Tag Archives: Philadelphia Flyers

Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2- Breaking New Ground

New teams  have graced this run for the Cup. Unexpected losses and battles in overtime have created a fresh group of teams who have finally broken hallowed ground. No. 1 seeded Vancouver could not make the case against the surging Los Angeles Kings and the defending Stanley Cup Bruins were eliminated at the hands of Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. What to expect in the Round 2 is more of the unexpected.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings saw their dreams dashed, while the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues have had dream seasons. This season launched a new generation of players and teams turning the tide on the old favorites and diminishing  dynasties.

Eastern Conference:

(1) New York Rangers vs. (7) Washington Capitals-
We’ve been here before. In 2009, the Rangers blew a 3-1 series lead and lost in seven, then last season the No. 1-seeded Caps smoked the eighth-seeded Rangers in five games. This season, The Rangers were caught off quard by the Ottawa Senators in Round 1 but found their style and won. The Caps will have an opportunity for Ovechkin to take control of his destiny and emerge as the elite player he knows he can be. Goaltending is the test. New York’s Henrik Lundqvist, finalist for the Vezina, is no doubt a Stanley Cup goaltender. Hank epitomizes what the best of the best can be. Braden Holtby has soared. His performance to beat Tim Thomas is enough to lift the Caps, but can he sustain?
This will be a tight race: Rangers in 7.

(5) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils-
The Devils will not be able to stop Philly’s Claude Giroux. While the Devils impressed in their win over the Florida Panthers, it was luck. Yes, Adam Henrique  is good, Marty Brodeur is a legendary goalie and so on….but it’s not their year. The Flyers are too good to lose this round. Philly’s only weak spot is the goaltending. Bryzgalov needs to stay healthy and on top of his game, because he was brought to the Flyers to win the Cup.
Flyers will prove in 5.

Eastern Final: Rangers vs. Flyers- Flyers in 7

Western Conference:

(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (4) Nashville Predators-
Nashville beat Detroit finally getting over the hump that has haunted their playoff run. Pekka Rinne is a Vezina finalist and deservedly so. Barry Trotz is one of the best coaches in the NHL and will take his team far. The Coyotes can brag about Dave Tippett and his fabulous coaching. Goaltender Mike Smith was a snub for the Vezina. Smith’s season was incredible and he could use this to deflect goals from the Kostitsyn boys and Shea Weber. While Nashville has greater player depth, the Coyotes will not go down without a fight.
Nashville in 6.

(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings-
Two Cinderella teams and the best game going in this round. Blues have an amazing crew of players with depth and determination. Goaltending is solid with Brian Elliott in for Jaroslav Halak, but it’s not what Quick can bring. It’s tough to not pick the Blues, but their campaign for the President’s Trophy ran aground. The Kings have Jeff Carter and Mike Richards united to win a Cup, throw in Anze Kopitar and you have an offensive power that even Alex Pietrangelo can’t contain. The Kings have Vezina finalist Jonathan Quick, who could be better than Rinne or Lundqvist in the end. LaLa Land has produced a star studded No. 8 seed. Bad news for the Kings is that no eighth-seeded team has ever won a Cup, so the odds are stacked against them. They’ll put up a fight.
Blues in 6.

Western Final: Blues vs. Preds- Blues in 6

Wow, what an opportunity for these teams to have made it over the hump of the Detroit Red Wings, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Vancouver Canucks. The passionate play of the finals will slow down, particulary in the Western Conference. The Eastern Conference may put up the dukes often if the Flyers and Rangers square off. The discipline hasn’t hindered the culture hockey completely, so don’t expect the professionalism and courtesy to suddenly appear.

On the Road to the Stanley Cup

Heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs, there’s a little for everyone. From traditional old-school matchups like the Pens and Flyers, to irksome bumps a team must get over like the pressure Nashville faces with Detroit. An interesting pairing in the West puts the Kings and Canucks in a must-see series.

The season starts here and now with a clean slate heading towards the coveted Stanley Cup. Whatever the ranking,the odds, the previous wins, teams have this chance once no matter what happened a few days ago. It’s now or never. The honor of making it to the playoffs can change the course of any team’s season.

