The year is 2001. A young 6-year old Arik Krause is just like any curious kid and grabs a VHS tape and puts it into the VCR. The tape is titled “1990 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs”. Now if you don’t know, the Edmonton Oilers are in the midst of their dynasty and in these playoffs would face the Boston Bruins. A series which they would win for their fifth and final Stanley Cup this far. That series was famous for the Petr Klima goal in Game 1. Klima didn’t play at all during the third period or first two overtime periods, but he would slide the puck past Andy Moog in the third overtime and give the Oilers a win in Game 1.
Conference Finals Recap
Vegas was already the best expansion team in North American sports history going into the Conference Finals and they didn’t stop there. They walked through the Winnipeg Jets in five games as they advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. Vegas owns a stunning 12-3 record in the playoffs so far.
Washington went down 0-2 in their series against the Blue Jackets. People counted them out. They advanced to play Pittsburgh. People counted them out. They finally beat the Penguins only to play the best team in the East. People counted them out. Yet they are still standing, weirdly enough the least talented team they’ve brought to the dance over the last decade. It’s only fitting that this is the team that has gone all the way.
Two powerhouse teams that share one goal – to win the #StanleyCup.
— NHL (@NHL) May 24, 2018
Won Eastern Conference Final 4-3 over Tampa Bay.
— NHL (@NHL) May 24, 2018
As a personal fan of the Washington Capitals this series was a roller coaster of emotions. Washington finally beats Pittsburgh, only to play against the best team in the East. The Capitals jump out to a quick 2-0 series lead taking home-ice advantage completely away from the Lightning. The Lightning come back to Washington and take home-ice advantage back beating the Capitals twice at Capital One Arena. Game five also went to the Lightning as they put the Capitals on the brink. Holtby shuts the door completely in Game 6 & 7 to send the Lightning packing and the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1998.
Notable Players to Watch
I might show a bit of bias here, but does anybody in history have a better one-timer than Alexander Ovechkin?
Absolutely no time wasted.
— NHL (@NHL) May 24, 2018
Alexander Ovechkin is on a mission and I don’t think Vegas has anybody that can reliably stop him. Ovechkin in his 13th season and after establishing himself as the best goal scorer of this generation (If you forgot, he just won his 7th Rocket Richard Trophy). Will be playing in his first Stanley Cup Final.
The secondary scoring for the Capitals has arrived at the perfect time. Andre Burakovsky drew into the lineup for Game 7 and he didn’t disappoint with two goals to put the game completely out of reach.
— NHL (@NHL) May 24, 2018
Braden Holtby since coming into the playoffs in Game 3 against the Blue Jackets has been everything as advertised and has seemed to put the terrible regular season behind him. Holtby comes into the Finals with a .924% SV and a shutout streak of 157+ minutes.
Vegas Golden Knights
Won Western Conference Final 4-1 over Winnipeg.
The Golden Knights motto for the playoffs has been “Welcome to Impossible” and who can blame them? Vegas coming into the regular season were placed at 500-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup and now they’re only four games away from doing so. Nobody expected them to even be in the playoffs, let alone make it to the Finals with a 12-3 record.
The team consisting of labelled “misfits” is simply playing fantastic hockey, then again it sure helps when goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is posting an unconscious .947SV% through 15 games.
Will the Golden Knights complete the impossible?
— NHL (@NHL) May 20, 2018
Notable Players to Watch
It truly has been a team effort by the Golden Knights to get to this point. Vegas has one clear stand out when it comes to scoring this postseason and that player is Jonathan Marchessault who leads the way with 18 (8G, 10A) points.
— NHL (@NHL) May 17, 2018
The Golden Knights will also be hoping for some more of this from William Karlsson, up front they are outpowered by the Capitals and Karlsson will have to have a big series if Vegas is going to win.
Another game in Vegas, another early goal for the @GoldenKnights.
