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Any Team Can Win The Cup

from Michael Traikos of the National Post,

A year after an expansion team went to the Stanley Cup final, parity ran amok in the NHL. Whether it was the Islanders reaching the second round without John Tavares or the Presidents’ Trophy winner getting swept by the 16th-seeded team, anything can happen in the playoffs. You just have to get in.

“It could have been us,” said Chicago’s Patrick Kane, whose team was only six points out. “I think going forward that will be the message for a lot of teams in the league if they’re struggling at that point in the season. You can now look at what St. Louis did.”

It wasn’t that the Blues just got into the playoffs. It was how they got in. The team might have been lost for the first-half of the season, but no one was hotter in the final few months, when it mattered the most.

“It’s not like they came out of nowhere, because they had the team to play like that,” said Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, whose team finished two points ahead of the Sabres. “That’s the difference between a team under-performing and maybe a bad team playing their best. It’s a big difference.”

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That’s a really smart, insightful distinction by Lundqvist and one I’ve seldom seen articulated as clearly by professional analysts.

St. Louis was/is a very deep team with lots of size and enough skill and mobility
throughout the lineup to have been considered a contender going into last season.

As we’ve seen a few times with the Wings, that’s not the same thing as a team led by stars at the end of their careers trying to pull their teammates over the finish line just to get in, only to face a glaring mismatch in the first round.

Mrazek got hot against the Lightning once he was deployed: other than that the last gasp was dispatching Anaheim and almost upsetting Chicago. That was fun to see but it never felt like a team that could go all the way.

St. Louis needed leadership and cohesion (Berube) and a goalie they could lean on when needed (Binnington). Goaltending was their big asterisk going into last season.
Otherwise, they had a heck of a team. Look at how many guys they had to fill in when inevitable playoff injuries piled up.

Posted by lefty.30 on 09/09/19 at 07:32 PM ET

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First it was the Kings as an 8th seed winning the Cup now it is the Blues from last place to the Cup being used as the example for “anyone can win”? It’s a fallacy to think it there is so much parity that any team can do it. Both the Blues and the Kings had things going for them that most don’t. They have both matured over the course of several seasons and had the key pieces in place for a long playoff run. They also had the experience of prior playoffs to fall back on. A team like the Sabres, Senators, Oilers, Coyotes and a few others really don’t have much of a shot at the Cup next springs. Sure they COULD make the playoffs but that’s a lot different than winning it all. As much as I hate the term, it really is a “process”. There are few shortcuts and luck will only get you so far.

Posted by evileye on 09/11/19 at 10:54 AM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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