Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

LITKE: Familiar Faces Remain Favorites

The NHL season is underway, and while the playoffs won’t begin until next spring, a few teams already stand out as top contenders for the Stanley Cup. Over the past six seasons, four teams have captured the Stanley Cup: the Los Angeles Kings (twice), the Chicago Blackhawks (twice), the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins. These teams have managed to retain winning formulas and once again have the best chance to win it all.

As the defending champions, the Los Angeles Kings are an early favorite. They have won two of the last three Stanley Cups and managed to keep the core of their team together. The Kings boast tremendous depth and experience at forward with Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik and have one of the NHL’s best defensemen in Drew Doughty.

Goaltender Jonathan Quick will once again give the Kings a strong chance to win the Cup. Quick knows how towin, particularly in the playoffs. He has won two Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player of the playoffs. At 28 years old, he is in his prime and will likely continue his consistently strong play.

The Chicago Blackhawks are also top contenders this season. Like the Kings, the Blackhawks have had recent success, winning the Cup in 2010 and 2013. Their core, featuring superstar forwards Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp, has remained intact since that 2010 championship. The strong attack has provided the Blackhawks with the offensive firepower to remain perennial contenders. Having led the NHL in goals last season with 267, they will likely continue to score goals at an elite pace.

The Minnesota Wild, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues round out a strong assembly of Western Conference Stanley Cup contenders.
In the East, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins look like the teams best suited to compete for the cup.

The Bruins finished first in the league during last year’s regular season with 117 points and will once again be a favorite to win the Cup. With one of the most physically imposing rosters in the league, including 6-foot-9-inch defenseman Zdeno Chara, the Bruins possess the toughness and size to win tightly contested playoff games — a formula that brought a championship to Beantown in 2011.

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask also has the ability to carry the Bruins deep into the playoffs. The Finnish stalwart has been one of the NHL’s strongest goalies in recent years and has the hardware to prove it. Last year he won the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s most outstanding goaltender.

While the Pittsburgh Penguins do not have the team depth of the Kings, Blackhawks or Bruins, they do have forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin — widely regarded as the two most gifted players in the world. In 2009, Crosby and Malkin dominated the playoffs en route to a Stanley Cup championship.
Since winning the Cup in 2009, the Penguins have been strong in the regular season but have failed to reach another Stanley Cup final. A number of early playoff exits during that time period have left many skeptical about the Penguins’ ability to win when it matters.

The Penguins attempted to address this issue in the offseason by replacing their general manager and head coach. While it remains to be seen if these changes will make a difference in the playoffs, as long as the Penguins have Crosby and Malkin, they should be treated as serious contenders.

While the Eastern Conference lacks the depth of the West, it could produce a number of other candidates. The New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadians are all viable contenders for the Cup.

The Kings, Blackhawks, Bruins and Penguins will look to return to their winning ways this season. Whether it is their goaltending, scoring prowess, toughness or star power, these teams have battle-tested formulas that have once again made them Stanley Cup favorites. However, a lot can change over the course of a season, and with an increasingly competitive league, the Stanley Cup contenders may look a lot different come playoff time.

Daniel Litke is a senior in the School of Foreign Service. Capitals Hill appears every Friday.

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