The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs are as wide open as they’ve ever been. That’s what happens when the top four seeds all lose in the first round, but the wildcard teams have shown their wins weren’t a fluke.
The Carolina Hurricanes knocked off the defending champs in seven games, and swept the Islanders in the second round. The Columbus Blue Jackets gave the Boston Bruins all they could handle, and the Dallas Stars had a chance to stun the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 on Wednesday, after the News went to print.
Among the eight teams that advanced to the second round, only Boston and St. Louis were predicted to have even the slightestchance of advancing to the conference finals. The Blues, if you’ve forgotten, were in last place back in January, and are now one of the two best teams left in the playoffs.
This has always been the NHL playoff’s claim to fame – anything can happen. On the surface, this year’s playoffs should give long-suffering fans of Canadian teams — that label now fits all of us unfortunately — lots of hope for the years to come. However, it’s just given me more reason to believe my team will never win.
I’m referring to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They were supposed to be really good this year, and should be a top-five team in the regular season again next year. However, their challenges against Boston aside, nobody really predicted they would be able to win it all. It was said the Leafs needed to solidify their defensive core, and fans shouldn’t panic.
Wrong. You know who doesn’t have a good defence? The Colorado Avalanche. The San Jose Sharks had one of the worst goalies in the regular season, but they’re doing pretty good this spring. It’s time to stop making excuses for teams like the Leafs or Winnipeg Jets.
These days, anyone can win the Cup. The perfect roster, the balanced team, it doesn’t exist in 2019. Unless, of course, you’re the Tampa Bay Lightning, and how’d that turn out for them?
Yes, at a time where I should be filled with hope, I’m left hopeless. At least I’m not a Calgary Flames fan. They weren’t supposed to be good this year, but finished first in the West anyway. Eventually, they proved all of us who doubted them right.
But, who knows, maybe the Leafs will soon get a rounded out defensive core. Perhaps William Nylander will bounce back and this new player they just signed — Ilya Mikheyev — will prove to be the best Russian nobody’s ever heard of before.
Even if that does happen, all these playoffs have shown me is a balanced roster is likely to get you swept out in the first round. At least losing in seven games to the Bruins is a known commodity — there will be excitement, frustration, highs and lows.
In all seriousness, the future couldn’t be brighter for the Leafs, as well as most of the Canadian teams. Unfortunately, that’s exactly why I’m afraid.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at email@example.com.