2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round Predictions

The opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs might have been the greatest postseason round ever. Five of the eight first-round series went the distance. Two winner-take-all contests were decided in overtime. Two more series had their Game 7s decided by just a lone goal. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Sure, there were a few blowout games here and there, but the margins between series-winning teams and series-losing teams in the playoffs has never been closer. Eight teams survived the opening round, including seven that finished in the top nine in points during the regular season. I predicted the five of those eight victorious teams in the first round.

Stanley Cup favorite Colorado had the only sweep of the first round. However, life will be much tougher for the Avalanche in the second round facing a battle-tested St. Louis squad. Two famed rivalry series will play out in second round, with the Battle of Alberta commencing again between Calgary and Edmonton, while the Comeback Cats (Florida) will try to dethrone two-time defending champion Tampa Bay in the second straight meeting between the Sunshine State rivals. In the Atlantic Division finals, perennial contender Carolina will try to take the next step against the up-and-coming New York Rangers.

With four terrific matchups, the Division Finals round should continue to be must-watch television. Here are my predictions for the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Eastern Conference Semifinals Preview

Atlantic Division Finals

1. Florida Panthers (defeated Washington in 6 games in the first round) vs. 3. Tampa Bay Lightning (defeated Toronto in 7 games in the first round)

Florida underwhelmed in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. If it wasn’t for forward Carter Verhaeghe’s coming-out party, the Panthers would be spending the second round on the golf course. The Comeback Cats struggled in the early going of most games against Washington, but found a late gear to overwhelm the Capitals. Verhaeghe was unstoppable throughout the six-game series, and leads all Eastern Conference players with six goals and 12 points in the playoffs. Verhaeghe had excellent chemistry with Claude Giroux (seven points), who is giving the Panthers everything they hoped for as a trade deadline acquisition. For Florida to continue its run, other forwards like Jonathan Huberdeau and Sam Reinhart, as well as starting goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (4-2-0, 2.79 GAA, .906 SP), will have to be significantly better. With a series win under their belts, and a matchup against archrival Tampa Bay in round two, I expect the Panthers to find another gear.

Tampa Bay’s run at its third straight Stanley Cup nearly ended at the hands of a Toronto. The perennial playoff underachievers gave the Lightning everything they could handle in the first round. The Maple Leafs at times lit up stellar goaltender Andrei Vasilevsky (4-3-0, 3.04 GAA, .897), and Tampa Bay’s depth lines were outplayed by Toronto’s. Still the Lightning’s stars came to play. Nikita Kucherov (team-leading eight points), Victor Hedman (seven points), and Steven Stamkos all had strong first-round series. Ross Colton (team-leading three goals), Nicholas Paul, and newcomer Brandon Hagel did as well. The big concern for the Lightning is the health of playoff standout Brayden Point, who got badly injured in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs. Tampa Bay will need all hands on deck to defeat the deep and talented Panthers.

While Tampa Bay dispatched Florida a year ago, I think this is the year that the Panthers finally gain supremacy in the battle for Florida. They have deeper squad than the Lightning, and now know what it takes to win a playoff series. I like the Panthers to knock out the two-time defending champions in six games.

Metropolitan Division Finals

1. Carolina Hurricanes (defeated Boston in 7 games in the first round) vs. 2. New York Rangers (defeated Pittsburgh in 7 games in the first round)

While it wasn’t the prettiest of series victories, Carolina finally ousted playoff nemesis Boston in a decisive Game 7. The Hurricanes failed to win any road games in the series, but dominated the Bruins on home ice. Coach Rod Brind’Amour took full advantage of having last change in Raleigh to deploy his outstanding defense. Carolina’s top blue-line pair of Jaccob Slavin (team-leading eight points) and Brett Pesce, playing behind the tight-checking Jordan Staal line, stifled Boston’s attack. While the Hurricanes were without Frederik Andersen in the first round, backup Antti Raanta (3-2-0, 2.37 GAA, .927 SP) had a strong series. Both will likely play in the second round against New York. While Carolina’s top offensive players were quiet against the Bruins, its impressive depth overwhelmed Boston. Four different players (Vincent Trocheck, Seth Jarvis, Nino Niederreiter, and Andrei Svechnikov) led the team with three goals in the first round. The Rangers, who like Boston lack defensive depth, will struggle to contain all four Carolina lines and the Hurricanes’ superior depth.

