On Saturday, April 11, 2015 the 2014-15 National Hockey League regular season came to a close and it was not without it’s share of drama as teams continued to vie for a spot in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Early in the day, the Ottawa Senators capped off their incredible late season run, by beating the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 to secure a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. This meant that either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Boston Bruins would be eliminated later in the day. This was decided, when the Pittsburgh Penguins ended their five-game losing streak by earning a 2-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. As a result, Penguins are in. The Bruins, who ended the season with three straight losses, are now making tee times. The Penguins reward will be to face the top-seeded New York Rangers in the first round of playoffs. In the Eastern Conference, Washington, Ottawa and the New York Islanders are replacing the Bruins, Columbus blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers in this year’s playoffs.
In the Western Conference, the Anaheim Ducks beat the Arizona Coyotes by a score of 2-1 to secure the number one seed in the Conference. The deposed Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings defeated their division rival San Jose Sharks by a score of 4-1, though the Kings had been eliminated from playoff contention two days earlier, due to a loss to the Calgary Flames. In the Western Conference, there are four new teams in the playoffs this season. Those teams are Nashville, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg. The teams bumped out, Los Angeles, San Jose, Dallas and Colorado.
The 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs will begin in earnest on Wednesday, April 15 when four of the eight opening round best-of-7 series will begin. Wednesday will see the Ottawa Senators on the road to face the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Islanders on the road to face the Washington Capitals, the Chicago Blackhawks on the road to face the Nashville Predators, and the Calgary Flames will be on the road to face the Vancouver Canucks.
The remaining four playoff series will begin on Thursday, April 16. The Pittsburgh Penguins on the road to face the New York Rangers, the Detroit Red Wings on the road to face the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Minnesota Wild will be on the road to face the St. Louis Blues, and the Winnipeg Jets will be on the road to face the Anaheim Ducks.
Who will ultimately hoist the hallowed silver chalice this year, is anyone’s guess. Will it be one of the favorites, or will it be an upstart like Ottawa or Calgary ? Is this the year Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist finally puts the cherry on top of his Hall of Fame career ? Will the Anaheim Ducks finally follow up a great regular season run, with a great postseason run ? Will the Nashville Predators finally become ‘the little engine that could’ ? All questions will soon be answered. In the meantime, it is time for hockey fans everywhere to move to the edge of their seats, to enjoy what is the greatest time of the year. There is nothing quite like Stanley Cup playoff hockey.