East:

(4)Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5)Philadelphia Flyers– One of the best series to follow. The battle of Pennsylvania is always a regular season blowout. The Flyers have the talent in Claude Giroux and the moxy of Scott Hartnell to take on the challenge. With Sidney Crosby back for the Pens, Pittsburgh has the extra power-forward to take the points. Goaltending seems balanced in both nets. Pittsburgh can’t lose with Crosby. Pens win in 5.

(6)New Jersey Devils vs. (3)Florida Panthers The Devils have done a tremendous job this season rounding out their talent and finding ways to win. Though Brodeur was shaky in net early on, goaltending looks fixed for now. The Panthers have the momentum and the spirit to clinch this series. Panthers in 4.

(8)Ottawa Senators vs. (1)New York Rangers– New York clinched the East, so that would make this an easy series win…..not so fast. The Senators have had an upswing that could have them be the upset team. The Rangers may have some concerns and could take this for granted. Henrik Lundqvist wants this and has the tools to finish it. Rangers in 5.

(7)Washington Capitals vs. (2)Boston Bruins– Ovechkin and crew made it by an inch. Boston knows the path and with the depth, even top players for the Caps can’t get it done. Bruins in 4.

West:

(4)Nashville Predators vs. (5)Detroit Red Wings– Nashville always comes to face the Wings in the playoffs at some point. Detroit is the Preds’ brick wall. This year, with home-ice advantage, Nashville have the opportunity to swing it their way. Don’t underestimate the Wings performance this season. Hockeytown finds a way to win. Wings in 7.

(8)Los Angeles Kings vs. (1)Vancouver Canucks- Winner of the President’s Trophy, Vancouver is on a journey to win their destiny. Last season, the Canucks  lost in game 7 releasing chaos into the streets of Vancouver. Canucks can’t afford to lose again. The Kings have made an impressive run and will be formidable opponents. Quick can beat Luongo. Carter, Richards and Kopitar can beat Kesler, Burrows and at least one Sedin. The Canucks will take the series, but not without a fight in 6.

(7)San Jose Sharks vs. (2)St. Louis Blues– St. Louis will win. That’s all I can say. The Sharks have been a disappointment in many areas. The Blues have been an amazing team this season. Blues sweep.

(6)Chicago Blackhawks vs. (3) Phoenix Coyotes– Tight fight. The Coyotes just seem to find a way to win, but mostly goaltender Mike Smith has found a way to win and a nod for the Vezina. Chicago may not have it. The momentum going in to the series will determine the outcome. Coyotes in 7.

With the Western Conference team surge, the competition is fierce. The Eastern Conference has been the victim of sharp criticism for the sagging efforts of the traditionally winning side. New York serves as a good measurement of the talents of the Eastern teams. The West is growing in strength and the race was tight. The East brings the skill and sharpshooters,  while the West brings the intensity and passion play. What a great season it has been! Good luck to your playoff team and enjoy the games.

March Madness- Eastern Conference

The NHL’s month of March creates madness for fans cheering for their respective teams to make the playoffs. Glued to the TV, blogs and any news have the hockey community in a frenzy, including this blogger. The Red Wings have slumped and then some losing six straight, Franzen out with back spasms, and Jimmy Howard and backup out has Detroit down; thank goodness for the 23-home game winning streak. The Wings will make it, but other cusp teams may not get the break. Even if the team with the best record makes it, all signs depend on if they can withstand the playoff series. Travel and injuries can stall a playoff run, but many of the teams in good standing have depth to carry through.

Beasts of the East:

New York Rangers-
Just a few seasons ago, the Rangers made the playoffs but stank in the clutch. This years, goalie Henrik Lundqvist has a solid backup in Martin Biron. But not all has gone so well for the Rangers who have only one point on the Pittsburgh Penguins. Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik and Carl Hagelin make a great front line with a supporting cast that is truly worthy of playing on Broadway. Brandon Dubinsky, Michael Del Zotto to name a few create a winning team that are projected to win, yet the loss of their seemingly firm grip on the Eastern Conference has many wondering if they can hang on to the lead again this season.

