The Ottawa Senators are one win from shocking the hockey world and (perhaps) ruining NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s appetite.
A Stanley Cup finals series between the Senators and the Nashville Predators would feature two of the NHL’s smallest markets and two teams that were considerable long shots to still be playing in June. When the postseason began, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook pegged both teams with 30-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup. Only the Maple Leafs and Blues faced longer odds.
If Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are sent home Thursday night, there will be limited star power in the Cup finals, especially compared with the likely NBA Finals matchup of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. No Alex Ovechkin, no Patrick Kane, no Jonathan Toews or even Connor McDavid. P.K. Subban moves the needle in Music City (the nation’s 29th-largest TV market), but other than Erik Karlsson, Senators players are not well-known among casual hockey fans. We could be looking at a matchup that will resonate like Edmonton-Carolina in 2006 or Anaheim-Ottawa in 2007.
The Senators finished the regular season with 98 points, and the Predators had 94. Disregarding the two lockout-shortened seasons, we’d have our first Cup finals without at least one 100-point team since the 1991-92 season. The Penguins swept the Blackhawks that spring after each team had 87 points during the regular season.
The Penguins have survived one elimination game (winning Game 7 in the second round against the Capitals), and they won two in the Eastern Conference Finals last season against the Lightning. Each of the last four Stanley Cup champions has had to win multiple elimination games. If this year’s Eastern Conference representative goes on to win the Cup, it will have done likewise.