Saturday, May 11, 2019

And then there were four

And then there were four: San Jose, St. Louis, Carolina, and Boston. Four teams: one purpose. The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are down to the Conference Finals. One team needs only eight more wins to hoist the storied Cup and subsequently have their names etched on the chalice for eternity. Who will it be?

Last year’s Champion, the Washington Capitals were knocked out in round one. Face it folks, this not a sport for the weak-hearted. It is a tough game to watch and even harder to play. Just ask Alex Ovechkin. The Hockey News in their annual Playoff Power Ranking issue picked the Winnipeg Jets to win it all.

That didn’t pan out.

Neither did their second place team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa, by the way, won the President’s Trophy’s the number one team overall in the regular season for the best record overall.

Who was predicted to be third in the placings? None other than the San Jose Sharks. Funny, in the top ten predicted placings by THN, only San Jose and Boston are alive. Boston was ranked fifth. St. Louis was twelfth and thirteenth.

I guess the teams didn’t read that particular issue.

Boston finished second in the Atlantic division and second overall in the Eastern conference. Carolina was the wild card winner for the Metropolitan division and finished seventh overall in the Eastern conference.  San Jose completed the regular season second in the Pacific and second in the western Conference. St. Louis was third in the Central division and fifth in the Western conference overall. Boston and San Jose will have home ice advantage. Should San Jose advance to the Stanley Cup final, they will have the home ice advantage.

Boston’s best player during the regular season was Brad Marchand with 31 goals and 56 assists for 87 points.  Brad had 30 power play goals and averaged 1.21 points per game.  Carolina’s number one guy for the regular season was Sebastian Aho with 30 goals and 48 assists for a total of 78 points. Sebastian had 22 power play goals and averages 1.10 points per game. Vladimir Tarasenko headed the stats for St. Louis with 28 goals and 30 assists for 58 points. Vladimir had 19 power play goals and averaged 0.87 points per game. Brent Burns is the leader for San Jose with 13 goals and 62 assists for a total of 75 points. Brent had 26 power play goals and averaged 1.03 points per game.

In playoff stats, Boston has the best penalty kill percentage at 84.6%, San Jose is next at 80.8%, St. Louis weighs in with 75%, and Carolina is 75%. Boston has the best power play with 28.6%, San Jose has 18.5%, St. Louis is next with 17.1%, and then Carolina is last with 10.5%. In face-off wins, Boston again heads the field with 59.3%, followed by the Sharks at 51.1%, then Carolina at 50%, finally St. Louis at 48.9%.

The Sharks fans can finally lay to rest the conspiracy theories. In round one, playing the Las Vegas Golden Knights, the Sharks were down three games to one. A feeling of dejavu was in the air (remember the LA series?). In the third period of game five, Joe Pavelski was the target of a cross-check by Cody Eakin and hit by Paul Stastny. In what will be sure to be a debated call for years, San Jose was awarded a five minute power play while Eakin was assessed a game misconduct. During the power play, San Jose scored four goals and turned the series around to win it. During the series with the Avalanche, a disallowed goal spurred on San Jose in game seven to get the win.

Who has the momentum to go all of the way? The stats say the final two contenders will be San Jose and Boston. I’d like to see those two teams go head-to-head with San Jose coming out on top. San Jose is due and Joe Thornton would certainly love to hoist that Cup. He is at that age where he has to decide how many more years he wants to stay in the game. Die-hard Sharks fans (like me) have been waiting for the Cup to come to San Jose as an earned TROPHY, not just as a fun relic passing through.

It is San Jose’s year. Go Sharks!

Stay safe out there.

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