The NHL playoffs, so much fun, so different than the regular season. Intense, invigorating, endless action.
NHL hockey has taken off around the country. New markets, from the sunbelt to the desert, have grabbed the attention of the fans.
Here in Southern California, both the LA Kings and the Anaheim Ducks have hoisted the Stanley Cup. Both team’s games are piped into this market on TV.
And now we are headed to the NHL Eastern and Western Conference playoff finals.
Two teams you know and would recognize. Two teams you wouldn’t know, made up of strangers. But they all earned this trip to the conference finals.
Hockey purists appreciate the greatness of the sniper that Alexander Ovechken has become for the Washington Capitals, since coming here from Russia. The Caps have depth, and hot goaltending in Braden Holtby.
Tampa Bay is four wins away from going back to try to claim another Cup. First it was with Vinny Lecavalier and Brad Richards. Now they might do it again with this generation’s superstar Steve Stamos and their own Russian star Nikita Kucherov. The franchise is something special on the Suncoast.
Out West, the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights, paid 550M entrance fee, and in that first year, were given access to a load of young players. William Karlsson went from an unused piece with the Ducks, to a 43-goal scorer in year one in Las Vegas. The most familiar name on that expansion roster was Penguins goalie Marc Andre Fleury, who has posted 8-shutouts this year. They are deep and damn good.
Winnipeg has been building for this for years, all the suffering of losing their franchise, regaining a team, and then constructing a winner. Big skaters, big bodies, and hot goalies. The Jets won 3-times in Nashville, including Game 7-to get to the finals. They not only won their first post season playoff series in 31-years, and then parlayed that into a trip to the conference finals. The era of Hull-Hedberg-Nilplson, the Winnipeg Jets of the WHA days, has now been surpassed by what has just happened.
Pittsburgh, with all its glittery stars, got knocked out.Toronto is gone, Boston is ran out of gas. Edmonton was a huge disappointment, The Kings and Ducks were one and done.
A changing of the guard in the NHL, well at least in the West. The NHL product on ice might be at its highest point, since the Original 6-era from way back in the day. It’s been fast, fascinating, and we’re not done yet. Another playoff round and then the Stanley Cup finals. Stay tuned, it’s not over. And that’s great for hockey fans.