The NHL playoffs began the Conference Final matchups this weekend, which will determine the two teams that will enter the final faceoff to lift the Stanley Cup over their heads. Canada has no teams left in the playoffs, but many players on the four remaining teams are Canadian, and have thousands of loyal fans from the Great White North.
However, the most interesting fact about the final four is that all the remaining teams were Stanley Cup champions within the last four years. The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Detroit Red Wings in 2009, led by Canadian superstar Sidney Crosby, to win their first Stanley Cup in 17 years.
The Chicago Blackhawks, led by fellow Canadian superstar Jonathon Toews, defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in one of the most nail-biting finals in hockey history. The Boston Bruins defeated Canada’s Vancouver Canucks in 2011 in one of the most upsetting losses for Canadian hockey fans. The Los Angeles Kings, in 2012, became the first team in NHL history to enter the playoffs at the bottom seed to win battle after battle, and beat the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup.
At the beginning of the season, sports bettors, hockey analysts, and online casino forums predicted the Stanley Cup Final would be fought between Pittsburgh and Chicago. The odds on the two teams surviving to the finals are slightly higher than their challengers, but the conference battles will be a challenge nonetheless.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are a small, fast team with some of the top playmaking skills on the ice. However, the Boston Bruins are arguably the physically toughest team in the NHL, and possess some of the top shooting snipers in the league. The Penguins also acquired former Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla earlier this season after a noticeable bidding war with the Bruins, which left a scar that may reopen throughout this series.
In the west, the Chicago Blackhawks offense is one of the most unstoppable forces in the NHL, which went the first 25 games of the season without a regulation loss. But LA Kings goaltender Jonathon Quick carried his team to the Stanley Cup last year, and appears ready to do it again this season. Both teams have relatively young rosters with endurance, which will be important as the commute from Chicago to LA will be exhausting.
Bets on the Stanley Cup may be anyone’s game, but the road to the final will be an impressive finish nonetheless.