Stanley Cup–Toughest Trophy to Get”
It is such a grind, the NHL playoffs, coming on the heels of the grind of a season long schedule.
The best of 7-series captivate the fans, make for good television, but overwhelm teams and players.
Good teams are still playing; lots of stars have carried their team and are still playing; and there are some big names gone.
The shocker of all time was the Montreal Canadiens going from Stanley Cup finals last year, to the #1 pick in the upcoming draft after such a miserable season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, with its star-studded lineup led by 60-goal scorer Auston Matthews, has not won the Stanley Cup since 1967. Just think about that, the richest team in the league with all that firepower, a perennial failure.
Boston, coming off a 107-point season, is at home, banged up and realizing they needed more than just Brad Marchand to get to the Cup finals.
Is the era over for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and everything related to the Pittsburgh Penguins? Their 103-point season did not get them to the semi finals. Goaltending injuries stung the Pens but they don’t look the same franchise any longer.
Washington looks like its stars have 100,000 miles of wear on them. Alex Ovechkin could not will the Capitals to the finals.
Las Vegas faltered and was ousted, a by product of season long injuries to their top 3-goal scorers and then the loss of goalie Robin Lehner. It cost Peter DeBoer his coaching job.
The same thing happened to the NY Islanders, a cindarella team a year ago, a failure in this playoff run leading to the ouster of highly regarded coach Barry Trotz.
The rebuilding LA Kings had a strong season coming together without an established goal-scoring star upfront, and without star bluelier Drew Doughty, LA went to a 7th and final game with the Oilers. It was an impressive step forward.
A bad feeling in Minnesota, where the Wild had a 113-point season, dominated at home, then quit scoring and got beat, losing two at home. And they are in big time salary cap hell, so this is a lousy off season in lots of ways.
So now we march into another round.
Connor McDavid, nicknamed ‘McHockey’ leads the Edmonton Oilers into the Battle of Alberta, vs Calgary, a Flames group led by Johhny Gaudreau, ‘Johnny Hockey’, The Flames are loaded-deep-fearless and led by a passion play coach in Daryll Sutter.
Colorado is big, physical, deep and healthy and Gabriel Landeskog’s team has had 8-days off as they get ready to face feisty St Louis.
The Rangers are the least recognizable team in terms of name players, but they are good, they are deep. It’s just not Alex Lafreniere or Chris Kreider. It’s great goaltending, Igor Shestkerkin, and 2nd-3rd line depth who score goals. The Rangers-Carolina Hurricane battle will be a tossup.
The battle of Florida will be fierce. Tampa Bay has so much firepower beyond Nikita Kucherov, plus the great goaltending of Andrei Vasilevsky. Florida just wears you out line after line with scoring talent.
To get to this week in the NHL playoffs is so hard. Are you healthy, are you hot.? Can you roll out four lines? Can you stay injury free? Will the refs make bad calls and give the other guys power plays that crush you?
This will be a fun semi finals in the NHL. Some better teams are home this week.
Ask anyone who has survived the Stanley Cup, ‘toughest trophy to go get’.