It has often been said that the Stanley Cup is the most difficult trophy to win in all of professional sports.
For any team to hoist the massive silver prize upon which is inscribed the names of all previous winning teams, players and coaches they have to survive four rounds and win a total of sixteen games.
This grueling death skate makes the NHL playoffs into one of the longest and most watchable events in sports with the postseason typically running from mid-April until early June of each year.
With the first set of series now in the history books and a couple of unexpected upsets the league arrives at the elite eight, a mixture of seasoned winners and hungry upstarts.
— NHL (@NHL) April 24, 2017
The openers will pit the Western conference Pacific division rival Anaheim Ducks against the young Edmonton Oilers as well as the St. Louis Blues against the red-hot Nashville Predators.
The hockey world is still stunned after the Predators finished off the mighty Chicago Blackhawks in four straight games, holding the powerful Hawks to a measly total of three goals in four games.
Nashville will be riding goalie Pekka Rinne in what will be duel to the finish between two goalies who are absolutely on fire. Blues netminder Jake Allen nearly singlehandedly shut down the heavily favored Minnesota Wild. This series could go the distance of 7 games and every goal will be a premium.
The Eastern conference will feature series between the Ottawa Senators and the New York Rangers. The blueshirts banished the Montreal Canadiens and their all-world goalie Carey Price behind the stellar play of their own puck stopper Henrik Lundqvist. It’s hard to not see the Rangers emerge from this one to get to the conference finals but that’s why they play the games.
The main course for every serious hockey fan is what promises to be a knock-down, drag-out fight to the finish between arguably the two best teams in the NHL. The defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins will face off against the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals.
The Penguins are absolutely loaded again this year and boast arguably the game’s best player in center Sidney Crosby. If the Capitals are to break with their history of playoff flops they will need the best efforts of Russian terror Alex Ovechkin who despite dominating the regular seasons has continued to fall short when the games really matter.
The winner of this series will be heavily favored to win it all and it may be the best series in the entire playoffs given the talent, drama and what is at stake for a winner that will get to face a remaining field that has been diluted of higher seeded contenders by virtue of upsets.