(Editor’s note: Cougars’ broadcaster Fraser Rodgers predicts which teams featuring alumni advances)
The 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs open Wednesday night and the Prince George Cougars will be represented by five alumni chasing Lord Stanley’s mug. Dustin Byfuglien (Winnipeg), Zdeno Chara (Boston), Brett Connolly (Washington), Dan Hamhuis (Nashville) and Martin Marincin (Toronto) are in the 16-team field battling for the best trophy in sports.
NHL Playoff Schedule
Connolly and the Washington Capitals are looking to repeat as Stanley Cup champions after winning their first cup in franchise history last June. The Capitals beat the Vegas Golden Knights in five games last spring. Connolly followed up last year’s Stanley Cup win with a breakout season, posting career-highs in goals (22) and points (46). The Capitals start their title defence against the wildcard Carolina Hurricanes. FR: Capitals have too much playoff experience and depth for the Hurricanes to handle. Caps’ in five.
One marquee match up is another original six battle between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. Chara and the Bruins look to better Marincin and the Leafs for the second-straight season in the playoffs. One year ago, the Bruins beat the Leafs in seven-games in the second-round. Chara is still going strong at 42 years-old and signed a one-year contract extension early this season with the Bruins. Marincin split this season between the Leafs and their AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. FR: The Bruins just seem like they’re built to beat the Leafs in the playoffs. B’s in seven.
After advancing to the Western Conference Final last season, Dustin Byfuglien and the Winnipeg Jets are looking to get over the hump and get to the Stanley Cup Final. Standing in their way are the St. Louis Blues, who had an incredible turnaround after a dreadful start to the season. Byfuglien was limited to just 42 games this season due to injury but did return to the Jets’ line up in the final week of the regular season. The Blues were dead last in the Western Conference before a coaching change in late November. Since then, they’ve been one of the hottest teams in the NHL. FR: Both teams are built for the playoffs. They have skill, speed and size. This is a toss up but I’ll go with the Cougars bias. Jets in seven.
Dan Hamhuis is back in the NHL post-season with the Nashville Predators and coincidentally enough, he’s facing his former team in the Dallas Stars. The Predators clinched the Central Division pennant on the final weekend of the NHL regular season and are looking to make a deep run in the playoffs. Standing in their way is the Stars who, after stumbling out of the gate, have made it back into the playoffs after missing out in the last two years. Hamhuis played 57 regular season games for the Predators and should factor in their top six in the first-round. FR: Predators have the experience and depth on the blue-line. Stars have two big guns in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Predators in six.