Playoff Preview: Gump Cup Final

In DEL, SAL on April 25, 2019 at 11:32 am

The Series: Delta Sturgeon vs. Salem Sabercats

Here it is! The championship matchup many were waiting for — Delta vs. Salem, the upstart vs. the dynasty. Two teams with depth to burn and few weaknesses to exploit.

The Delta Sturgeon’s return to the postseason after 10 years of futility has been one for the history books, as the team trounced Farmington and Boston on the way to a berth in the final. The Salem Sabercats, meanwhile, have defied all expectations of a decline and found themselves within four wins of the promised land yet again. It hardly seems like the Gump Cup without Salem in the mix.

Led by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nathan MacKinnon, and Nikita Kucherov, the Sturgeon are an incredibly dangerous team. Nugent-Hopkins has 14 points in 10 games, plus 3 game-winning goals, while Kucherov leads all postseason skaters in shots by a healthy margin. Delta’s powerplay made short work of its earlier opponents, ticking along at a fine 33.3%.

But if Delta has questions, Salem has answers. It’s penalty kill is tops in the league at a lofty 96.6% and its PP is no slouch either at 17.4%. Most of all, its edge may come in goal — Marc-Andre Fleury has excellent numbers (2.58 and .926 in 8 starts) plus the ‘Cats have a secret weapon up its sleeve in Frederik Anderson, who’s gone 3-0 with a .938 save percentage in 3 starts. If Fleury stumbles even slightly, Andersen should get the call. Delta’s John Gibson has been good in the first two rounds, but he’ll need to be near-perfect now.

Season Series: Tied 1-1

These two teams haven’t played each other in half a season. When they did, they each eked out one-goal wins on the road. If that doesn’t demonstrate how hard it is to predict the outcome of this series, nothing will. It should be a doozy.


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