Of all the teams that advanced to the second round, the least deserving was the New York Rangers. New York was outplayed throughout its series against Pittsburgh and needed seven games plus overtime to oust a Penguins squad that spent most of the series without their top two goaltenders. New York’s top players willed them to a series win. Offensive weapons Mika Zibanejad (team-leading 11 points), Chris Kreider (team-leading five goals), Andrew Copp (seven points), and Artemi Panarin (seven points), were all outstanding. As were defensemen Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba. Those elite talents saved the Rangers, as New York’s bottom two lines, back-end defense, and likely Vezina Trophy winning goaltender Igor Shesterkin (4-2-0, 3.67 GAA, .910 SP) were all a mess against the Penguins. Carolina is a far deeper team than Pittsburgh, and unless things change for the Rangers, this could be a short series.

Carolina seems poised for a deep run after working out some issues against Boston. Meanwhile, New York survived Pittsburgh, but were heavily outplayed throughout. The Hurricanes will expose the same weaknesses on New York that the Penguins did, and that spells trouble for the Rangers. I see the Carolina advancing over New York in five games.

Western Conference Semifinals Previews

Central Division Finals

1. Colorado Avalanche (defeated Nashville in 4 games in the first round) vs. 3. St. Louis Blues (defeated Minnesota in 7 games in the first round)

Colorado was easily the most dominant team in the first round. With the exception of Nashville goaltender Connor Ingram’s unbelievable performance in Game 2, the Avalanche lit up the Predators early and often, coasting to a four-game series sweep. Defenseman Cale Makar was a monster, scoring three goals and 10 points in the four games against Nashville. Colorado’s other stars also shone bright, as Nathan MacKinnon (team-leading five goals), Gabriel Landeskog (six points), and Mikko Rantanen, were terrific. The Avalanche showed surprising depth in the first round against the Predators in all facets of the game. Most notably, the additions of Devon Toews (three goals) and Josh Manson to the blue line paid immediate dividends against Nashville. Starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper suffered a freak injury in goal in the first round but sounds likely to return against St. Louis. In his absence Pavel Francouz made all the saves he needed to. However, Kuemper will be needed to slow down the juggernaut that is the Blues’ offense. 

Arguably the most impressive series win in the first round was St. Louis’ six-game dismantling of the Minnesota Wild—a team picked by many to win the Stanley Cup. The Blues were firing on all cylinders offensively going into the playoffs and that continued against Minnesota. Snipers David Perron (team- leading nine points), Ryan O’Reilly, and Vladimir Tarasenko each scored five goals against the Wild, while depth scorers like Jordan Kyrou and Paul Buchnevich (team-leading four assists) were terrific as well. In goal, 2019 Cup winner Jordan Binnington (3-0-0, 1.67 GAA, .943 SP) retook the net he lost to Ville Husso during the regular season, and he looks ready to backstop a deep run. Binnington and the banged-up Blues’ defense (which bent but didn’t break against Minnesota), will have their hands full trying to slow down Colorado.

If the Blues are healthy on defense, this should be a terrific series. St. Louis plays a heavy brand of hockey and has superior forward depth. Both of these things have caused Colorado issues in prior postseasons. However, it feels like it is the Avalanche’s year, and this deepest Colorado squad to date. I see the Avalanche surviving and advancing in seven games over the Blues. 

Pacific Division Finals

1. Calgary Flames (defeated Dallas in 7 games in the first round) vs. 2. Edmonton (defeated Los Angeles in 7 games in the first round)

It took seven games plus an overtime session for the Calgary to finally knock off the Dallas Stars and advance to the second round. However, that really doesn’t tell the whole story of their first-round series. While Dallas had its moments early on, and rode the play of red-hot goaltender Jake Oettinger to a near-upset, the Flames found their sea legs in the later games and were the better team overall. Calgary had its troubles scoring goals throughout the first round, but its big three forwards Johnny Gaudreau (team-leading eight points), Matthew Tkachuk, and Elias Lindholm (team-leading three goals), found their magic touch late in the series. On defense the Flames tightened up, and their depth was strong against Dallas. However, standout blue liners Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson must find their games quickly against a far more talented Edmonton squad. In goal Jacob Markstrom (4-3-0, 1.53 GAA, .943 SP) was terrific against the Stars. Life will get much tougher for the veteran against the Oilers.

