Though the regular season has not yet come to a close, the NHL’s postseason is right around the corner. Here are five possible scenarios to check out in the yearly grind that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
1 Metropolitan Mania
The New York Rangers and New York Islanders haven’t faced off in the playoffs since 1994, when the Islanders were nothing more than a doormat to the Stanley Cup-bound, surging Rangers, who won the series 4-0. Much has changed in the 20-plus years since that match up, with the Islanders building a solid core of young talent and jettisoning Nassau Coliseum for Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, while the Rangers have competed steadily in the post-lockout NHL. But one factor remains true: the fans of these two franchises truly hate each other and there could be just as much—if not more—animosity in the stands as on the ice.
2 Keystone Clash
Depending on how the final weeks of the season play out, the two Pennsylvania clubs could meet in the post season. This rivalry began when both teams were introduced during the 1967 expansion and has strengthened with the teams meeting in the Stanley Cup Playoffs three of the past eight seasons. The most recent series came in the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, when the Flyers stunned the hockey world and defeated the championship-favored Penguins in six games. The teams combined for 45 goals in the first four games of the match up and amassed 309 penalty minutes during the fight-filled series.
3 California Dreamin’
The NHL’s three Golden State teams—Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Joe Sharks—have already punched their tickets to the postseason, dominating the Pacific division since day one. Having all three California teams take the ice in one postseason might not seem like a big deal, but it is a recent phenomenon—the first time it happened was in 2011. History aside, the West Coast seeing this kind of representation on hockey’s biggest stage can only be good for the sport and it surely has Commissioner Gary Bettman licking his chops at the thought of furthering his expansion plans.
4 Canada Dry
Oh, Canada. The last time no teams from our friends to the north made the playoffs was 1970 and the prospects for glory this season are all but faded away. Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg all boast the worst records in the West and Toronto lays claim to the basement in the East, leaving Montreal and Ottawa to fight the mediocre fight for a near .500 record. But rather than think about that depressing stat, Canadians should instead reminisce about native son Bobby Orr’s famous overtime winner in the 1970 Stanley Cup Final, which he won with the Boston Bruins. You know what, never mind.
5 Detroit Shock City
The Detroit Red Wings, a franchise that has advanced to the postseason for 24 consecutive seasons, is dangerously close to ditching the playoff beard in favor of fresh golf attire for the first time since the 1989-90 season. If the streak were to end this season, every hockey fan, no matter their allegiance, must tip their cap to the Motor City team. To put this streak in perspective, the New York Rangers and New York Islanders have both had 13 coaches come and go since the 1990 season. In that time period, the Wings won their division 14 times and the Stanley Cup four times.