Let the Games Begin!
It just doesn’t get any better than this. The play-offs are just around the corner and there is great hockey every night of the week.
The contenders are getting their game faces on, and even the pretenders are getting their last licks in before they get their golf clubs out. The lowly Nashville Predators, for instance, beat Edmonton and Phoenix, tied Colorado, and extended (but lost to) Detroit last week.
From top-to-bottom, West to East, here’s the early call…
St. Louis Blues — The best road record, the most wins, the best defense pairing (Pronger for the Hart Trophy?), the best goalie, the best logo. But still a Cup longshot. They haven’t made it out of the second round since 1980.
Dallas Stars — Brett Hull was standing in the crease when he scored the Cup-clinching goal last year. The Hockey Gods never intended for the Cup to end up in Texas.
Colorado Avalanche — They lost Game 7 of the Conference Finals at home to Dallas last year. They added Raymond Bourque this year.
Detroit Red Wings — Like Scotty Bowman needs another Championship Ring. Break up the Red Wings!
Los Angeles Kings — They lost in the Finals in ’93, and since then have DNQ’d four times and were one-and-done once. Rob Blake deserves a better team.
Phoneix Coyotes — Jeremy Roenicke and Keith Tchachuk notwithstanding, any team that would trade Rick Tocchet for Mikael Renberg doesn’t understand hockey and, therefore, does not deserve to win the Stanley Cup.
Edmonton Oilers — Well, anything can happen.
San Jose Sharks — Is there really an NHL team in San Jose?
New Jersey Devils — They won the Stanley Cup in 1995 and held the parade in the parking lot outside their arena. Since then, the Hockey Gods have cursed the Devils with a DNQ in 1996 and early-round exits in ’97, ’98, and ’99.
Toronto Maple Leafs — Look to the Leafs to cop the top spot in the East. They finish the season against Buffalo, Pittsburgh, the Islanders, and Tampa Bay.
Washington Capitals — Does a team whose top scorer is Chris Simon really rate any respect as a Stanley Cup contender? In their final five games, they get Toronto, Ottawa, and Detroit mixed in with the Rangers and Buffalo.
Philadelphia Flyers — They play just two above-.500 teams in the season’s final weeks. Which means nothing because this team is a classic case of playing down to their opponents.