Edmonton’s roller coaster of a season continued right into the first round of the playoffs. The Oilers played awesome hockey in the first three games, winning two in blowout fashion. However, Edmonton looked lost in the next couple of games against Los Angeles, who seized the momentum. With another early playoff exit seeming likely, captain Connor McDavid willed the Oilers into the second round. His 14 playoff points lead all scorers, and he was unstoppable in the final three games against the Kings. The Oilers found some depth behind him with strong performances from Evander Kane (who has seven goals to lead all active playoff scorers) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Edmonton’s defense played well against Los Angeles, especially Evan Bouchard and Cody Ceci. That also includes ageless goaltender Mike Smith (4-3-0, 2.29 GAA, .938 SP), who at 40 years old won his first playoff series since 2012. The biggest question mark going for Edmonton going into their matchup against Calgary is the health of forward Leon Draisaitl (nine points). The Oilers’ “other” star was terrific against Los Angeles, but was clearly laboring throughout Game 7.

While Dallas wasn’t a great matchup for Calgary, Edmonton is. The Flames can use their superior defense to slowdown the high-flying Oilers. Calgary is also a far deeper team as far as its forwards, and that should result in some offensive opportunities for its bottom six. Despite all that, I’m still picking Edmonton in this series because I think their defense is underrated and looked solid against the Kings. Plus McDavid played like a man possessed in the first-round. If it continues that alone might be enough to beat the Flames. I’ve got the Oilers knocking out Calgary in seven games.

The Rest of the Playoffs

Conference Finals

Florida defeats Carolina in seven games

Colorado sweeps Edmonton in four games

2022 Stanley Cup Final Prediction

Colorado defeats Florida in six games

2021 Stanley Cup Final Preview

There are storylines a-plenty in a 2021 Stanley Cup Final featuring two teams from the same division (during a non-pandemic year), the Tampa Bay Lightning versus the Montreal Canadiens. One team, Tampa Bay, is on track to enter the NHL’s history books as one of the greatest teams ever with a victory in this series. The other, Montreal, has a chance to be perhaps the league’s most unlikely champion and the first team from Canada to win a title since 1993. This is also setting up to a titanic clash of styles: the offensively gifted Lightning face the playoffs’ best defensive team.

Who will the 2021 Stanley Cup? Here is how the matchup breaks down:

Tampa Bay Lightning (Central Division Champion) vs. Montreal Canadiens (North Division Champion)

Tampa Bay took out the New York Islanders to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second straight year. The road was hardly easy. This year, the Lightning disposed of a talented Florida squad, as well as a very game Carolina Hurricanes team. By beating two good teams convincingly, it might be time to start calling Tampa Bay one of the league’s best teams ever if another title is in the cards. Only once in the last 23 years has the Stanley Cup champion repeated in back-to-back seasons.

The Lightning can beat opponents at whatever type of game they want to play. Do you want to play a high-scoring track meet? Nikita Kucherov (NHL-leading 27 playoff points), Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point (NHL-leading 14 playoff goals) lead an electric offense. Do you want to play a low-scoring, tight-checking game? Tampa Bay might be the best defensive team in the NHL, featuring six terrific blue liners led by Victor Hedman (16 points) and Andrei Vasilevskiy (12-6-0, 1.99 goals-against average, .936 save percentage), the best goalie in the world right now. Do you want to make it rough and physical game against Tampa Bay? The Lightning have plenty of size and grit; Blake Coleman, Ross Colton, Barclay Goodrow, and Pat Maroon are no fun to play against. They are as complete a team as there has been in the salary cap era.

The Canadiens’ storybook run continued with a great playoff upset when they eliminated the Vegas Golden Knights in the semifinals. With a team featuring four terrific defenders (Shea Weber, Joel Edmundson, Jeff Petry, and Ben Chiarot) and a generational goaltender (Carey Price), the Canadiens certainly had the talent on paper to upset Vegas. The most surprising aspect of the series was how Montreal absolutely outplayed the Golden Knights throughout so much of it. The Habs deserve to be here.

