Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Washington Capitals
Season Series: 2-1 TB
The Washington Capitals take on the Tampa Bay Lightning as two of the most talented lineups face off. The Capitals finally conquered their demons in the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 6-game series win last round. Their first round started horribly with two home losses but a switch to Braden Holtby was a huge change and they haven’t looked back since. The Tampa Bay Lightning have rolled through the first two rounds by beating the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins in 5 games each. The games haven’t all been one-sided blowouts but their playoffs have started just like their season did as they were dominant.
Alex Ovechkin will look to make the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in his illustrious career and has led this team through two tough opponents with 8 goals and 15 points. John Carlson leads all players with 10 powerplay points in the playoffs. The Lightning offense is very balanced and led by their two superstars in Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. The surprise for them has been Brayden Point with 10 points in 10 games for the team while Andrei Vasilevskiy has been lights out at home for the team.
The Capitals and Lightning both display elite powerplay units and the team who lacks discipline may be on the fast track to an early exit. Washington has been known to disappoint and fall apart with this core but after finally beating the Penguins, this could mean big things for the team. That being said, the Lightning have such a strong balance with their team and a return to their early season form may make them unstoppable.
Winnipeg Jets vs. Vegas Golden Knights
Season series: 2-1 VGK
The Winnipeg Jets take on the Vegas Golden Knights in a matchup nobody would’ve predicted to happen here at the conference finals. The Jets dismantled the Minnesota Wild before engaging in a grueling 7-game series against the Nashville Predators. The Knights completely shut down the LA Kings in the first round before taking down the Sharks in 6-games.
The Knights top line guided them in this series with Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith combining for 25 points in round 2. Marc-Andre Fleury continued his stellar play with 2 more shutouts against the Sharks as his save percentage is an astounding .951 with a 1.53 Goals Against Average.
The Winnipeg Jets are the best Canadian team since the 2011 Vancouver Canucks and will also look to climb into the Finals. Mark Scheifele leads the league in goals in these playoffs with 7 more this round. Blake Wheeler led the league in assists in round 2 with 9 helpers while Dustin Byfuglien leads all defensemen with 13 points in these playoffs. Connor Hellebuyck has provided very strong goaltending for the team and has been proven to have the clutch gene.
The battle between the Jets high end powerplay and the Golden Knights elite penalty kill will be an interesting battle. Both these teams have never been here before so the nerves will be hitting both sides hard, it will be interesting to see which group of experienced players pull ahead. Fleury could use his ring-winning ways to lead the charge for the Vegas along with their amazing top line. Or the Jets could build off of solid goaltending to boast their high-powered offense that overwhelms the resilient Vegas squad.