— NHL (@NHL) May 19, 2018
Marc-Andre Fleury is without a doubt the current Conn Smythe favourite and I think he should be considered to win it even if the Golden Knights lose this series. Fleury has posted unrealistic numbers through 15 games in these playoffs with 4 shutouts and a .947%SV. He will simply have to be the Golden Knights best player all series long.
— NHL (@NHL) May 17, 2018
Vegas Golden Knights (2-0-0)
It’s the Stanley Cup Finals, regular season series doesn’t mean anything. But we wouldn’t be doing our due diligence if we didn’t list it.
This series is comparing the improbable to the impossible. This is the year Washington wasn’t supposed to make it, this is by far the worst team they’ve had on paper in recent playoff runs, yet this team is the one that will get to play for Lord’s Stanley.
The Golden Knights are already the best expansion team in North American sports history and if they don’t win the championship I hope that doesn’t tarnish anything they’ve already accomplished this year.
Will Marc-Andre Fleury continue getting the last laugh over Alexander Ovechkin and his Capitals or will the Russian sniper that we’ve all grown to love over the years finally lift the one accomplishment that’s always eluded him?
Whatever happens, this years Stanley Cup Finals will lead to an unforgettable story for one side.
My Prediction: Capitals in 6.
I don’t think Vegas has the firepower to keep up with the Capitals forwards unless Marc-Andre Fleury completely stands on his head like he’s done so far, I don’t see a situation where the Golden Knights can win.
Second Round Recap
The Capitals finally exorcised their demons and put the Penguins to bed in the second round in six hard-fought games. While the Lightning moved past the Bruins rather easily, their forward depth was simply too much for the Bruins to handle throughout a series.
— NHL (@NHL) May 8, 2018
The Leafs and Blue Jackets were both on the brink of elimination tonight.
Toronto was coming off a big 4-3 win on Friday night which they almost squander. And the Blue Jackets were looking to get back on track after losing their last three.
Here’s how it went:
For the second straight year, the Minnesota Wild have unfortunately passed away after game five of the first round. Sixteen of the Wild’s last twenty playoff games have ended in a loss, and the team has now failed to move past the first round for three straight years.
Here lies the battered corpse of the Anaheim Ducks, swept out of the first round of the playoffs at the hands of the San Jose Sharks.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are set to begin their first-round matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight and even though they’re the lower seed, there are a decent amount of experts and fans who are taking the Jackets to win this series.
Image courtesy of NHL.com
The Ottawa Senators are the darlings of the 2017 NHL playoffs. They are the last Canadian playoff team standing and have pushed the defending Stanley Cup Champs to a deciding 7th game. Awaiting them are the Nashville Predators, a team most of the hockey world is also sweet on.
The Senators are a strange organization. They reside in a small Canadian market in between the dogmatic, religious fandom of Toronto and Montreal, their current arena-ticket-sellout woes are well-documented (I mean, really well reported) and their roster doesn’t spark any fear into you on paper. They were projected to be a mediocre-to-average hockey club at the beginning of the year. The reality is, they just played good hockey and finished second in their division.
As someone who’s always observed the Senators from the outside for my hockey watching career, my central feeling is they’ve always been up to stuff. Something has always been happening with the Senators. Whether it’s regular appearances in the postseason, the 2007 Stanley Cup Final, or these newer more resilient teams who’ve gritted and battled their way to spring success (such as the Paul Maclean Jack Adams trophy year and the Hamburglar Andrew Hammond run of 2015) the Senators play good hockey.
The thing that’s continued to baffle me is how many stars have played for this franchise from the 2000s to today that have left in suspicious or dramatic fashion, yet the Senators go along tickety-boo, fire and hire a new coach, and win another playoff round next season. Alexei Yashin, Marian Hossa, Dany Heatley, Zdeno Chara, Ray Emery, Jason Spezza, and even the beloved Daniel Alfredsson all had bittersweet exits, many requested, many sending shivers down the spine of the Sens faithful. But some of those most recent moves haven’t hurt the Senators like anyone thought they would.
