The 82-game regular season is officially in the books. 16 teams will begin their journey with the hopes of hoisting the Stanley Cup when it is all said and done. The FPC NHL staff will preview each and every series all the way through the Stanley Cup Finals. On the docket: The Tampa Bay Lightning vs. the New Jersey Devils.
To no one’s surprise, the Tampa Bay Lightning clinched the top spot in the Eastern Conference after just squeaking by the Bruins. The first step on the road to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup victory in over a decade lies in the New Jersey Devils.
Current Stars vs Future Stars
This series, more than any other is a true David and Goliath match up. The Lightning came into the season as the favorites in the Eastern Conference with Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos leading the charge. Both of whom are near the top of the NHL point leaderboard (Kucherov in 3rd with 100 points and Stamkos in 12th with 86).
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Meanwhile, 26-year-old Taylor Hall is New Jersey’s only player in the top 50 in points this season. He does have impressive numbers however, he finished sixth in points with 93. He had 39 goals and 54 assists. New Jersey’s first selection in this years draft, Nico Hischier, did reel in 52 points this season. No doubt, the best is yet to come for these young stars but they have no candles to hold in comparison to the Lightning.
Unsure Season Up Against Destined season
Where did anyone see the Devils going this season? After securing the first overall pick in last seasons lottery and getting Nico Hischier the future seemed bright for the Devils. However, goalie woes continued along with Hischier failing to fully deliver on his potential. The team relied heavily on Taylor Hall in his second season with the team just to make it as far as they did. They finished the season with an overall record of 44-29-9.
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All this while Tampa Bay (54-23-5) seemed set up to succeed. Kucherov continued to excel and Stamkos is back to where everyone knew he belonged. Also, goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy more than exceeded expectations in his first season as the full time starting goalie for the club.
It may seem like a surprise, but the Devils swept the season series 3-0. All of the games were decided by only one point. The first game was a shootout victory. The Lightning came away with a point in the road overtime loss, along the way getting 53 points total on the road this season– which was second best in the league. Most recently, the Devils won a meeting against the Lightning 2-1 on March 24.
Prediction: Lightning in 5
It may seem like the Devils have the upper hand based on the season series, but it’s crunch time in the NHL and the Lightning have more star power and overall talent than the Devils. One point games in every contest played between the two this season means every game could have gone either way. In the playoffs, the experienced Lightning certainly has the edge over the Devils, who are making their first playoff appearance since their failed run to the cup in 2012. They can steal a game or two, but the Stanley Cup Playoffs will always fall in favor of the team with more experience, and a better overall team.