by Mike Chen on 01/05/10 at 01:00 PM ET
Just about every team has hit the halfway point (41 games) into this season, and while some teams are hitting all cylinders, there’s very little we can predict based on standings at this point. For a brief history lesson, let’s look at the 41-game records of the past five Stanley Cup champions:
2008-09 Penguins 20-17-4
2007-08 Red Wings 30-8-3
2006-07 Ducks 28-7-6
2005-06 Hurricanes 27-10-4
2003-04 Lightning 19-15-7
You can see that three of these teams had strong winning records (Detroit, Anaheim, Carolina) while two of these teams could be considered losing squads if you factored the whole OT/SO charity point as a “loss.”
The Wings (115 points), Ducks (110 points), and Canes (112 points) pretty much powered through the competition all the way until the playoffs started. The Penguins and Lightning didn’t fare much worse when all was said and done, as those teams wound up with 99 points and 106 points respectively (Tampa Bay also wound up winning the East).
Both Tampa and Pittsburgh had strong pushes following their mediocre first half. Tampa tore through January and February with only a single regulation loss after a January 6 loss to Ottawa. Pittsburgh finished up strong with just three regulation losses following a Valentine’s Day beat-down at the hands of Toronto. Of course, we all know that Pittsburgh’s charge came after a coaching change while Tampa simply took control of their own destiny.
Is there a lesson to be learned here? I think so, as it basically shows that any team around .500 come the new year (I mean, Winter Classic day) still has a chance of going all the way to hoisting Lord Stanley. Worst-to-first comebacks are virtually non-existent, though, as you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Stanley Cup champ that wasn’t hovering around .500 at this time.
In a previous post, I mentioned that teams that weren’t within striking distance of .500 might as well start playing for the draft lottery (Toronto, New York Islanders, Carolina, Columbus, Edmonton), even with 40-some games left. Of course, anything is possible and there’s a first time for everything, but this shows that history isn’t on their side. In other words, their Cup final might as well be the Canada/USA World Junior Championship game tonight.
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