Boston Bruins-
Boston has pulled some punches this season, but not as far ahead as the Rangers or Penguins. Boston’s division hasn’t gained the expected returns hoped for in the Northeast. Not betting on Boston to get to the finals with the stirrings within the club. Goalie Tim Thomas made political news with few jumping on board. Debates on if Thomas’ actions hurt the team’s dynamic grew and speculation on if Boston was a Cup contending team became a concern. The Bruins are hockey professionals and certainly Thomas knew his actions were newsworthy, but not splitting. Expect the Bruins to do well, but not all the way.

Florida Panthers-
A point behind the Bruins, the Panthers have nothing to lose and that attitude will give the team momentum. Low expectations and a beach-league team have the critics intrigued. Veteran talent will steer the team, while young talent will ignite. The team spreads the scoring duties and should make for some interesting games down the stretch. Expect surprises. Buy some flip flops.

Pittsburgh Penguins-
It wasn’t looking good for the Pens with Crosby out for so long, but the team filled the gap and maintained a presence that has put them in the game confidently and quite comfortably. Crosby’s scoring could boost the Pens over the competition. Evgeni Malkin took the role of leader and has led the troops to the battle. James Neal, Kris Letang, Matt Cooke, Tyler Kennedy, and the other boys who have won before, are ready to support goalie Fleury in winning the Cup. They’ve done it before and can do it again

Philadelphia Flyers-
Tenacious. Stocked with talent in Jaromir Jagr, Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Matt Read, and an outstanding year for Scott Hartnell caps the goaltending of Bryzgalov for a team built for speed. The Flyers have been to the Cup celebration recently and the plan was to build for another Cup run. They’re so ready and could do it this year as they are four points from Pittsburgh and five from the Rangers.

New Jersey Devils-
What a great time to have relocated to the Jersey Shore with access to Rangers, Flyers, and Devils dominating the Eastern Conference playoff spots. The Devils are the super surprise this year, despite bad press on the team’s bankruptcy and the free-agency this summer of Zach Parise. As the recently named captain of the Devils, Parise was a maybe next season due to the lack of Cup playoffs. If that doesn’t give the Devils the drive to win, I don’t know what else to say about Parise’s quest for a winning team. The question will be the measurement of their bid and Parise’s desire to stay.

Squeezed in down the standing sits the Washington Capitals, Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators. Buffalo has a great chance of making it with Ryan Miller’s revival in net. The entire team has woken up from a bad dream and is alert.

The Western Conference run down will appear in the next week or two, so check back for the Los Angeles Kings climb, The Red Wings injury woes, and the sensational team in St. Louis making believers out of Blues fans.

Winter Classic Wonders

If you haven’t noticed, the Winter Classic is days away. After your New Year’s hangover tune in on Jan. 2 for a classic match between the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers. I won’t spew a bunch of numbers or stats, rather top reasons to watch:

1. Jaromir Jagr– legend in his own time for both his skill on the ice and off. Jagr was formerly the captain of the New York Rangers and took the city by storm with his skill, hair and partying. The classic hockey hair is the mullet of Jagr.

2. Henrik Lundqvist– called King Henry by his followers and fans who hate him, he is the best of the best in his craft of goaltending. Watch him make ridiculously spectacular saves in the face of sticks and pucks flying at his pretty face. He won’t flinch or cry at all.

3. Claude Giroux– one of the most talented skaters on the ice. The Flyers have a piece of hockey gold with this one and expect some skilled offensive play with his 46 points on the year.

4. GAS LINE- Marian Gaborik, Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan have made this line for the Rangers the buzz on the streets of Broadway and beyond. Watch and enjoy the cohesion and concept of offensive maneuvers these guys create.

5. Peter Laviolette– coach of the Flyers will look calm and cool compared to the other man on the Rangers bench. But don’t be fooled. Laviolette shoved Dallas Stars Steve Ott recently. He has turned the Flyers into a powerhouse of impressive players. It’s fascinating to watch the interaction on the bench and see how it transcribes on ice.