Price (12-5-0, 2.02 GAA, .934 SP) has been terrific in the playoffs. Montreal’s hulking four blueliners have taken full advantage of a lax rulebook and poor officiating. The team forced one turnover after another against Vegas — just like it did against Toronto, just like it did against Winnipeg — then took the play the other way. Montreal’s top line of Tyler Toffoli (team-leading five goals and 14 points), Nick Suzuki (team-leading five goals and 13 points), and rookie Cole Caufield mastered this, scoring at will in the six-game series. Caufield, especially, had his breakout performance against the Golden Knights, and Tampa must figure out a way to slow down the budding star. Caufield has plenty of help as Montreal gets contributions from everyone in their lineup.

Tampa Bay struggled at times generating offense against the New York Islanders, and Montreal will ramp up the defensive quotient even higher in this finals series. The Canadiens will look to force turnovers and generate quick offense, but Tampa Bay is a team that generally makes few mistakes with the puck. Certainly, they are much deeper down the middle than the Golden Knights. I expect Montreal to try to slow down the game, but the Lightning will be willing and ready for that, and feature a deadly power play. I do not see any way, other than through Price, for the Canadiens to come out on top — just as it was when they faced off against Vegas. I will take Tampa Bay to win their second straight Stanley Cup in five games, but these will likely all be tight contests.

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Finals Preview

2019 Stanley Cup playoffs

The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs are setting up to have few rivals as far as unpredictability and tight match-ups.

Continue reading “2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Finals Preview”

2018 NHL Second Round Playoff Preview

2018 stanley cup playoffs

The first round of the NHL playoffs managed to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Now all of the eight remaining teams  Nashville, Winnipeg, Tampa Bay, Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh, Vegas or San Jose – are legitimate threats to win another 12 games. I still like a Nashville versus Tampa Bay final, with the Predators winning their first title, but two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh is still dangerous, as are the amazing upstart Golden Knights, who have yet to lose a playoff game.

Atlantic Division Final

1. Tampa Bay (54-23-5—113 points) vs. 2. Boston (50-20-12—112)

Tampa Bay looked very strong in an opening round five-game decision over the overmatched New Jersey Devils. Yet, for whatever reason the Lighting (who finished in first-place in the Eastern Conference) are flying a bit under the radar. The Bolts balance exceptional top-end talent like Nikita Kucherov (five goals and 10 points in the opening round) and Steven Stamkos (six points), who both had great starts to the playoffs, while Andrei Vasilevskiy did his part in goal. Now Tampa Bay will face a much tougher task in Boston, and especially the Bruins’ top-line. Victor Hedman will likely log a ton of ice time and his play along with Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev should determine if the Lightning move on or not.

Boston’s top line of Patrice Bergeron (eight points in six games), Brad Marchand (nine points) and David Pastrnak (playoff-leading 13 points), were the difference in a classic seven-game series win over Toronto. When that line played, the Bruins out-matched the Maple Leafs. Goaltender Tuukka Rask had some rough patches but played well most of the time. Meanwhile, the Bruins’ solid defensive game, anchored by Zdeno Chara alongside Torey Krug (nine points) and rookie Charlie McAvoy, were exposed a bit by Toronto’s speed. Facing a much deeper Lightning squad will test this defensive group’s resolve.

There is not much separating the Atlantic Division’s top two teams offensively or in goal. Therefore this series will likely come down to the blue lines. I think Tampa Bay has a slight edge here, and a slight edge in overall depth. The Lightning also have a true No. 1 defenseman capable of matching up against Boston’s top line. Therefore, I like Tampa Bay to win this series in seven games.

Metropolitan Division Final

1. Washington (49-26-7—105) vs. 2. Pittsburgh (47-29-6—100)

Washington got off to a terrible start to the playoffs and seemed primed for an upset at the hands of Columbus. Down two games to none, coach Barry Trotz replaced Philipp Grubauer with Braden Holtby in goal, and the Capitals woke up on the road. Defenseman John Carlson (nine points) stood out in slowing down the Blue Jackets, while Washington’s big three of Alexander Ovechkin (team-leading five goals), Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom were terrific.

