NHL Week in Review (May 6-12)

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The Stanley Cup is just one round away from the ultimate prize as the Conference finals are underway.

The four teams left to get the title of the best team in the league this year mostly have interesting paths to getting to the conference finals.

The Lightning might be the only team that went through the playoffs as many thought they would even if there were some doubts.

Throughout the year the Lightning were a team that rarely found there way out of the top of the league.

If there was any team that was entering the playoffs with a mix of experience and talent that could take them far it was surely the Lightning.

They, of course, had to find their way through some very talented teams to get to this point but they were almost the more expected team to get to this spot.

The team they will face had a few more questions largely due to the history of their performances in the playoffs.

The Washington Capitals have been one of the more talented teams in the league since they drafted Alexander Ovechkin in 2005.

The team has seen a lot of different pieces since then but the fact is that Ovechkin has been a top scorer in every year he has played in the NHL.

Yet when it comes to the playoffs he simply cannot make the way to the all-important series and put his name on that Cup.

The game is far more than one person but the Capitals have never had a team good enough to help him out when things matter the most.

Each year that goes by the window continues to close as no team can stay at the top of the standings forever and eventually things begin to fall off.

The Capitals continue to struggle in the second season and this time they were facing a familiar team in the divisional finals, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

For years the Pens and Caps have been fighting it out with Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby counting as the two best players in the league.

When it comes to playoff success the Pens are far superior with Crosby leading them to three Cups including the last two Cups.

Along the way, they have often gone through the Capitals leaving a sour taste in the mouth of all those involved with the Caps.

They met them again this time around looking to break the curse and finally take their spot in the conference finals and get that shot at a Cup.

The Caps came out on top and now they have to take that extra step to get to that ultimate series and so far things have gone well winning the first game and taking the series lead.

In the west are two teams that are both surprising and not at all surprising all at the same time.

The Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets were both two of the best teams in the league throughout the year.hockey-sidebar

They took the top of the standings and never looked back from the start of the season and into the playoffs.

Still, though neither were expected to make it just this far in the playoffs with a lack of history in the second season.

The Knights had never been in the playoffs because they hadn’t existed before this year, knocking down a number of expansion records on their way to the western final.

The Jets were the new kids on the block years ago as they were the newest team in the NHL when the Atlanta Thrashers were moved north.

They had yet to make the playoffs as well so their rise through the standings was a bit of a surprise and it gave a long-suffering fan base a reason to get excited.

With neither team bringing any playoff experience it seemed pretty likely that both would end up out of the playoffs early.

That wasn’t in the cards for either as they both worked their way through some very good teams on their way to this point.

The amazing stories of both teams continue on with only one being able to get their chance at the top prize.

Will it be the expansion team that will finish off the greatest expansion season in the history of the big four or will it be a city that waited for their team to return only to wait longer to bring their first Stanley Cup home?

The Eastern teams will have their own say as two of the best teams over the past few years face-off.

The Lightning are the expected team while the Caps are not although that won’t stop them from trying to break their curse this time around.

The stories are plenty as the Stanley Cup is within grasp but all will have to be crowned the best in their conferences to get that shot.

Overtime

Welcome to the Spotlight

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been on the climb thanks to an injection of youth on the ice and a management group willing to let those young stars be themselves. That youth movement seems to be making its way to the offices though after their latest announcement. After parting ways with the old-school Lou Lamoriello the Leafs announced that Assistant GM Kyle Dubas would take over as the GM. Dubas has always been the youngest guy in the room taking over as the Soo Greyhounds GM at 25 then being named the Assistant GM in Toronto at only 28. Now he takes over the top job with the most attention at 32 years old with the hopes that he can bring something new to a team willing to look outside the box to win.

More Changes in Carolina

The Carolina Hurricanes have had a bit of a tumultuous few weeks after moving Ron Francis to a different role removing him from the GM position only to eventually part ways with him altogether a few weeks later. After that move that hurt many fans who loved the former Hurricane as their leader, they made another move behind the bench. They went with another former Hurricane as Rod Brind’Amour will take over the head coaching role after serving as an assistant coach for the team since 2011.

A Marathon in the AHL

 The NHL established shootouts in regular season games because for them the marathon game was doing more harm than good. That remains a debate but the reality of just how long a game can go, came to the forefront during the AHL playoffs. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Charlotte Checkers were so evenly matched in their first game of the series that they went all the way to five overtimes with one goalie saving 94 shots throughout the game. It was the longest game in AHL history and was certainly a reminder of what continuous overtime can do, whether it is positive or negative in the eyes of some.

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