The six-month regular season of the National Hockey League has already determined the league’s best team (Boston Bruins), but it will take two months of playoffs to determine what team’s name will be engraved on the Stanley Cup.
Sorry, Boston fans, it won’t be the Bruins. Not as long as the President’s Trophy curse continues.
For nine straight years, the team that racked up the most points during the 82-game regular season has failed to win Lord Stanley’s mug. How Boston is going to lose this year is a mystery, because the Bruins are solid up front, on defence and in goal. However, you can’t argue with curses.
So who will do the celebrating come mid-June, when the Stanley Cup final wraps up? Here are 10 teams with a chance:
10. Dallas Stars — Can’t count out the team with the best goal differential in the Western Conference.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs — Goaltending, not very reliable all year, could suddenly get hot, and with the Matthews-Marner-Tavares-Nylander offence, the Leafs could go on a run.
8. Los Angeles Kings — Something about the Kings says surprising underdog. Coach Todd McLellan has lots of scoring punch with the likes of Kopitar, Kempe, Arvidsson, Fiala and Danault.
7. Vegas Golden Knights — Jack Eichel is a stud and the Golden Knights play a perfect playoff style of in-your-face hockey. But has goalie Jonathan Quick lost some of his quickness?
6. New Jersey Devils — The Devils are in the playoffs for only the second time in 10 years. All those bad years led to solid-gold draft picks (Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, etc.) and now it’s dividend-paying time.
5. Minnesota Wild: No Kaprizov, no problem. Wild have a potential Conn Smythe trophy winner in goalie Filip Gustavsson.
4. Edmonton Oilers — Strongest top-five forward combination in the league (McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, Hyman, Kane) will take them a long way.
3. New York Rangers — Owners of a stellar goal differential (Boston leads that category by a mile) and a team with few holes. Panarin, Kreider, Trocheck and Zibanejad lead the offence. Adding Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane at the trade deadline didn’t hurt.
2. Colorado Avalanche — If everyone’s finally healthy, the likes of MacKinnon, Rantanan and Makar can generate enough goals to defend their title, and Alexandar Georgiev’s goaltending is a strength.
1. Carolina Hurricanes — Were it not for the historic season the Bruins are having, Carolina’s extraordinary campaign (.715 winning percentage at the end of March) would be the talk of the hockey world. The ’Canes have the league’s best coach in Rod Brind’Amour and his team is loaded up front (Aho, Terevainen, Necas, Jarvis, Stastny) and on the blue line (Burns, Slavin, Pesce, Gostisbehere).
Colorado-Carolina Stanley Cup final? Or will the Bruins overcome the President’s Trophy curse?
- RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com, with a bunch of doggone puns: “The St. Louis Cardinals are already selling tickets for their May 6 Pooches in the Ballpark game where fans can bring along their dog. Viewers can expect to see pup flies, a few hound-rule doubles and even the odd inside-the-bark home run.”
- Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel, on the death of Willis Reed, who famously limped onto the court in the 1970 NBA final to lead the Knicks to the title: “Fifty years later in New York, Kyrie Irving missed an entire season because he wouldn’t get jabbed with a needle.””
- Pro golfer Jim Furyk, on the scariest shot at Augusta National: “If you happen to hit it in the water at 12, the drop is much tougher than the original shot. I’ll go with the third shot at 12.”
- Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, after viewing a video of Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic merely walking into the arena: “Are you sure that's Luka? He went 20 feet without snapping his head back and flailing his arms and screaming in pain.”
- Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “At an L.A. Dodgers game, a man ran out to centrefield and when he kneeled to propose to his girlfriend, he was tackled hard by security. Cannot think of a more apt preparation for marriage than that.”
- Another one from Kaseberg: “Die-hard ‘Jeopardy!’ fans were furious at a crossover promotion for pro wrestling's WWE. Of course, die-hard ‘Jeopardy!’ fans tend to take to sports like a fish takes to a bicycle.”
- RJ Currie again: “Complaints from fans prompted the N.Y. Islanders to scrap their new goal horn. It’s a shame too, because they got a good deal on it from the Ottawa Senators, who had rarely used it.”
- Headline at the onion.com: “NFL owners announce secret meeting to make sure they aren’t colluding against Lamar Jackson”
- fark.com headline: “Being a Philly sports fan may be good for your mental health, since becoming a Philly sports fan in the first place is a clear sign your mental health has nowhere to go but up.”
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