6. John Tortorella– on the other bench is Torts, the Rangers coach who will be shouting or hanging his head at some dumb move from the Blueshirts. His crew is young, talented, but not always the smartest. He’s entertaining for sure.

7. Carl Hagelin- this Michigan rookie is shocking the hockey community with his speed and go-to presence on the ice. New York fans are tough to win over, but he’s charmed them by the style of his play and his fabulous hair.

8. Brad Richards– has taken over as gossip column king dating Olivia Munn. His start with the Rangers was slow, but now he’s jump-started to produce almost every game.

9. The outdoor game– outdoor hockey games are the purest form of hockey. Can’t get better than that.

10. The rivalry- Only 90 miles apart, the Flyers and Rangers are fierce rivals. Bitter and promised to be a battle beyond last years Caps/Pens game.

Living in southern New Jersey, there is a split between Philly fans and New York fans. The Winter Classic  2012 represents Atlantic hockey in the eastern US and plenty of viewers will recall fond times when these two have met before. Families may be divided, friends may jeer against each other, but it’s all in good hockey fun. Happy New Year!!

Hockey Holiday Highlights

Kicking off the holiday season, Chanukah starts tonight and the Christmas countdown has begun. Between your menorah lighting, your shopping panic and the family fun and frantic, the best gift to yourself is to take in some of the hockey highlights happening this week.

Hockey Santa
Tues. Dec. 20  7:00 EST
New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils– Classic Hudson Valley rivalry as the Devils are on a four-game winning streak. The Blueshirts of Broadway have held their own, but King Henry has been iffy in goal lately. New York’s pesky agitator Sean Avery and Jersey’s rock-em-sock-em David Clarkson could bump into a brawl at some point. Great rivalry for the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division.
Wed. Dec. 21 10:00 EST
Detroit Red Wings at Vancouver Canucks– Nothing is like watching the Red Wings at Xmas time. Santa suits on ice. Vancouver oozes talent with the Sedins, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows. The Wings boast Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and goalie Jimmy Howard. The list goes on and even Santa can’t keep up.
Thurs. Dec. 22 9:30 EST
Minnesota Wild at Edonton Oilers-Two of the hottest teams going with young talent at helm. Watch top draft picks Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins host Dany Heatley and Kyle Brodziak. Both teams are currently on a four-game losing streak.

Thurs. Dec. 22 10EST
Anaheim Ducks visit Los Angeles Kings– With plenty of talent, the Kings need to shake off their poor start and impress their new coach. The Ducks have weapons in Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, but can they surpass the goaltending of the Kings Quick? If you’re up wrapping present, catch this SoCal battle.

Fri. Dec. 23 7EST
Philadelphia Flyers at the New York Rangers– Precursor to the Winter Classic. The teams are pumped, so this is a Friday night celebration. Flyers Jaromir Jagr, ex-Rangers captain returns to the Garden for a holiday shebang. Settle in and check your holiday lists or exchange your Chanukah gift.

Fri. Dec. 23 10:30 EST
Los Angeles Kings visit San Jose Sharks- It’s the battle of SoCal vs. NoCal. Still wrapping and up late, check out this showcase of Sharks with Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Dan Boyle as they blast their way to Hockeywood taking on Anze Kopitar and Jack Johnson. Get warm and toasty and snuggle in.

No games on Christmas Eve or Christmas, but check your local listings for the week leading up to the Winter Classic on Jan. 2 when the New York Rangers travel to Philadelphia.

 

New York Skate of Mind

Finally, Rangers fans have their razzmatazz back on Broadway, or do they?  News out of training camp created an impeccable look into the metamorphosis of the New York Rangers. Despite a loss to the New Jersey Devils in preseason, the Rangers have an incredible group of players who will overcome any obstacle, particularly if coach Torts has anything to say about it. So why are they sitting last in the division?

