Home Sports

It’s NHL playoff time

2

The Flyers are out, but here’s a quick fan guide of what to look for, and who to root for, in the upcoming National Hockey League Stanley Cup playoffs. We’ll start in the East and end up in the West.

Boston Bruins

Their story: The Bruins have flown under the radar most of the season in a top-heavy Atlantic Division. They are certainly capable of pulling an upset or two. Only Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand remain from the team that won it all in 2011. Has it been 11 years already?

Philly flavor: Long Branch native Connor Clifton played prep hockey at Christian Brothers Academy in New Jersey.

Root for him: Former Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno has played more than 1,000 NHL games without much playoff success.

Carolina Hurricanes

Their story: After almost a decade of missing the playoffs, the Canes have been strong contenders the last three seasons. Their only Cup was in 2006.

Philly flavor: You already know Rod Brind ‘Amour is the head coach. Sewell native Tony DeAngelo, a defenseman, has had an outstanding season with 51 points in 64 games.

Root for him: Jesper Kotkaniemi. Not so much for the player, but the fact that he was acquired via offer sheet. Wouldn’t that be fun if it became the new trend that offer sheets lead to championships? It would certainly make the offseason more interesting.

Florida Panthers

Their story: The Panthers are the Presidents Trophy winners and are one of the most exciting teams, scoring five or more goals in nearly half of their games this season. The Panthers, who joined the NHL via expansion in 1993, are one of 12 teams in the league that have never won a Stanley Cup.

Philly flavor: Some guy named Claude Giroux plays there now. Also, Sergei Bobrovsky is tending goal while Radko Gudas and Robert Hagg are manning the blue line.

Root for him: Aside from Giroux, it would be pretty cool to see Joe Thornton lift the Cup. Thornton is 12th all-time in career points. Only Marcel Dionne has more points without a ring.

New York Rangers

Their story: The Rangers’ fast rebuild has arrived early at the Blueshirts will have home ice in round one. With arguably the top goalie in the league, the Rangers are hoping to win their first Cup since 1994.

Philly flavor: Underappreciated defenseman Justin Braun steadies the blue line on Broadway.

Root for him: 30-year-old Chris Kreider had a career year with 52 goals. He had never scored more than 28 in a season. A playoff encore would be fun to watch.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Their story: The Penguins are just five years removed from their second of back-to-back championships. This postseason could determine the fate of cornerstone pieces Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang who will become free agents this summer.

Philly flavor: Two-time Cup winner Jeff Carter is the team’s third-line center while Mark Friedman has become a steady piece on the blue line. Of course, Ron Hextall is now the GM in Pittsburgh.

Root for him: Tough to root for any Penguin, but Brian Boyle is a pretty solid guy to back.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Their story: No one has won three consecutive Stanley Cups since the Islanders won four straight in the early 1980s. The Lightning have a chance to make it three in a row this year.

Philly flavor: Pierre Edouard Bellamare plays a checking role and is a PK specialist for the Bolts. Brian Elliott is the backup goalie.

Root for him: Pat Maroon, a 2007 Flyers draft pick, won the Cup with St. Louis in 2019 before going back-to-back with Tampa. He’s going for his fourth in a row.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Their story: The Leafs’ last Stanley Cup was in 1967 when there were six teams in the league. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are one of the most dynamic duos in the league. They have their most talented team in years but will have a murderous path to the final.

Philly flavor: Wayne Simmonds is playing a pretty important depth role for the Leafs. Backup goaltender Peter Mrazek is currently injured.

Root for him: Jason Spezza and Mark Giordano are both 38 and have enjoyed terrific careers but have yet to drink from the Cup.

Washington Capitals

Their story: The Caps won it all in 2018 and still have basically the same core aside from Brayden Holtby. They’ll try for one more kick at the can.

Philly flavor: Trevor van Riemsdyk (James’ brother) is about as close as it gets as their family grew up in Middletown, New Jersey.

Root for him: No one from Alabama has ever won the Stanley Cup. Nic Dowd could change that.

