For the first time since 1993, Chicago was swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Simply put, the Nashville Predators displayed each game they were the better team by shutting down the Hawks’ top stars.
While Chicago is out of the postseason, there’s no way fans will turn way from playoff hockey. Here’s a breakdown of all eight teams remaining in the postseason along with pros and cons for each and any ties they have to the Hawks or Illinois.
New York is looking to return to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three years. In 2014, the Rangers fell in five games to Los Angeles. It’s been 23 years since New York has won the Cup.
New York’s ties to the Hawks are split down the middle. On one hand, the Rangers have former Hawks Brandon Pirri and Antti Raanta but on the other there is Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey. Raanta helped guide Chicago to the playoffs in 2015. Hayes didn’t sign with Chicago after his senior season at Boston College and signed with New York as an unrestricted free agent. Vesey followed in Hayes’ footsteps by not signing with Nashville after four seasons at Harvard. The 23-year-old was rumored to be interested in signing with Chicago, but ultimately decided to stay on the East Coast.
Canada’s capital has been the home for the Senators since 1992 in the modern-day NHL. In its 25-year history, the Senators have made just one Cup Final in 2007. The Senators defeated Buffalo in five games in the Eastern Conference before falling to Anaheim, 4-1.
The past few seasons Ottawa has largely been known for Erik Karlsson, a two-time Norris Trophy winner as the league’s best defenseman. Known for his ridiculous passing and offensive numbers, Karlsson has become Ottawa’s favorite son.
While the focus has been on Karlsson lately, this season it has shifted to one of the league’s most interesting stories in Craig Anderson, a former Chicago draft pick and Barrington High graduate. The netminder was drafted by Chicago in 2001 and played 56 games before being traded to Florida. In 2011, Anderson landed in Ottawa where he has had an up-and-down career. In October, Anderson’s wife, Nicholle, was diagnosed with throat cancer. He took personal leave to help his wife and Ottawa acquired Mike Condon from Pittsburgh to fill in. Anderson returned and helped Ottawa secure a playoff spot.
Anderson also played for the Chicago Freeze and is the current owner of the Chicago Cougars. Ryan Dzingel (Wheaton) and Tommy Wingels (Evanston) are also on the team.
The defending Stanley Cup champions ousted Columbus in five games to advance to the second round. If history tells us anything, it’s that Pittsburgh will be back in the Cup Final. The Penguins have made the Cup Final five times and each time they’ve returned the next season. Pittsburgh won its first title in 1991 and repeated in 1992 with a sweep of Chicago. In 2008, the Penguins fell to Detroit but avenged the loss the next year with Dan Bylsma behind the bench. Marian Hossa ended up on the wrong side of each Final.
Pittsburgh fired Bylsma last season and promoted its AHL coach Mike Sullivan, a former Hawks player development coach, to the head coaching job. Sullivan guided the Penguins to Cup and now has a healthy Evgeni Malkin as they go for the repeat. Along with Malkin, Pittsburgh has stars like Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.
Former Hawk Trevor Daley mans the blue line for Pittsburgh along with Notre Dame product Ian Cole. Another former Fighting Irish player in Bryan Rust also plays for the Penguins.
Always the bridesmaid and never the bride. That sums up the Capitals fairly well. Washington has only made the Cup Final once in 1998 when they were swept by Detroit. The Capitals haven’t advanced past the second round since then.
The two-time reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners defeated Toronto in a thrilling six games in the first round.
Washington is led by Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin, a three-time Hart Trophy winner, and reigning Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby.
Anaheim is into the second round for the third in the last four years. The Ducks last made it to the conference final in 2015 when they fell to Chicago in seven games.
The Ducks are led by Randy Carlyle, who guided the Ducks to their lone Cup in 2007. In his first season back in Anaheim, Carlyle guided them to their fifth straight division title. Anaheim GM Bob Murray made a smart move at the trade deadline by scooping up winger Patrick Eaves to bolster the Ducks’ offense. The Ducks’ star trio of Rya Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry are split up through the top three lines.
Anaheim’s fourth line is centered by Antoine Vermette, who was instrumental in the Hawks’ 2015 Cup run. Defenseman Josh Manson (Hinsdale, Ill.) plays for the Ducks and his father, Dave, played two stints in Chicago (1986-91 and 98-2000). Murray was drafted by the Hawks in the second of the 1974 drafted and played his entire NHL career in Chicago (1975-90).
Edmonton is back in the playoffs for the first time since they made the 2006 Cup Final. The Oilers fell in seven games to Carolina that year.
It’s a remarkably turnaround for Edmonton, who have been a lottery fixture the past few seasons with five top-10 picks. Save for last year, Edmonton’s last three picks have played a big role in this year’s team: Darnell Nurse, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. The 2015 first overall pick in McDavid won this year’s Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer with 100 points (30 goals, 70 assists).
Edmonton dominated the NHL in the 80s with four Cups and one in 1990. The Oilers’ five Cups rank fifth in league history.
Nashville is into the second round for the second straight year. The Preds have never made it to the conference final in their 18-year franchise history.
This boils down to if you’re of the thought that it’d be better to say Chicago lost to the champions or since they lost to them you want them out immediately. We’ll fall in the middle on this one since they face the Blues in the next round, but hope they fall in the conference final.
St. Louis Blues
St. Louis is right behind Toronto with the longest NHL championship drought at 45 seasons. The Blues made three straight Cup Final appearances to begin their history only to go 0-12. Their last trip to the conference final came last year when they fell to San Jose, 4-2.
Nick Schmaltz’s older brother, Jordan, is on the Blues.
Who cares? You’re not going to root for them.
Who is it going to be?
For both conferences, it’s easy to quickly eliminate half the field from Hawks’ fans rooting interests: New York and Pittsburgh along with Central Division foes Nashville and St. Louis are out. That leaves the two nation’s capitals in the East and Edmonton to come out of the West. If you’re fine with an all-Canadian Cup Final, Ottawa is the choice otherwise go with the Capitals.