Chillin’ With AC – JUNE 10
By Andrew Cioffo

We are getting closer and closer to the Stanley Cup Final.  There, as of this posting, is only one vacant spot to be filled for the semi finals series. That could all be decided tonight as the No.1 seed Colorado Avalanche take on the No.2 Las Vegas Golden Knights. The series is in favor of the Knights as the currently lead 3 games to 2.  The Avalanche, who were a Stanley Cup favorite, are looking to force a Game 7 while the Knights are looking for that last invite into the final four.

The winner of this series will take on the No. 4 seed Montreal Canadians, who swept the Winnipeg Jets in 4 games. The Canadians have shocked the hockey world as they were favorited to lose in the 1st round of the playoffs to the No.1 seed Toronto Maple Leafs. This goes to show that, come playoff time, it’s any team’s game. Although the Canadians have proven themselves thus far, I do not believe they have a chance against Colorado or Vegas. These two teams are some of the best teams in league with some of most skilled players in the league as well as line ups with a lot of depth. I predict that the Las Vegas Golden Knights will beat the Colorado Avalanche tonight and go on to beat the Canadians in 5 games.

The Tampa Bay Lightning will play the New York Islanders in the other matchup for the Stanley Cup semi finals. New York beat the Boston Bruins 6-2 in Game 6 of the second round of the playoffs on Wednesday. Tampa handedly took down the Carolina Hurricanes in 5 games and are looking much like they did a year ago on their way to hoisting the Stanley Cup. This is going to be a very intense series as last year the Lightning defeated the Islanders in six games in the Eastern Conference Final before winning the Stanley Cup. The Islanders definitely have not forgotten what happened last year and will be fighting to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.

As for the Lightning, Nikita Kucherov leads the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 18 points (5 goals, 13 assists), Steven Stamkos has 13 points (5 goals and 8 assists) and Andrei Vasilevskiy is 8-3 with a 2.24 GAA and a .934 save %. The Lightning are strong in every area of the ice, they have experience, skill, depth, size and grit which are the tools needed to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. The Islanders, on the other hand, have beaten the odds so far as their top players have decided to step up. Jean-Gabriel Pageau leads the Islanders with 13 points (3 goals, 10 assists), Kyle Palmeri has 7 goals, Mathew Barzal has 9 points (3 goals, 7 assists) and their starting goalie Semyon Varlamov has 2.62 GAA and a .925 save %. Although the Islanders offense has been strong throughout the playoffs, I do not believe their defense or goaltending can keep up with the high powered offense of the Tampa Bay Lightning especially if the Bolts go on the power play which has been lethal so far in the playoffs. I felt like the Islanders got away with a lot of penalties in the last series against the Bruins and the referees will begin to start calling more penalties on them as there have been many complaints. This is bad news for the Islanders as the Lightning have one of the most successful power plays in the league. The Lightning will have home ice advantage in this series, which adds to their advantages. I do believe this series will be a battle, but I predict the Lightning will win the series in 7 games.

Until next week, stay cool.