Calgary Flames

Their story: Darryl Sutter turned around a team that seemed dead in the water in need of a rebuild into a top contender. The Flames will look to break Canada’s overall Cup drought (1993) with Calgary’s first Cup since 1989.

Philly flavor: Johnny Gaudreau, who played at Gloucester Catholic High School, is having an MVP-caliber season during a contract year.

Root for him: Gaudreau is the obvious choice here. If you’re looking for a sidebar, Blake Coleman is going for his third straight Cup after winning back-to-back in Tampa Bay.

Colorado Avalanche

Their story: The Avalanche were frontrunners entering the season and didn’t disappoint with a dominant regular season. They are looking for their first Cup since 2001 and might see a 1996 rematch when they swept the Florida Panthers for the first championship in franchise history.

Philly flavor: Former Flyer Nicolas Aube-Kubel was scooped up on waivers earlier this year and has contributed 11 goals for his new team.

Root for him: Nathan MacKinnon is a superstar. It’s time for him to win and have his moment.

Dallas Stars

Their story: Dallas was the last team to qualify for the postseason after swiping the last spot away from the powerful Vegas Golden Knights. The Stars were in the Cup final just two years ago but haven’t won it all since 1999.

Philly flavor: Michael Raffl played eight years in Philly but has settled in nicely with the Stars in a depth role.

Root for him: Besides Raffl, there are plenty of 30-plus vets without a Stanley Cup ring on the roster. Take your pick: Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Ryan Suter, Andej Sekera, Luke Glendening, Alexander Radulov or Joe Pavelski.

Edmonton Oilers

Their story: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl drive the bus in Edmonton but can they carry the entire load? It’s been a long time since the Oilers dynasty won its last championship in 1990.

Philly flavor: Derick Brassard ended up in Alberta at the trade deadline as some added depth for the Oilers’ playoff run.

Root for him: 40-year-old journeyman goalie Mike Smith will attempt to get the Oilers over the hump. Defenseman Duncan Keith is aiming for his fourth ring.

Los Angeles Kings

Their story: Not many people had the Kings making the playoffs this year as they continue to rebuild. The two-time champs (2012, 2014) appear to be on the way back up.

Philly flavor: It’s not like the old days when the Kings were considered “Flyers West.” There’s really not much of a Philly influence with the 2021-22 version.

Root for him: Drew Doughty is out for the season but Jonathan Quick is having a renaissance year in L.A. One of the best American-born goaltenders would have to rekindle some playoff magic for the Kings to make a run.

Minnesota Wild

Their story: It’s a go-fo-it year for the Wild who have a salary cap crunch on the horizon as the buyouts of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise ramp up next year. Kirill Kaprizov is an absolute superstar and arguably the most exciting player ever to wear a Wild uniform. Minny has never won a Cup.

Philly flavor: It’s the team that Chuck built. Flyers General Manager Chuck Fletcher was the architect in Minnesota from 2009-2018, so much of the roster there is of his doing. Also former Flyer Ryan Hartman is enjoying a career year with 34 goals.

Root for him: Marc-Andre Fleury is the easy pick, but Mats Zuccarello is one of only eight players from Norway to play in the NHL. He came close to being the first to win it all with the Rangers in 2014.

Nashville Predators

Their story: Prior to this season, the Predators had never had a 35-goal scorer in their history. This year, they have two 42-goal scorers in Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg. It goes to show this isn’t your normal boring Nashville squad. Nashville has never won a Cup, but came close in 2017 as a finalist.

Philly flavor: Nick Cousins, who cut his teeth in Philly, plays a depth role in “Smashville.”

Root for him: Swiss-born Roman Josi will be a Norris trophy finalist, as he has amassed an incredible 93 points this season.

St. Louis Blues

Their story: The Blues are just three years removed from their first Stanley Cup in franchise history and still have a lot of the key pieces that brought it home sans former captain Alex Pietrangelo.

Philly flavor: As they did in 2019, Craig Berube is still the coach and Brayden Schenn is still playing a top-six role in St. Louis.

Root for him: Default to the oldest player on the roster without a Cup: 32-year-old defenseman Marco Scandella. Or root for David Perron, who is on his third stint with the Blues.

Exit mobile version