With its offense in high gear, Pittsburgh rolled past Philadelphia in six games. Though Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin got hurt and will miss time in the next round, the combination of Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel were on fire, each posting six goals and 13 points. Matt Murray was fresh in goal, but had a pair of rough games against the Flyers. He and the Penguins’ defense, anchored by Kris Letang, will need to be better to slow down Washington.

For the third straight year Washington and Pittsburgh will face off with the Metropolitan Division on the line. Each team features roster that’s a little bit thinner this time around, and the Capitals are a little weaker on defense. With the Penguins banged up a little bit, this will be Washington’s best shot to finally break through. I think a strong series by Murray and the Crosby-led offense will be enough to carry the Penguins through in seven games.

Central Division Final

1. Nashville (53-18-11—117) vs. 2. Winnipeg (52-20-10—114)

The Nashville Predators needed six games to dispatch young and determined Colorado. Goalie Pekka Rinne had his hands full against the Avalanche’s top snipers, and will need to be much better against the deeper Winnipeg Jets. The positives to take out of round one: top scorer Filip Forsberg (team-leading four goals) was brilliant, and Nashville’s depth on offense shone through as third-liners Austin Watson and Colton Sissons led the team with seven points. The Predators’ defense, led by Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, P.K. Subban and Roman Josi, played well too and will likely contribute even more offensively.

The Winnipeg Jets bull-rushed the undermanned Minnesota Wild in a convincing five-game series. The size and strength of the Jets was on full display as Dustin Byfuglien (team-leading five assists) and Mark Scheifele (team-leading five points) each had great series, as did top scorers Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine. On defense, Tyler Myers and Byfuglien were great, and Winnipeg showed solid depth at every position. The team’s X-factor, goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, showed no signs of let-up after a great season.

Featuring the two top teams in the NHL during the regular season, this should be a titanic second-round series. Winnipeg proved it was legit as a Stanley Cup contender, despite not making the playoffs a year ago. Nashville was hardly perfect in the first round, but did not need to be. The question is whether the Predators can turn on the switch in round two, which I expect them to do. Nashville outlasts Winnipeg in seven epic games.

Pacific Division

1. Vegas (51-24-7—109) vs. 3. San Jose (45-27-10—100)

Though Vegas proved it was for real in the first round, Los Angeles hardly put up a fight with the exception of a double-overtime loss in Game 2. The experienced Kings were completely stifled by the Golden Knights’ defense led by Shea Theodore and Nate Schmidt. Vegas also struggled to score, but William Karlsson got a big tally in Game 4. The Golden Knights rolled four lines relentlessly. Marc-Andre Fleury, an experienced goaltender, makes Vegas dangerous. He was absolutely brilliant in round one, giving up just three goals.

San Jose embarrassed a potential contender in Anaheim, dumping the Ducks in four short games, including an 8-1 blowout in Game 3. The Sharks skated circles around the Ducks and had enough brawn, thanks in part to newcomer Evander Kane, to match up physically with Anaheim. Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl all played well, while the unheralded defense led by Marc-Edouard Vlasic held its ground. Martin Jones, a possible question mark going into the playoffs, was great in goal.

Two well-rested squads will go head-to-head with the Pacific Division playoff crown on the line. San Jose will have the clear experience edge and presents considerably more depth than Los Angeles. Vegas completely shut down Los Angeles, but the question mark is whether the Golden Knights and Fleury can withstand a much more game offensive club. Sharks knock off Vegas in six games.

The Rest of the Playoffs


Tampa Bay over Pittsburgh in five games.


Nashville over San Jose in five games.

Stanley Cup Finals

Nashville over Tampa Bay in six games.

Predicting the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Stanley Cup playoffs logoIf the Los Angeles Kings capture the Stanley Cup, they will have won it three times in five years. The San Francisco Giants accomplished a similar feat in baseball. Call it a “California dynasty.”

Read on to see Jason Karnosky’s complete predictions through to the Final:

Continue reading “Predicting the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.”

Debating the meaning of ‘dynasty’ in today’s NHL: Do the Blackhawks measure up?

2015 Chicago BlackhawksMy inner cynic and my inner romantic were going after each other pretty good tonight after the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup.

