Three Things to Look for When the NHL Return's Saturday
It has been almost five months since the sports world was put on hold by the Covid-19 global
pandemic. This weekend will mark the first time in 20 weeks that NHL players will take to the
ice for meaningful hockey games as the Stanley Cup Qualifiers begin this Saturday. The
qualifying round will begin with a best-of-five series. In the first 10-days, there is a potential of
52 games being played. Here are three things to look for when the NHL returns this weekend.
Will this be the year that a Canadian team finally breaks through?
As the NHL prepares to return this weekend exclusively in the two Canadian cities of Toronto
and Edmonton, once again the topic of discussion comes up, will this be the year that a
Canadian team finally breaks through and wins the Stanley Cup. It has been 27 years since the
Montreal Canadians last won the Stanley Cup, making them the last Canadian team to hoist
Lord Stanley. Believe it or not, the last time the cup was even awarded in Canada was in 2011
after the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 on home ice to the Boston Bruins. Since then the
Stanley Cup Final has been strictly American-based teams. Although that streak is one that all
Canadian hockey fans shudder at, this could be the year for a team from The Great White North
to finally breakthrough. The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Edmonton Oilers are the two
favorites to end the streak. The Leafs have quite a hefty drought of their own as they haven't
won the Stanley Cup since 1967, but this year they are playing host to half of the playoff teams
and with no fans in the building and the pressure seems to be less compared to
Upsets, Upsets, and Potentially More Upsets?
The NHL playoffs are typically filled with crazy upsets every year. Whether it was the eighth
seed Los Angeles Kings winning the Stanley Cup back in 2012 or the Columbus Blue Jackets
shocking the sports world last year by sweeping the President Trophy winning Tampa Bay
Lightning in the first round, you never know what to expect once the puck drops. This year
because of the format changes it could lead to even more fireworks and upsets. 24 teams were
invited to the Stanley Cup Qualifiers with eight of them receiving first-round byes. Look for
teams like the Nashville Predators and the Winnipeg Jets, who have veteran goaltending and
could make some noise in the brief five-game first-round series if they were able to take one of
the first two games. Due to very little practice time and a compact schedule, it will be essential
for teams to come out of the gate hot.
Adjusting to Life Without Fans
Sporting events without fans is something that all of us are getting used to in the year 2020.
Even though no fans being in attendance doesn't have an actual impact on the game being
played, it is going to be an adjustment mentally. The mental impact of no fans in the
building could play differently with each team. For example, one of the teams mentioned
already the Toronto Maple Leafs have one of the most famous fan bases in sports. They play in
a packed building every single time they hit the ice, but with a 53-year Stanley Cup drought
looming, the emptiness of Scotiabank Arena could be a blessing in disguise, as the home crowd
won't be there to eagerly boo the Maple Leafs annual spring collapse. On the other end, teams
like the Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers have struggled with attendance in the past, so it
may be easier for them to adjust playing in a quieter building.
Although there are some differences from years past, playoff hockey is back on Saturday
and with more teams competing for the Stanley Cup than ever, it will be best to expect the
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