Considered by The Hockey News for the Jack Adams award for best coach, John Tortorella won with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, and he will win again. With the cast of talent in New York, the playoff run will surpass the past few season. Filling in the gaps will bring the Rangers the stature the team, Torts and the fans expect from an Original Six team. Fan-fave Sean Avery was given the boot and possibly took the energy with him. While Torts and Avery clashed, the talent on the team now did surpass Avery’s abilities over the long haul.

The New York Rangers paid a pretty penny to secure dominance in the New York market with the addition of Brad Richards. Richards is excited to be playing in New York, but has he been distracted by the huge crowds eyeing his every move? Are the Rangers able to deliver on their preseason prowess or will they find Richards a bust in the Big Apple? Too soon to tell Rangers fans. Let Ryan Callahan lend his captaincy to the cause. The Rangers looked good and they have the tools to do it, eventually.

How about those Buffalo Sabres? Great team concept with Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, Christian Ehrhoff, Tyler Myers, Robyn Regehr and the entire cast of the Sabres who could become the New York team fans are cheering about on Broadway. Ryan Miller’s blueliners are showing more cohesion and so it was planned to stop that gap effectively showcasing Miller’s abilities. Be true Buffalo fans and allow those bandwagon fans to cheer because when was the last time that happened?

Tavares has brought the New York Islanders the franchise player the Island wanted. Not quite the fisherman of yore, but steering the boat nicely. The return of Evgeni Nabokov looks like a nice fit by the confidence in goal against the Rangers over the weekend. With Ricky D out again, anything can happen in net.

Fisherman logo

Islanders Vintage Logo

The New Jersey Devils are close behind with their confidence in their new coach and new system in play. The nagging issue remains in net with Martin Brodeur an iffy healthy mainstay. Johan Hedberg is no slouch. Hedberg served with the Penguins and is familiar with the demands in this division. Look for the Devils to add players as needed- recent rumor for Kyle Turris.

The Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins make this division an enticing race. With Jagr’s return and Sidney Crosby slated to return soon, the Pennsylvania teams will lace up and tighten the race for New York’s teams.

Let the bashing begin…

I usually don’t bash my fellow hockey fans, but I can’t resist this one. In an open letter to the Colorado Avalanche on a popular fan site, a “fan” ripped apart each player for the Avs declining season. It’s one thing to comment on their play, but to rip them apart on a personal level shows the lack of sportsmanship and love of the sport. Only Chris Stewart received a somewhat positive cheer as he has returned to the line-up. I’d really like to see this “fan” strap on some skates and do any better. Yeah, bet you’d fall on your face. The season isn’t over yet! The crap written about Matt Duchene and Kevin Shattenkirk are rude and have nothing to do with the game. This putz of a fan bashes personally because he must not know how the game is played. If an Avs player did what Sean Avery did with “sloppy seconds” then have at ’em, but they didn’t. And so it goes in Denver. Bandwagons came across the prairie and into Colorado apparently way back when. I know a die-hard Avs fan that cannot stand fellow Avs fans because of shit like this.

The lack of attendance at any Avalanche game is appalling. Kroenke Sports needs to sell and move back to Quebec to make some money and for the fans who actually appreciate the game. Truly, what the hell does Shattenkirk’s hair have to do with winning games? One of the Avs best players, Matt Duchene, was chided for drinking vodka so therefore he’s a commie according to this fan’s rant. Oh, yeah, that’s right; Duchene needs to beer bong it with some Coors. Even the return of Peter Forsberg has created a lackluster effect on the fans, who doubt his ability. He’s been signed to help with the playoffs, and boost morale. God knows-good energy isn’t coming from the fans.

Hear me out. I subscribe to plenty of fan sites, but I’ve taken this one off of my list. The ignorance is beyond reproach. If you talk like this about the Rangers, they’ll just yell in your face. Trust me, I know first-hand. I once posted a story on Sean Avery criticizing his play, not his personal issues, and I got bashed. If this kind of nonsense found its way to Detroit, expect a seriuos eye roll and snub. And that’s the nice version. If a fan wrote an open letter to the Wings bashing Datsyuk or Zetterberg, your fanship would be revoked. Comments like this about the Flyers- we wouldn’t see you for days. It’s one thing to remark on how to improve the game constructively, but take your slander elsewhere. Seriously, referring to Brandon Yip’s name sounding like “his dog’s diarrhea” is beyond childish. It’s asinine. The comments on the post were all in support of this playground taunting. The site claims it is a “despicable” hockey blog but really it’s all based on cheap shots of people who can’t defend themselves. NHL players are actually people.

