CON­CLU­SION

The Hockey News - - BUZZ -

PRO­JECT­ING SUC­CESS IN THE Stan­ley Cup play­offs is in some ways like a re­li­gious be­lief. Ob­jec­tive anal­y­sis will only take you so far. The rest is a leap of faith. What do your gut in­stincts tell you about which play­ers will be ready for the two-month en­durance test and, con­versely, who will not be ready for the chal­lenge? As the late Bob John­son ex­plained it, a Stan­ley Cup cham­pion must be able to win sprints in the first cou­ple of rounds and then en­dure marathon con­di­tions for the last two rounds. Pitts­burgh has a bet­ter team than Win­nipeg, and the Penguins have a bet­ter chance to ad­vance in the play­offs. His­tor­i­cally, Le­tang has been a bet­ter de­fense­man than Byfuglien. He was solid in Pitts­burgh’s 2009 Stan­ley Cup win and a key con­trib­u­tor to its cham­pi­onship in 2016. Byfuglien had an ex­cel­lent play­off when Chicago won the Cup in 2010, al­though he was play­ing right wing at the time. Since his con­ver­sion to de­fense, he has had only one play­off round, in which a clearly su­pe­rior Ana­heim team side­lined Win­nipeg quickly. How­ever, the ca­reer statis­tics are not de­ter­mi­na­tive in pro­ject­ing the fu­ture. Le­tang is not play­ing as well as he was in past years. Byfuglien is play­ing the best hockey of his ca­reer. He is play­ing with pas­sion and com­mit­ment. I am mak­ing a leap of faith – Dustin Byfuglien over Kris Le­tang in the 2018 Stan­ley Cup play­offs. Tom Thomp­son has been an NHL scout/direc­tor/as­sis­tant GM since 1985.

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