Tuesday, May 21, 2013

NHL Playoffs Hitting Full Swing: Likely Suspects in Contention for Stanley Cup

Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup Trophy
One of the wonderful things about professional ice hockey is the even quality spread out across the NHL. 9 different teams have won the last 9 Stanley Cup titles. However, the 2013 NHL Playoffs look to be altering the trend a little bit. 8 teams are currently playing for the Cup and of those teams, 5 have won the Stanley Cup in the last five years, showing that a consistent quality team is the most likely to win it all. Also, it shows that we will probably see a recent champion win a second Stanley Cup title and gain prominence as an emerging dynasty in professional hockey.
 
The teams that look most favored to lift the cup are the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Los Angeles Kings, the Detroit Red Wings, and the Boston Bruins. Each team is a recent winner and knows the thrill and the hard work that must go into claiming the Stanley Cup.
The Chicago Blackhawks were the regular season’s best team and will expect to make a deep run in the playoffs. Having won the 2010 Stanley Cup after a Patrick Kane overtime goal in game 7, this team is now more mature and just as talented as their previous championship side.
 
Facing the Blackhawks are the 2008 champions, the Detroit Red Wings. A usual contender for the title, the Red Wings thrive with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, two experienced veterans who led the team to that championship. Although their regular season wasn’t as dominant, the Red Wings and Blackhawks are currently tied in what could be a thrilling Conference Semifinals matchup.
The other heavyweight favorite for the Stanley Cup is the Pittsburgh Penguins, who won it all in 2009. Behind the ever-talented Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins were the best team in the Eastern Conference and currently hold a 2-1 advantage over the Ottawa Senators. Although Crosby hasn’t quite been the dominant figure in ice hockey that people suspected after his first championship, another victory would surely be a step in the right direction.
 
The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 but had a pretty marginal 2013. With more of a team effort, the Bruins don’t rely on just several stars, and have been catapulted to a hot postseason following a dramatic game 7 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins now sit 2-0 up on the New York Rangers and could be spurred on to another Cup with most of the same players from the 2011 team. That was a tight year though, and with the Blackhawks and Penguins more dominant this season, the talent gap could prove to be too high.
 
One last contender to examine is the reigning champion Los Angeles Kings, who are currently up 2-1 in their series with the San Jose Sharks. Seeded 8th last year, they stunned everyone with a dramatic postseason run to the Stanley Cup, and the Kings may just do it again this year. They showed that dreams can become a reality! Could they do it again?
 
It’s doubtful. Because of the lopsided results in the regular season, I feel that this Stanley Cup will be contested between the Penguins and Blackhawks. But ice hockey is a tricky sport, and with game 7 playoff matches a common theme this year, perhaps a lower-seeded team can pull an upset. Let’s see how the rest of the NHL Playoffs shape up!
 
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