Many of the posts on the blog rip apart the Red Wings too, as if they want to be a Red Wings blog. The editor of this blog is a decent guy but his contributors are out of control. If the open letter was supposed to be funny, maybe there would be hope, but it wasn’t. A 3rd grader could have written a better post. Trash talk is supposed to be in jest poking at an opponent’s team, but maybe this guy believes if he bullies the team their play will improve. He does sign off with a spirited Go Avs! I say, go jump in Grand Lake! Rants stem from frustration. Don’t you think the players are frustrated? Probably, and they are adjusting the best they can. Perhaps that wacky Shattenkirk hairdo inspires his play. And don’t forget, Kevin Porter was the Hobey Baker winner in 2008 as Captain of the Michigan Wolverines, so his career isn’t on the same level working as a “porter” that the douchebag claims in his post. The highly PC comment for defensman David Koci was, “f**king concentration camp guard. How the f**k are you so sweet and gentle?” Huh? A self-proclaimed Avaholic was responsible for this post. He wants the players to be motivated by these positive concepts and do better. Ha!

I wore my Red Wings jersey to all the Avs games I attended, but I was never taunted like that. Actually, true fans of hockey love the rivalry talk and can respect the other team involved. It’s easy to take digs when you’re not face-to-face with a player. Being in the public eye does lend itself to criticism but most AHL and NHL players let it roll. They also avoid the commentary because it hinders their game. I’d love to see this guy say his f***ing rants to at least one of those players. Maybe, next time I see Kevin Porter or Shattenkirk I could arrange that.

The players of the Colorado Avalanche are normal nice guys who want to win. There is always talk about how the Avalanche don’t really want it, or they don’t play with heart. What team goes out on the ice each night to lose? Which player forgets to turn on his heart as game time approaches? The fans ripped on them last year and the year before, especially trying to lose to get a better draft pick. Their support is limited to winning. I ask Avs fans to consider that maybe their support can help the team win games. I think I’ll stick with fans who actually give a crap about the game and know how to play the game on and off the ice. I’m disappointed in the Avs hockey community for supporting this type of nonsense. I’ve met so many wonderful Avs fan via my blog, at morning skates, and at training camp who should be better represented. Kudos to those fans still in the game. Hockey isn’t about being an asshole, it’s about shutting up and letting the players play the game.

Blackhawks Down, Flyers Up

The race for the Stanley Cup has pitted two unlikely picks to move forward, but both teams have some super powers to unleash which will make this unique combination a great series. The Chicago Blackhawks are ready to get down to business and bring the Cup home. The Flyers are pumped up and ready to get things started. So who’s going to hoist it this year?

The Blackhawks have been building from a dusty past. The surge in strength skipped a generation and is now a rip-roaring party for the new generation of Blackhawks fans. Dustin Bfugylien is the most underrated player on the team. His name is mentioned as a great player, but in the past he’s been a hit or miss. Now, his contribution to the team can explode further as he lends might and confidence to the game.

Captain Jonathan Toews has created cohesion within the team. Each game holds a goal, an assist or a hit from any one of the guys. The unsung hero is Joel Quenneville leaving the basement Avs and culminating in a conference championship two years after taking over in Chicago. And he’s going to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Good luck Chicago, who is the heavy favorite, but the Flyers will stick it to you. You can’t underestimate the talent that has been brewing in Philly either. With similar goaltending issues, the story is on the group dynamics. The Flyers have a cohesive team and good depth as any one of those guys could score at any time. I’m not making predictions, but I’m more interested in watching the Flyers play. I’m also rooting for University of Denver alum, Matt Carle. I watched him play at the Ritchie Center and have been following him San Jose to Philly.