(Congratulations, Chicago.)

(Now back to me.)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman humorously declared “you have a dynasty” tonight, and my inner cynic practically choked on its sarcasm-flavored Kool-Aid.

Thanks, Mr. Commissioner. Where can I pick up the keys to my dynasty?

Oh, God. Really? Is this the sort of dynasty I should have a doctor look at?

Does this dynasty come with french fries? I’d like to super-size it.

Here’s the thing: It was Bettman who fought to institute a salary cap in 2004. It was a salary cap that forced the Blackhawks to jettison some of their best players (Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg and ultimately Antti Niemi) after winning the first Cup of their alleged dynasty back in 2010. You want a real dynasty? Show me a Chicago Blackhawks team that didn’t have to eject half of its young core, then pin its hopes on a group of six players, then hope it guessed the right six, then hope those six stayed healthy, then hope the salary cap remained stable enough that it didn’t have to trade any of the six over the next half-decade.

Continue reading “Debating the meaning of ‘dynasty’ in today’s NHL: Do the Blackhawks measure up?”

The UND proposed mascot list is fascinating — and the beginning of an era.

When I was a student at the University of North Dakota, the NCAA passed its resolution banning “hostile and abusive” school nicknames. When it happened, I, like many others, was outraged — not because of the name change, but because of the hypocrisy of the organization. Some schools were allowed to keep their logos, mascots and nicknames, while others were not.

Florida State, who has a white guy dress up like a Seminole and run around on a horse with a flaming spear, could keep its name. North Dakota, which doesn’t have a costumed mascot, could not.
Continue reading “The UND proposed mascot list is fascinating — and the beginning of an era.”

2015 NHL playoff predictions: Round 2 and beyond.

The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs saw my original 2015 Stanley Cup pick, St. Louis, collapse at the hands of Minnesota, while my choice in the east, Tampa Bay, essentially stole its first round series from Detroit. However, I did correctly predict both series in two of the four divisions and five of eight series overall. Considering the parity in the current NHL, 62.5% isn’t too bad! Take out the coin flip Central Division, which pitted four potential Cup winners, and I batted 83%.

With how impressive Minnesota was in the first round, it would be easy to jump on the Wild’s bandwagon as this year’s new Cup threat, but I think I’ve seen the light on Anaheim. The Ducks are not the NHL’s best team, or even close to the most analytically sound team, but they are also not playing in the stacked Central or Metropolitan Divisions; instead they enjoy a spot in a surprisingly weak Pacific Division. For that reason I think they will be the last team standing when the dust clears on the 2015 postseason.
Continue reading “2015 NHL playoff predictions: Round 2 and beyond.”

Last team in, last team standing.

Providence men's ice hockey
Even before they won, Providence College shouldn’t have been considered such a huge underdog against Boston University. (Photo courtesy Friars.com)

The puck was in his glove and then it was in the net. Just like that, one team took control of the game, while the other was left shaking its heads and wondering what just happened.

Last week’s NCAA National Championship game was something else.

Continue reading “Last team in, last team standing.”

Ten years later, awakening the lost NHL season: Part II

Editor’s Note: This is the second of two pieces hypothesizing what might have happened if the 2004-05 season hadn’t been cancelled.

It is September 2004. NHL training camps have opened for business. The surprising Tampa Bay Lightning are the defending champions. Hope springs eternal across Canada, where the national Stanley Cup drought has reached a seemingly interminable ten seasons. Across the Detroit river, the Red Wings are looking strong. That’s been the case most years of late — every year from 1996 to 2000 the Wings either won the Cup or were eliminated by the Avalanche — but no, this season is special.

A miraculous 11th-hour bargaining session allowed the NHL to avoid a work stoppage, ensuring a full 82-game season. The miracle was in the details. The players’ union agreed to an unprecedented salary-cap structure, taking a small step toward achieving competitive balance among markets large and small. The owners agreed to tweak the rules to improve the style and speed of the game. The era of so-called “clutch and grab” hockey is dead. Speedy skaters can speed without fear of mutilation at the hands of gargantuan defenders. The game is faster and more exciting. More scoring could be in store.

What transpires is only partly predictable.
Continue reading “Ten years later, awakening the lost NHL season: Part II”