The NHL’s first round playoffs is down to one game, as the New Jersey Devils take on a New York Rangers team that has a lot of talent. But the other matches seen up until this point leave many fans scratching their heads. There’s been one historic win and one historic defeat, which has led to many teams that were thought to be powerhouses being eliminated from the Stanley Cup race.
Seattle Kraken won 2-1 in Denver over the Colorado Avalanche, champions of the NHL. This was the first year for this franchise on the ice. Seattle increased its total season points by 40 to qualify for playoffs. They were Colorado’s equals throughout the series. The Kraken scored first in every single game and were up for the challenge. They became the first team in history to beat a Stanley Cup champion in their first ever playoff series.
It was not the only shocking outcome of Sunday night.
The President’s Trophy Curse struck again in another exciting series. In a game-7 between the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers, the Bruins were defeated by the curse. Since 1986, the President’s Trophy has been awarded to the team that had the best regular-season record. Only half a dozen teams won the Stanley Cup in the same year. Since the Chicago Blackhawks achieved this feat in 2008, no team has made it past the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
After Boston’s most dominant season in the history of the league, the Florida Panthers shocked them in a thrilling manner. Boston set records for wins and points, but they lost only 12 games during regulation. They faced a Florida squad that had more points than Boston, and was closer to being the worst team of the league. There were other reasons behind this upset. The first was that one team had been on cruise control, while the second has been in the playoffs for over a month.
Florida, which was last year’s President Trophy team, was just outside of the playoff bubble with weeks left in the season. They needed to pass teams, a task that is difficult late in a season. Florida, the President Trophy winning team from last year, had been battling injury issues all year, including both goalies going down twice. But they recovered and started a six game win streak in October, and with only two games left, they managed to secure the final playoff spot with an overtime defeat. Boston was a unique match.
The Panthers were the only team to beat Boston twice in the entire season. The Panthers showed up three times to win in Boston during the series. The Bruins were the only team to score five goals at home this year, but the Panthers scored half a dozen against them in the second game. The Cats also had another historic marker to their favor. The last 60-game winning team to fall in the playoffs, was the Tampa Bay Lightning of 2019. They were stunned by the Columbus Blue Jackets who relied heavily on Sergei Bobrovsky as their goaltender. The same goalie made some outstanding saves in order to help Florida win this series after trailing 3-1.
The Panthers’ ability to forget games is one of their hallmarks during the second half. They often showed a tendency to forget about mistakes or falling behind and then find ways to win. They fell behind, but they never wavered. Matthew Tkachuk, the forward who won game 5 in Boston told his teammates to get used to their locker room as they would return there.
In the final, the game was full of extremes. Florida’s two-goal advantage in the third quarter was erased by the Bruins, but in the very last minute, the Cats tied the score. Carter Verhaeghe scored the winning goal in overtime with a wrist-shot from a bar. The Boston Garden was silent except for the cheers of the visitors who mobbed by the boards.
In the current situation, we’ve seen the Lightning lose to the Maple Leafs in this first round of the playoffs. The Lightning was the best team (and historically the best) in the league. This wide-open field could lead to anything. Toronto, the Edmonton Oilers, or the all-Canadian Finals could happen.
Nothing can be predicted for the future after the demise of the greatest team in history.