When the series gets heated, look forward to some scrappiness from Bfugylien, Eager, Hartnell and Carcillo. Though the odds in Vegas scream Chicago, I’m not betting on anyone. The Blackhawks are not viewing this as a walk in the park either. A series win for Chicago would mean so much on so many levels. Philly can’t believe they are still playing this season. The expectations need to be put aside for now. It’s anyone’s game.

Crazy Cup Year

Three teams are out that no one thought would be out. The Presidents’ Trophy winners, the Washington Capitals; the reigning Stanley Cup champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins; and the iconic Detroit Red Wings will not grace the cover of magazines hoisting the Cup. This is the year of the crazy cup race.

The top two seeds in the Western Conference and the last two teams to get in for the Eastern Conference converge in a playoff series unlike most have ever seen. Emerging stars in the NHL are making a name for themselves this season, while old favorites are finally getting their due time.  Here are some notable personalities in this crazy cup race:

Michael Cammalleri- Montreal Canadiens

I’ve been following him since he played with the Los Angeles Kings. His injuries this season sidelined him for most of February, but returned just in time to push the Montreal Canadiens up the ladder to grab the last playoff spot. He has twelve goals in the playoffs matching records set by some of Montreal’s greatest players. Cammalleri deserves this fantastic trip he’s on always giving his all and it shows.

Joe Pavelski- San Jose Sharks

His name was flopped around fantasy leagues as a recommended pickup, but who knew this would be the year for Pavelski? He led the playoffs in scoring until Cammalleri broke the bank. Pavelski plays hard as if the other players are just minor inconveniences on his way to the net. Expect explosive plays from Pavelski.

Dan Boyle- San Jose Sharks

He’s had some hard luck in the series with the Avalanche, but rebounded with scoring. Boyle is also due some good karma. Praised as a top-five defenseman in the league, Boyle can electrify his way to the Cup. He’s a smart D-guy who’s always on the puck, but still minding his blueline.

Daniel Carcillo- Philadelphia Flyers

Nicknamed,” Car Bomb,” is no surprise. Fans don’t know if he’ll be scoring or getting a suspension. And the Flyers fans love that about him. He’s their secret weapon. Broad Street fans have a rousing number of tough guys to love with Scott Hartnell, and Arron Asham, but Carcillo brings a raw in-your-face attitude to the game. Some may criticize his penalties hurting the club, but sometimes the rebel rouser can get things fired up including scoring.

Dustin Byfuglien- Chicago Blackhawks

He’s been on fire in the playoffs! Super player, but lacked that spark all year. Buff is one of those all-around players whose contribution to the game may go unnoticed, but his skills lurk and emerge at just the right time. With a hat-trick against the Vancouver Canucks, expect him to play with heart against the Sharks. He’s my bet for the Blackhawks.

Evgeni Nabokov- San Jose Sharks

Yes, the San Jose Sharks have finally made it to the second round of the playoffs. There is hope for them to make it all the way, and Nabokov deserves a big round of applause for being one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. He’s absolutely the best heading into the battle for the Cup as his experience has lent him his composure and fortitude to be a champion.

Jaroslav Halak- Montreal Canadiens

This kid has proven himself, despite several setbacks. He’s beet hot, then not, then benched, and now playing for a chance at the coveted Stanley Cup. The miraculous Montreal Canadiens are a talented group of players, so you have to give it up for Halak making saves on Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, not to mention all the other superstars pummeling the puck Halak’s way.

Hats off to all the great players who have advanced toward Lord Stanley’s Cup. It’s been an amazing playoff run with some unexpected moments that will carry in to the remaining games. Taking the tiger by its tail seems to be the call for this season’s run, as it could be anyone’s game. All the predictions were so far off, and the reluctance to pick the Sharks has been an advantage for San Jose. If the Montreal Canadiens, as the eighth seed, can beat the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals, then the Stanley Cup champs, who’s to say they can’t win the whole enchilada?  I’d like to see them try to get past the San Jose Sharks who are chomping at the bit for their turn to hoist the Stanley Cup in the Shark Tank.