As the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs draw closer to beginning, it is once again time to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
In every Stanley Cup Playoffs, there tends to be a handful of teams who have the skill, experience and will to embark upon deep and successful playoff runs year after year.
However, there are also those who appear poised for long postseason runs, yet, seem to fall short on a consistent, often annual basis. In past years, these teams have been the San Jose Sharks, the Anaheim Ducks, and, coincidentally, the three teams highlighted in this article.
Based on their overall team skill, experience and play this season, the following three teams could be easy first round pushovers come the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Washington Capitals are an extremely talented team.
Star players Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson lead the charge up front, while a defense core including John Carlson, Mike Green and Matt Niskanen shore up an impressive back end. In goal, the Capitals feature a confident starter in Braden Holtby, yet are thin in terms of a back up.
Despite this talent, which has been developing over the past few years, the Capitals have struggled to have any sort of success in the post season. In fact, in the past five years dating back to the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals have failed to make it past the second round.
In 2010, despite winning the President’s Trophy as the league’s top team, the Capitals were eliminated in the first round. In 2011 and 2012? Back to back second round defeats, and they were ousted in the first round of the 2013 playoffs as well.
It’s hard to expect much more in this year’s playoffs. The Capitals, despite having a successful season, look poised for a first round matchup against John Tavares and the incredibly improved New York Islanders, who are two years removed from their last playoff appearance in which they nearly knocked off the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins.
Like the Washington Capitals, the Vancouver Canucks are also a talented team, however their success is more dependant on a successful all around game rather than the skills of individual players.
Although the Sedin’s remain, the Canucks have deployed a team of greater depth this season. Vancouver has not only counted on, but has received scoring from new additions such as Bo Horvat, Shawn Matthias, Nick Bonino and most notably, Radim Vrbata. Ryan Miller has been great for the Canucks also, yet has struggled to remain healthy.
Similar to the Capitals, the Canucks have also had very little playoff success in recent history since reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011, failing to surpass the first round in each of their last two playoff appearances.
In 2012, the Canucks won the President’s Trophy, however, like the Capitals in 2010, were surprisingly eliminated in the first round. Once again in 2013, the Canucks were out in the first round, swept by the San Jose Sharks in four games.
Although the season has a few games left, any and all changes in the standings could have major implications for the Canucks. If the playoffs were to begin today, the Canucks would face the Calgary Flames, which would be a great matchup for Vancouver. However, if the Kings manage to move up in the standings to face the Canucks, it would be a catastrophe, as Los Angeles has man-handled the Canucks in recent playoff history.
St. Louis Blues
And then there are the St.Louis Blues…
The Blues are a perennial powerhouse. They have incredible size as well as speed and skill. Not only do they have size up front in Alex Steen, David Backes and Vladimir Tarasenko, but they have one of the top blue lines in the NHL. Stars Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk as well as veteran defenders such as Barret Jackman and Jay Bouwmeeste give St.Louis one of the most defensively sound teams in the league.
In their last three playoff appearances, from 2012-2014, the Blues, like the Capitals, have failed to pass the second round. In 2012, they reached the second round yet in 2013 and 2014 they were eliminated in the first despite having extremely strong regular seasons.
Based on the standings, it looks as if the Blues will play one of the Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators or the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round.
The Blues are 1-2-0 against the Wild with one game left to play, 2-3-0 against Nashville this season and 2-2-0 against the Blackhawks, although the Blues still play Chicago in one of their last three games. Based on the current standings, the Blues could very likely face the Blackhawks, a situation they are likely hoping to avoid considering they were eliminated by Chicago in 2014.
At the end of the day, all three of these teams are extremely skilled and talented. All three could also quite easily be considered powerhouses. However, the historical inability of these teams to piece together significant postseason runs insinuates that these teams could easily be toppled in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Time will certainly tell, however I would expect one of, if not all, of these teams to fall once again in the first round of the post-season.