud D-man, Duncan Keith, is back from suspension. Joel Quenneville is undoubtably the top coach in the league today. Surely, the Blackhawks can’t lose?

The Blackhawks can and will lose this time in their quest to repeat becoming league champs. There are plenty of strong contenders in the mix this time around. Playoff teams are separated by few points in the league standings from top to bottom, however, it seems that the Washington Capitals have risen above all.

GA Ovechkin - Capitals

Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. Photo via Wikipedia

The Caps have all the ingredients to go far in a Cup run. Their captain, and arguably the league’s best player, Alex Ovechkin, is primed and focused to win his and the team’s first championship. Ovie was the NHL’s top goal scorer again this season as he hit the magical “50” mark. Nicklas Backstrom is a gifted centre iceman with incredible set up ability. Led by the likes of John Carlson, Washington’s back end is very strong. Saskatchewan’s own, Braden Holtby is now the premier puckstopper in the NHL, as evidenced by his amazing 48-win season and sterling statistical line. Coach Barry Trotz is no slouch either. He had amazing success with limited talent in Nashville for years, so his move to a talented Caps team is only another boon to success.

It won’t come easy but the Washington Capitals will waltz past another Cup finalist newbie, the San Jose Sharks in six games. The Western Conference is stacked and will pound the crap out of each other just to get the right to play in Lord Stanley’s Cup Final. Yes, Chicago will tease their rivals into the West Final, but the entire East is just too weak to mount any real challenge to a new Stanley Cup winner in Washington. Let the games begin.

Follow George Alexander on Twitter @Big_G_09

 

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