The 2018-19 season was an unforgettable one in the world of ice hockey, and the crowning moment came in the Stanley Cup when the St Louis Blues won their first title at the third try. Their game seven victory over Boston Bruins capped a wonderful season for themselves and the sport in general.
It was a fitting end to the last campaign, but like all sports, it isn’t too long until it starts again. They will need to defend their crown over the next nine months, and there will be ups and downs along the way, but this is why so many people love the sport. This new NHL season is only a few weeks old, and already it promises to be an unforgettable one. There are so many contenders that can claim to have a chance at winning the 2020 Stanley Cup, but ultimately only one of them can.
However, which sides stand out above the crowd and can have a good shot at winning the prestigious event? Let’s explore.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The biggest disappointment in the playoffs last season was the Tampa Bay Lightning. Over the regular season, they were playing some of the best hockey that has been seen in the NHL. They recorded 128 points during the regular season before stumbling in the first round. It was a disaster, but completely opened up the route for the Blues to their success. They have been able to tie down a host of core players to new deals during the off-season, and have also been acute with some of their trades. Their business has been smart all-around in truth, as they have also managed to get Ryan Callahan off the books, who is heavily expected to retire at the end of the present season due to medical issues.
This freedom allowed the Lightning to bring in additional players in the forward positions such as Cedric Paquette and Brayden Point. They have also added defensive reinforcements in the form of Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brayden Coburn. Not only that, but they have managed to bring in Luke Schenn, Kevin Shattenkirk and back-up goaltender Curtis McElhinney.
They do also have negative points too. These include the loss of Dan Girardi to retirement and Anton Stralman who signed for the Florida Panthers. However, the players that they have added more than makes up for what they have lost. They should be capable of going the step further this season.
Vegas Golden Knights
Like the Lightning, the Golden Knights were also brilliant throughout the regular season and came undone in the playoffs. They had a 54.66 expected goals percentage and finished third in the regular season last term. They will be expected to go one better this season and present a stern test for the Stanley Cup. The Golden Knights already have playoff pedigree after shocking the world to become the first expansion to reach the finals of the Stanley Cup. Their pedigree has been unchanged since that performance, and they will be a force again in the coming season.
There is a lot to be excited about if you’re a Golden Knights fan, and the main prospect will be getting to see how Mark Stone has adapted after having a first off-season under his belt for his new side following his deadline day move from the Ottawa Senators. He isn’t the only player that everyone will be getting excited about, as the Vegas bosses moved heaven and water to bring in forward William Karlsson on an eight-year deal extension worth an estimated $5.9 million annually. He will be expected to start earning that from the very start of the season and put the Golden Knights in the best possible position.
An interesting element to Vegas is that the players that struggled throughout the regular season but flourished during the playoffs. The most notable example of this was Max Pacioretty, and it will be interesting to see how he starts the season. The dynamic between young and talented frontline and veteran defensive unit could be a winning formula. The Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will also add a further solidity to the side, in which he is expected to achieve his 450th career win.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs are a very weird side, and that is why some punters often stay away from them because all the evidence points to them doing well and then they perform on the ice like they don’t know their teammates. The Leafs odds have been altered during the off-season due to the amount of business that they have done. They have managed to bring in Jason Spezza, Cody Ceci and Ben Harpur, while also getting rid of players such as Nikita Zaitsev and Nazem Kadri, who more often than not was getting in the headlines for the wrong reasons. There have been a couple of more sad departures however with Connor Brown and Patrick Marleau both parting ways with the franchise.
However, they were able to tie down last season’s top scorer Mitch Marner with a new deal, and have completed a number of moves that have gone under the radar which will give them a stronger depth. This insurance could be a pivotal factor as injuries were to blame for a significant dip in form last season. The Leafs have also strengthened their blue line over the summer months. They may have lost Jake Gardiner, but they have managed to bring in Tyson Barrie from the Colorado Avalanche as part of the Kadri deal. Jordan Schmaltz has also moved to Toronto from St Louis.
These additions to the defence will join Morgan Reilly, Martin Marincin and Jake Muzzin, in what looks on paper to be a strong set of options for Mike Babcock. The backend for the Maple Leafs could be the strongest it has been for 13 years, and they will be safeguarded by Frederik Andersen and new back-up goaltender Michael Hutchinson.
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