Perhaps the most anti-climatic goal in playoff overtime history, but it still counts. The Chicago Blackhawks had an unbelievable ride to the top this past season, and they deserved to win the Stanley Cup.
Just a few days later, it’s already time to start looking ahead to next season. The NHL draft is only a couple of weeks away, as well as the award ceremony. On June 22nd, the NHL master schedule will be released, but we already know one game on it. Pittsburgh will host the Capitals at Heinz Field on New Year’s Day 2011.
Numerous experts have looked at the top players for the entry draft, but the lists haven’t stopped changing. Everyone’s rankings are different, but their opinions don’t matter too much anyways. It’s Edmonton and Boston who will have the first two picks.
There were plenty of unexpected surprises over the past year, some good and some bad. At the start of the 2009-2010 season, not many people saw Phoenix or Colorado going to be contenders in the playoffs. Colorado ended up finishing with 43 wins for 95 points, but were bounced out in the first round by San Jose. Still, it was a great run for Craig Anderson and the Avalanche.
The Coyotes had a few other problems besides low expectations. The team was on the verge of going bankrupt and moving out of Phoenix. While negotiations were going on, the Coyotes stepped up their game. Phoenix finished with 50 wins for 107 points, but they also lost in the first round. They put up a good fight against Detroit but lost game seven by a 6-1 score.
The playoffs raised more questions when the six, seven, and eight seeds in the Eastern Conference advanced to second round. Philadelphia’s road to the Cup was one that they will never forget. Average players like Ville Leino and Dustin Byfuglien became household names for hockey fans.
The Edmonton Oilers finished dead last in the NHL with just 27 wins and 62 points. The Oilers had a -70 goal differential and won only nine out of 41 games on the road. A first round pick in this year’s draft can hopefully help Edmonton get back to winning ways.
The Bruins had arguably the greatest collapse during the playoffs. After taking a three games to none lead against the Flyers, the Bruins couldn’t finish it off. Philadelphia won game four in overtime, then games five and six as well. Boston completed the embarrassment by giving up a three goal lead in game seven and was eliminated by Philadelphia.
Three goaltenders were nominated for the Vezina Trophy during the season. Ryan Miller, Ilya Bryzgalov, and Martin Brodeur are all up for the award. It’s hard to believe that not even one of these goaltenders was able to lead their team past the first round of the playoffs.
Next season is already shaping up to be a good one. The free agents will hit markets on July 1st, and the teams will be in action. For now, it’s time to relax and congratulate the Chicago Blackhawks for winning their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.