A couple of weeks back I wrote about how the first round is usually the best in the Stanley Cup playoffs and for various reasons, drama digresses from there.
This year is no exception.
Round two was okay, not nearly as thrilling as the opening round, but far more intriguing than what we are left with.
In all honesty, (outside of a hockey pool) do you really care who wins the NHL Eastern Conference Final between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers?
I ask the same question in the Western Conference where the Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights are ready for their showdown.
My problem is I really don’t like any of the Final Four teams but on the other hand, I really don’t despise any of the remaining teams in the hunt.
These finalists are not from Canada, they are not part of the original six, or even twelve and they don’t have any superstars.
This is not your father’s NHL Conference Finals:
Stars, Dallas, TX (1993)
Panthers: Miami, FL (1994)
Hurricanes: Raleigh, NC (1997)
Golden Knights: Las Vegas, NV (2017)
— Troy Machir (@TroyMachir) May 16, 2023
Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz of Dallas, Mark Stone and Jack Eichel of Vegas, Sebastian Aho of Carolina and Matthew Tkachuk of Florida are all very good talented players but let’s not confuse them for Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon or when he was in his prime, Sidney Crosby.
Connor Bedard is not yet in the class of Robertson, Hintz, Stone, Eichel, Aho or Tkachuk but I would rather watch him play even if that means with a bad team.
There is a theme for these four teams, one that is not exactly awe-inspiring.
Are you ready for it?
According to OptaStats, this is the first time in NHL history, the final four teams in the playoffs are all located south of Pennsylvania.
If you are looking for details on that, (I can not imagine why) one would click here.
When we think of hockey, among the last cities that come to mind are Las Vegas, Nevada, Dallas, Texas, Raleigh, North Carolina and Sunrise, Florida.
The projected temperature highs for tomorrow in the final four NHL markets:
Las Vegas, 35
— Brendan Batchelor (@BatchHockey) May 16, 2023
These Conference Finals are the furthest away from being a dream match-up.
This does not mean these teams do not deserve to be here.
They do, but one can bet the television networks are dreading when the ratings come out because sponsors will be asking who outside of the local markets is watching.
Ah, yes, looks like lots of “frozen pond” action in the Sun Belt in next weeks NHL Conference finals. Games in Raleigh, Miami, Dallas, and Vegas. Hockey purists must be rolling over in their graves.
— victor murphy (@wxmanvic) May 16, 2023
Can you tell me who is the villain in this series or for that matter who is Cinderella?
Yes, the Panthers upset Boston and then put Toronto out of its misery, but keep in mind it was only a year ago they captured the President’s Cup as the top regular season team.
They are no Cinderella, and neither is Metropolitan Division champion Carolina or Pacific champion Dallas or Central runner-up (by just a point) Dallas.
In the overall standings out of 32, these teams were 2nd (Carolina), 5th (Vegas), 8th (Dallas) and 17th (Florida).
To be fair, the hockey itself will likely be competitive and we got a taste of that in the Carolina-Florida opener, won by the Panthers 3-2 in four overtimes which was the 6th longest game in NHL history.
WALK. OFF. 🤯
AFTER SCORING THE 4TH OT WINNER, TKACHUK POINTED TO THE LOCKER ROOM AND SKATED RIGHT OFF THE ICE pic.twitter.com/8GS5TdNzXw
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) May 19, 2023
However, I want to cheer for someone or maybe even more importantly cheer against someone.
Even in the NBA Conference Finals, one can root for or against LeBron James and his LA Lakers in his Western battle against the Denver Nuggets which the Nuggets lead 2-0.
With the Boston Celtics’ long-storied history, one can cheer for or against them in the Eastern Final against the Miami Heat (the Celtics lost the opener).
If either the Lakers or Celtics makes the championship series, interest will be at a peak.
With no-name Carolina or Florida about to make the Stanley Cup Final, unless you are making a big bet, it is just as exciting as toast popping out of a toaster.
And there is not even any peanut butter or jam to help cover the spread.
FROM THE QUOTE RACK:
The Oakland A’s drew an announced crowd of 2,064 Monday, their smallest for a home game fans were allowed to attend since 1979. Even the old Montreal Expos are thinking that’s pathetic.
Eagles QB Jalen Hurts earned his Master’s Degree from the University of Oklahoma. In Massachusetts, that would gain him entrance into the seventh grade.
*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California
Metro UK reports scientists have found a way to delete painful memories. Finally, some good news for Maple Leafs fans.
Hartley Miller is the news and sports supervisor plus morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97fm. After growing up in Winnipeg, he has lived in Prince George for the last 44 years and completed his 10th season as the radio colour commentator on the Prince George Cougars home games. Hartley is the author of You Don’t Say (sports quotes).