Top Five Playoff Stories to Look at This Season
Excitement runs through my veins when the topic of the playoffs are mentioned. While there are many disappointments with the teams that didn't make it into the playoffs, there are just as many—or even more—great stories about playoff teams.
For some, many questions have circled teams about whether certain players would step up. And for others, it is more about their story and the surprising way some teams found a way to make it this far.
Playoffs start this Wednesday, and no one could have waited any longer for it to start. So many topics have been circling around the NHL world and no one seems to be able to stop talking about it.
Here are my top five stories coming into the playoffs.
With an Olympic Gold on His Resume, Can Luongo Get the Stanley Cup?
Before the Olympics, no one doubted Luongo's skill and talent. The only question standing in the way of his supremacy in the NHL was whether he could win the big one?
In last year's playoffs, many people weren't impressed with Luongo's performance, especially in the Blackhawks series. After the playoffs, people questioned his ability to play in high pressure games, and were afraid he couldn't win in the big games.
In the Olympics, Luongo silenced the critics when he stepped up and won the Olympic Gold medal as the team's starting man. Throughout the Olympics, Luongo stood his ground and played calm and cool to lead Canada to the win in the big game.
Now that the critics have shortened on the doubt of Luongo's performance, it hasn't silenced them from wondering if he can win the coveted NHL trophy, the Stanley Cup. This year, Luongo has even more support than he did last season, with the outburst of Sedin, who had the most points in the regular season.
Will Luongo be able to help the Vancouver Canucks win the Stanley Cup this year?
How Will the Blackhawks' and Capitals' Goalies Hold Up?
Washington Capitals. Ovechkin. Semin. Backstrom. Theodore? Varlamov? We all know—or at least expect—Ovechkin, Semin and Backstrom to perform at their top performances in the playoffs. But their goalies?
Eh. With Theodore most likely starting the playoffs, no one is expecting any spectacular heroics from him. While the Capitals have incredible offensive talent, their goalies have been an iffy this season.
In last year's playoffs, Jose was named the starting goalie, yet he hugely disappointed and was replaced by Varlamov. While Varmalov showed a name for himself while he was in net, he was embarrassed in the semifinals against Pittsburgh. Not the best path toward winning in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Hopefully for the Caps, their wall between the pipes won't shatter come this year's playoffs.
Chicago Blackhawks. Jonathan Toews. Patrick Kane. Marian Hossa. Antti Niemi? Who expected the young star to steal the job from Huet before the beginning of the season? Antti Niemi has been one of the biggest surprise stories this season, posting up some of the best stats for goalies in the NHL. While 99 percent of people expect Coach Q to start the young star, many have wondered how he would fare in the playoffs.
Yes he has played spectacular the last couple of games, but this is the playoffs. Clean slate. New stats. More pressure. Big expectations. More skill. More desire. How will the newbie fair up in his first NHL playoffs for the Blackhawks?
Can Pittsburgh Repeat?
Repeating is a hard thing to do in the NHL. No team has consecutively won a Stanley Cup since in 1997-98 when the Detroit Red Wings did it. Detroit got close again last season but this very same Pittsburgh team ruined the party.
Even though the Penguins are in the top four of the Eastern Conference, they aren't as dominant as they were last season when they won the Cup. Malkin hasn't been as good as he was last season, and Fleury and the defense aren't as feared as they were one year ago.
Come to think about it, this time last season it was doubtful if Pittsburgh could return to the Stanley Cup playoffs again with the arrival of the new coach. Pittsburgh was also in the exact same standing now coming into the playoffs as they are now. Also, many of the same questions are circulating the Penguins regarding their consistency and if they can beat the big teams.
If Crosby can keep the momentum he has coming into the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins may have a chance of repeating and winning the Stanley Cup.
The Cinderella Story: Phoenix Coyotes
I'm almost speechless. The Coyotes in the playoffs? The Phoenix Coyotes?! That team that barely stayed in Phoenix and that's in bankruptcy? THAT TEAM?
Are there any words to describe their story? I'm in awe of them right now. If someone told me before the season that the Coyotes would make the playoffs, I would probably have laughed at them. Not only making it to the playoffs, but actually have a legit chance to go far. Not just barely making the playoffs, but challenging San Jose for the division title. Wow.
Anyone that follows the NHL would be as inspired as I am. To tell you the truth, I kinda wanted the Coyotes to move to southern Ontario. I was actually praying and begging for them to move. But after this season, I could glue to them to Phoenix myself.
This slide is more about the inspiration of the Coyotes instead of the questioning of how far they can go. To me, it doesn't really matter how far they go, but what's more important is their journey there. But that doesn't mean that I don't want them to get far, or that I am questioning how they can improve to get far. I just want to commemorate the Phoenix Coyotes' journey to the cup and hope that they will get far.
Is This Finally San Jose's Year?
Here we go again. San Jose, once again, is one of the top in the West and is in the playoffs. In the spirit of Chandler from "Friends," "Can this BE anymore predictable?"
With all the talent they have on that team, I'm surprised that they never made it far in the playoffs these last couple of years. Joe Thornton has been under scrutiny about how he just shuts down in the playoffs, and how Nabokov plays frozen when in goal during the playoffs. Every year, all everyone says is "This is the year for the Sharks to step up and win it." And every year, the same people are disappointed.
Luckily for the Sharks this year, they added international superstar Dany Heatley. The trio of Thornton, Heatley, and Marleau have been one of the top NHL lines the whole season, and have yet to disappoint. Although the three may have success this season, they still have much to prove. Thornton has yet been successful in the playoffs. While he may be one of the best assist men in the league, he is one of the worst disappointments in the playoffs.
Healtey was given the diva image after the whole debacle with him and the Ottawa Senators before the season, and is hoping to remove the tag with a Stanley Cup to his name. And Marleau may have had one of his worst offseasons, during which he was stripped of his captaincy because of a disappointing season before.
If the trio and Nabokov can win the coveted trophy, all of them can silence the critics and get rid of the main word put upon them: disappointment.