“NHL Playoffs-Toughest Trophy to Get”
It’s here. You can feel it in the arena. You will feel it if you ever put on the crest in the room. You can sense it from the opening face-off.
Cut on bridge of the nose
Stitches on the chin
A Black Eye
Little Blood on the jersey
It’s hockey’s real season. It’s NHL playoff season, and the grind begins with the eight first round series, four beginning on Wednesday, the other four on Thursday.
The survivors will stagger to the 1st week of June when somebody hoists the Stanley Cup. There will be upsets…unsung heroes..red hot goaltending…a few fights….and lots of fireworks.
It won’t be the LA Kings nor the Anaheim Ducks, both of whom finished substandard seasons, that cost both head coaches their jobs, and likely will cost some players their roster spots before the summer and off season is complete.
The Kings face a massive overhaul. Age, injuries, lots of bad contracts. They have had a good run, but now the backside of careers and big dollar signs are staring them right int the face. Somebody leaves as a youth movement begins, maybe goalie Jonathon Quick. The organization has failed in lots of areas.
The Ducks, with a history of good drafting, seem a couple of steps already into transition. They have a fleet of young draft picks, many in San Diego with the Gulls, some in the Canadian junior ranks, poised to make the next step. They are tied down too, to some big contracts with aging stars, but it’s doubtful it will end badly for quality people like Ryan Getzlaf nor Corey Perry. This organization has not let anyone down.
The matchups this spring are awesome. So will be the pressure on lots of people.
TORONTO-BOSTON..The Maple Leafs have not won the Stanley Cup since 1967, despite being the richest and biggest heritage franchise in the sport. Mike Babcock has been building towards this, and now we see if John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and others can grind their way thru this Boston Bruins series against a Beantown team that has almost equal firepower, names like Bergeron-Pastrnek-Marchand. You have to be rugged to get thru this..
WASHINGTON-CAROLINA…Washington has Alexander Ovechkin of 50-60 goal fame, but has 7-others who have scored 20-or more goals, plus goalie Braden Holtby. Carolina’s vacation and golf off season will start pretty quickly.
PITTSBURGH-ISLANDERS…Pittsburgh still has Sir Sidney Crosby, but it has been a strange Penguins season. So much more expected from Evegeni Malkin, Phil Kessell and sniper Jake Guenztel. Goalie Matt Murray is hot. Who are these New York Islanders? Coach Barry Trotz and Jordan Eberle and a bunch of no names. It’s not the Mike Bossy led Islanders, but they have had a good season.
TAMPA BAY-COLUMBUS…Tampa Bay makes you love freewheeling hockey. A 61-win season, lots of firepower, with 40-goals scorers Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point. They are not a nationwide household name, but they are so good. Pity John Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets goaltending. This will be hard.
WINNIPEG-ST LOUIS….There were issues early in St Louis…and then a solution…the players did it. Coaching issues. Huge losing streak early, and then they fix it. Did they ever. The Blue roll to a (30-10-5) record from Christmas on. Goalie Jordan Bennington is (24-5-1) and everybody scores, led by Vlad Tarasenko and Ryan O’Rielly. Winnipeg is not just the team they were last year, when they became everyone’s darlings. Emotionally something is missing. MIA Patrick Laine has 1-goal in the last 19-games-38 days. How is that possible. It’s just not the same group last year when people marveled at when we saw Little-Scheifele and Wheeler.
LAS VEGAS-SAN JOSE…..San Jose has so much history. Huge goal scorers, firepower, and imposing defense. Las Vegas is doing this for just the second time ever, this post season thing. Freight train collision coming. Joe Thornton, Logan Coture and others, backed by Erik Karlsson and Britt Burns. Can G-Martin Jones keep the Knights big line of Mark Stone-Max Pacioretty-Paul Stasny off the score sheet. Then the Sharks have to deal with the Marchessault-Karlsson line too. Going to be a great series.
CALGARY-COLORADO….Calgary has loads of firepower, and has grown as a team. It’s been fun watching Johnny Hockey-Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan-Matt Tkachuck make this come together on the Red Mile in Calgary. Colorado got into the playoffs, thank you Nathan McKinnon and Phillip Grubaer, but they just don’t seem to have enough.
DALLAS-NASHVILLE…..The Nashville series with Dallas, it’s going to be strange. Will anyone score goals? The Predators are just not the same team from a firepower standpoint, 25th in scoring. Dallas is number one in team defense and 6’7 goalie Ben Bishop is having a monster season.
You can tell it’s that time of the year. The stubble on the chin, the gash on the nose, the black eye, a little blood on the uniform.
All out…every shift…every night. Take no penalties. Take no prisoner.
It’s the best time of the year….the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs about to begin.
Lord Stanley’s goblet…the toughest trophy in sports to get.