With 2018 ending in a few days. it was another dramatic year in the NHL. The Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history back in June. The Vegas Golden Knights made a run to the finals in their first season as a franchise. There were other memorable moments in the NHL in 2018. What are some story lines to keep an eye on heading into 2019?
The first headline coming into 2019: Will Washington repeat as Stanley Cup Champions? By the way it is looking right now, they will be the number one seed in the Metropolitan Division for the fourth consecutive.
Don’t think for a minute that the Pittsburgh Penguins won’t throw everything at them. Pittsburgh wants that championship back and if they meet four the fourth consecutive postseason, more drama will be in store.
The second headline coming into 2019: Will the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1967? Even though they have not won since then, they are second all time in Stanley Cup championships with 13.
Toronto is loaded with offensive talent in John Tavares, Zach Hyman, Mitchell Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, William Nylander, Patrick Marleau, Nazem Kadri, and Morgan Reilly. Will Frederik Andersen be able to come up huge between the pipes for them?
The third headline coming into 2019: Can anyone stop the Tampa Bay Lightning in a playoff series? They are by far the best team in the NHL so far this season with a 28-7-2 record with 58 points. Tampa Bay has offensive weapons all over the ice, solid defense, and one of the best goalies in the game in Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The fourth headline coming into 2019 is how many Canadian teams will make it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs? If the season ended right now, there would be five Canadian teams in the playoffs.
They are the Winnipeg Jets, the Calgary Flames, the Edmonton Oilers, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Montreal Canadiens. I think Winnipeg, Calgary, and Toronto will be in the playoffs this season.
I think Montreal is going to fall off at some point. Edmonton has been buying into Ken Hitchcock’s system, but will they keep it up? I am not sold on them reaching the postseason. The Ottawa Senators and the Vancouver Canucks will most likely miss the postseason again.
The fifth headline coming into 2019 is will the Buffalo Sabres sustain this success? A lot of people expected them to be very competitive this season, but they weren’t sure if they were going to be a playoff team. I didn’t predict them to be a playoff team, but I predicted them to be a lot more competitive and challenge for a playoff spot.
Buffalo is exceeding those expectations right now. If the season ended today, they would be the number three seed in the Atlantic Division and the Buffalo Sabres would face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first-round of the postseason. Their record is 21-11-5 with 47 points.
The sixth headline coming into 2019 is will the Columbus Blue Jackets trade away goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky? He will become a free agent at the end of the season and is now 30 years old. Columbus is currently in the number two spot in Metropolitan Division right now.
As long as this team keeps winning, I don’t see him being traded away this season. They might be afraid to lose him for nothing, but Sergei Bobrovsky gives them a better chance to win it all this season than Joonas Korpisalo does.
Korpisalo is the future starting goalie of this team and he is 24 years old. His record so far this season is 5-2-2 with a .885 save percentage and a 3.54 GAA. Bobrovsky’s record is 16-10-1 with a .913 save percentage and a 2.68 GAA, along with two shutouts.
– Glenn Kaplan, WTF Sports Intern
Edited by Scott Edwards