On Tap For Today — Colorado at Vegas; 6:00 pm PDT; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SN
NORRIS NOD: Adam Fox (Rangers), Victor Hedman (Lightning), and Cale Makar (Avalanche) were announced as this year’s finalists for the James Norris Memorial Trophy — aka the NHL’s top defenseman. Good luck to all!
P.K. ANALYSIS: Devils defenseman P.K. Subban is set to provide hockey analysis on ESPN for the remainder of the playoffs. Can’t wait for that insight!
ISLAND STORM: The Islanders’ 6-2 Game 6 win over the Bruins means New York and Tampa Bay will meet in the Stanley Cup Semifinals for the second straight year (Last year it was the Eastern Conference Finals!). The two teams are meeting for the first time this season, and the Lightning will hold home-ice advantage.
Top Shelf Thursday — Top-5 NHL Rivalries
With the NHL approaching its 105th season, it is only natural for teams to become heated rivals over the years. Even though some teams have moved or changed divisions, the physicality and competitive nature of the league creates the perfect condition for continued animosity. While there is plenty of bad blood among NHL teams to choose from, these five teams are considered to have the best rivalries throughout the league.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning v. Florida Panthers
If we learned anything from Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it is that this rivalry does not get the proper attention. The Lightning joined the league in 1992. One year later, the Panthers were established. It took 28 years, but these two teams finally met in the playoffs and it was well worth the wait. We can only hope that we don’t need to wait another 28 years for these Florida rivals to face off in the postseason.
4. Philadelphia Flyers v. Pittsburgh Penguins
For anyone questioning this pick may I introduce into evidence the first round playoff match up from April 1, 2012. During this specific postseason game we see a line brawl, a screaming match between coaches — which led to Peter Laviolette being ejected from the game — and former Flyer Scott Hartnell taunting the Pittsburgh Penguins fans behind the Flyer’s bench. Did I mention this all took place in the last 1:05 of the third period?
3. Edmonton Oilers v. Calgary Flames
This is currently the best rivalry in the league. The Battle of Alberta originated when these two team first met on October 22, 1980. The hatred is just as evident now as it was back then. On February 1, 2020 fans witnessed a rare goalie fight between Cam Talbot and Mike Smith after a line brawl emerged. It is always exciting when these two clubs face off and it’s always only a matter of time until the bad blood reaches its boiling point.
2. Detroit Red Wings v. Colorado Avalanche
This rivalry is a classic and favorite among NHL fans. It’s hard to not immediately think of the brawl that took place on March 26, 1997 at Joe Louis Arena. It all started with Claude Lemieux’s hit on Kris Draper in the Conference Finals the previous season, and 301 days later, Darren McCarty finally got his revenge. Of all people on those teams, Igor Larionov started the brawl by going after Peter Forsberg. Then McCarty went after Lemieux, who turtled. Then Patrick Roy came out to protect Lemieux, who was stopped by a flying Brendan Shanahan, who got pulled off of him by Adam Foote, before Mike Vernon squared off with Roy. While things may have cooled off over the years, don’t be surprised if gasoline is poured and flames emerge over the next few seasons.
1. Boston Bruins v. Montreal Canadiens
Did you really think an original six match up wouldn’t top this list? These two teams met for the first time on December 8, 1924. I can’t mention the Bruins and Canadiens heated history without bringing up one of the most violent incidents in league history — the Richard Riot. In 1955 Maurice Richard was high-sticked by Hal Laycoe. Richard went to fight Laycoe and not only attacked his opponent, but eventually hit a linesman who ended up on the ice unconscious. This rivalry may not be as violent today but don’t be fooled — the hatred between these franchises is just as strong.
What Went Wrong
Narrowing down the remaining NHL postseason playing field to four division champions means that another four clubs must fall by the wayside. In conjunction with our “In Memoriam” segment, we are using this space to offer some final words to these vanquished hopefuls.
Well, there’s no shame in losing to the champs. However, the Hurricanes probably could’ve made life a little tougher on the Lightning instead of bowing out in five games — including a series-closing Game 5 shutout loss on home ice.
Simply put, Tampa Bay was the better of the Discover Central Division-residing weather phenomena, and showed it throughout the series. In what was largely a tight, defensive series, it was perennial Norris candidate Victor Hedman and Vezina finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy who held the strongest. During a wild Game 4 that featured eight second period goals, it was the Lightning’s star players — Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Brayden Point — that flashed the club’s superior offensive firepower.
Chin up, Canes fans — a No. 1 seed in a division that featured both of last year’s Stanley Cup finalists and a second round playoff appearance is nothing to sneeze at. Still, there’s a lingering sense that the creators of the “Storm Surge” might have plateaued — or even regressed slightly — since their surprise run to the 2018-19 Eastern Conference Finals. However, for the third straight season, Carolina was sent home in a series that failed to extend beyond five games.
Further complicating the club’s long-term outlook is an upcoming offseason with some turbulent potential. Top blueliner Dougie Hamilton is set to hit the open market and headlines a group of unrestricted free agents that also includes goaltenders James Reimer and Petr Mrazek. There’s also the looming possibility of losing a key depth piece to the Seattle Kraken in July’s Expansion Draft.
Most significantly, however, Carolina must address the future of head coach and Jack Adams Award contender Rod Brind’Amour. It has been reported that Brind’Amour is placing some emphasis on getting contracts for his coaching staff, which might be a point of contention for Tom Dundon and Hurricanes ownership.
Even in a worst case scenario for the Canes this summer, there’s little reason to believe they won’t be firmly in the playoff hunt next spring. That said, there are plenty of questions to answer before the organization can look to take that next step toward Cup contention.
Please join us in a moment of silence for these recently eliminated teams – gone, but never forgotten. We can’t wait until we meet again (the 2021-22 season, of course!), but for now we’ll take this opportunity to reflect on a their brief — but memorable — playoff run.
Dates Active: 1/14/21 – 6/9/21
Cause of Death: Struck down by divine intervention
Last Words: That Brock Nelson has a WICKED wristah!