Who Will Be the 2021 Stanley Cup Winner?
Following the U.S. side taking the Gold Medal at the IIHF World Junior Championships, we’re now one week away from the return of NHL hockey. With it comes our look at the 2021 Stanley Cup winner.
The condensed 56-game schedule will provide a sprint to the playoffs, and the battle for the Stanley Cup will be well-fought.
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Here are our two picks for a Stanley Cup Finals matchup, along with a Cup winner prediction.
Predicting the 2021 Stanley Cup Winner
Western Conference Champion: Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche are the odds-on favorite to win the Cup at +700, and for good reason.
It starts with the high-end scoring talent of center Nathan MacKinnon and right win Mikko Rantanen. MacKinnon led the Avalanche in scoring last year, with 35 goals and 58 assists in 69 games. Rantanen was injured and missed some time but still managed 19 goals and 22 assists in 42 games.
In the 2018-19 season, both players exceeded a point per game pace. While in the playoff bubble, MacKinnon and Rantanen combined for 46 points in 15 games. Early betting lines are clear indicators that a lot is expected from this squad in 2021. They’re expected to be a 2021 Stanley Cup winner.
Beyond its stars, Colorado gets great offensive production from its depth forwards. Nine Avalanche forwards (and one defenseman) scored at least 10 goals last year, and six players scored at least 15.
Colorado’s defensive core is a highly-skilled unit as well. Led by youngsters Cale Makar and Samuel Girard, the Avalanche allowed the fifth-fewest goals in the league last season.
In their new division, which was realigned for COVID-19, the Avalanche will get eight games each against the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, and Anaheim Ducks. Those teams scored the second-, fifth-, and sixth-fewest goals last year, respectively.
The Avalanche moved to acquire Devon Toews from the New York Islanders in the offseason to add to their defensive depth. They also brought in Brandon Saad from the Blackhawks to bolster the forward and penalty kill units.
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Eastern Conference Champion: Tampa Bay Lightning
The defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning are returning almost the exact same roster from a season ago. The Lightning did lose Kevin Shattenkirk to the Ducks and Zach Bogosian to the Maple Leafs. Other than that, though, there weren’t many departures from the team.
Leading scorer Nikita Kucherov is expected to miss the entire regular season, and possibly some playoff time, after undergoing hip surgery. However, the Lightning have led the league in scoring each of the past three seasons and can light the lamp even with Kucherov sidelined.
In a strange twist of fate, Kucherov’s injury status freed up enough cap room for Tampa Bay to re-sign restricted free agent Anthony Cirelli.
Like the Avalanche, the Lightning get excellent depth scoring production. Ten Tampa Bay skaters scored at least 10 goals, including defensemen Victor Hedman and Mikhail Sergachev.
Another key to Tampa Bay’s success is goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Russian netminder has finished in first (or tied for first) in wins each of the past three seasons, leading the league in minutes and shutouts in that span while finishing fifth in GAA.
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And Now, The Prediction – 2021 Stanley Cup Winner
We see the Colorado Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup Final over the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games. Could one of these two be the 2021 Stanley Cup winner?
We don’t know whether there will be travel during the playoffs or a bubble for the final four teams. But either way, Colorado is, in my mind, head and shoulders above the rest of the league.
They’ve got a deeper roster, all of their stars healthy, and the young talent which has already shown it can step up and lead.
When the dust has finally settled, expect the Colorado Avalanche to hoist the Stanley Cup for the third time in franchise history.