As we wait for more Syracuse Orange sports news, we’re also taking a look at the pro sports starting back this week. Today it’s the NHL, which kicks off The Stanley Cup Playoffs in the most NHL fashion this weekend. If you need a team to follow, we want to give you a good recommendation.
In case you haven’t been following along, the NHL has established two bubble locations: Eastern Conference teams are in Toronto, Ont. while Western Conference teams are in Edmonton, Alta. The playoffs were expanded from 16 teams to 24 teams with the top four teams in each conference playing a round-robin to determine seeding and the other eight teams facing off in “qualifying rounds”. To make things even more NHL, one of the losing teams in the qualifying round will get the #1 draft pick. If that last part doesn’t make any sense for you that’s a good thing.
Let’s get to the match-ups in the qualifying round. In the East you have John’s New York Rangers taking on the Carolina Hurricanes. Like the other team in Raleigh, the Hurricanes are a bunch of jerks. The Columbus Blue Jackets face the Toronto Maple Leafs and you get the choice of rooting for Torts (loose-cannon Columbus coach John Tortorella) or a team that wins as often as the Boston College Eagles but acts like they were the Clemson Tigers.
The Florida Panthers and New York Islanders play in the Big Ten Noon kickoff series, and in the final matchup it’s Pregler vs. Wall when the Pittsburgh Penguins (Andy’s squad) take on the Montreal Canadiens (Kevin’s). Do my Habs have a chance? Perhaps if Pat Narduzzi takes over behind the bench and decides to use Sidney Crosby as a defensive specialist.
Out in Edmonton, the host Oilers will don their orange uniforms and hope that Connor McDavid (the best player in the world right now) will propel them past the Chicago Blackhawks. Montreal and Chicago are both included in here for the TV ratings — filling the role played by the Miami Hurricanes football team these days. Hockey hotbeds collide when the Arizona Coyotes and Nashville Predators meet, and the final two matchups feature the Vancouver Canucks against the Minnesota Wild and the Calgary Flames versus the Winnipeg Jets.
Two CNY natives will appear in the round-robin games. Cicero’s Joel Farabee is a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, who battle the Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning in the East. Out west, Alex Tuch from Baldwinsville and the Vegas Golden Knights will take on the Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, and Colorado Avalanche.
If you don’t have a vested rooting interest, I’d argue that Columbus is probably the most comparable to recent Syracuse basketball teams. Both feature a head coach who is often short and testy in press conferences and doesn’t particular like officials and won’t hesitate to let them know. Each team might be lacking in well-known stars but they win by grinding the game out with defense and timely scoring. If they are going to advance, they are going to do so by upsetting a popular title choice. It won’t be pretty, but neither really cares about style points.
No matter what you do, though just don’t root for the Bruins or Leafs. Or at least don’t let us know if you’re doing so.