The lightning rod Dany Heatley trade ended up working out for Ottawa, many even believing they won the deal with Heatley’s fall-off-a-cliff second act, despite getting little market value at the time. The Jason Spezza departure (which player-wise still looks horrible) hasn’t crushed their scoring ability despite his dynamic presence gone from the top-six.
In fact, the Ottawa Senators have always struck me as a wheeling-and-dealing franchise that has lost and won deals, but continues to make them all the time. They make things happen for better or for worse.
The Bobby Ryan trade has looked ugly for a while as Jakob Silverberg’s development as a nice two-way forward with sick sniping ability (when he wants) has grown steadily. And I personally didn’t like trading Mika Zibanejad for Derick Brassard who I think is of similar ability.
But the Dion Phaneuf nine player trade has been fine despite his lucrative cap hit, the Mike Condon trade kept the season afloat with his 40 appearances and Burrows/Stalberg added depth for the team at the deadline. Not to mention the sneaky good deal of acquiring Kyle Turris for David Rundblad in 2011. (Rundblad has not turned into one of the great defensemen of the modern era despite the high billing all those years ago. He’s a just a guy).
The Sens gambled on Nikita Filatov, traded for Ben Bishop even though their crease was packed, traded him for the one-hit wonder Cory Conacher, danced with Ales Hemsky for a couple months, and after winning the David Legwand free agency sweepstakes, shipped him and Robin Lehner to the Sabres for the Colin White first-rounder. White appears to be a good young player.
Like it or not the Senators dabble and without stacking how many transactions they’ve made compared to other teams, to me they’ve always been this way. Bryan Murray was always staying competitive and turning over players in a market that isn’t spectacular.
So the question is, how have the Senators really done it. How have they climbed to the near zenith of NHL hockey despite a relatively ho-hum roster with a few huge upsides?
No one really has an answer.
They haven’t looked spectacular but that 5-1 win in Game 3 against Pittsburgh was filthy, and their overtime heroics from Pageau (who I’m certain scored another playoff OT goal against the Habs with a piece of stick in his face back a few years ago) and company have kept the train-a-rolling towards…a Stanley Cup berth?!
In a league where the Washington Capitals can’t get past the second round, the Sens despite an out of town arena, an owner who loves to put his foot in his mouth, a new GM who looks and acts smug, a lack of corporate support in the city and everything else that isn’t hockey related, Ottawa is 60 minutes away from returning to the Stanley Cup Final and having home ice advantage.
Obviously, the biggest reason for successis their best player is otherworldly. Erik Karlsson is doing yeoman’s work again and is the current favourite for the Conn Smythe. The soon-to-be 27-year-old could walk away with his third Norris Trophy if the voters snub Brent Burns but could win a few more and finish his career with 1000 points plus if health reamins.
Karlsson skates like Kyrie Irving handles a basketball, jumps into the rush seamlessly, and through slicing pain in his foot, still plays at a near point-a-game pace this playoffs; a season which started many months ago for Sweden at the World Cup. He also somehow was second in blocked shots behind Kris Russell which is just one of those things that boggles the mind. When I think Ottawa Senators and blocking shots immediately the mind jumps to Anton Volchenkov, not Erik ”fantastic hair” Karlsson.
Karlsson is the crown jewel of a core which the Senators have been forced to develop because of those major names wanting out. Their response to that adversity has worked. Mike Hoffman rips a puck quicker than Radek Bonk ever could, Mark Stone is a consistent 50-60 point producer, and J.G. Pageau is a smart, young third line centre.
Deep down though, these players know this might be their only chance at the drink. Considering, how volatile success is becoming, who knows what could happen – good or bad. But a trip to the final for a player like Erik Karlsson could raise him to a new pantheon of greatness. And a title would also mean “Canada’s” drought is over.
The chance is right here for Ottawa. A loss is crushing, but through my limited outsider’s perspective, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if two years from now we’re talking about another surprising Senators first round victory with a similar, yet different cast of characters.