Thursday night’s NHL contests set the 16 playoff teams, and Saturday night’s games will clear up any questions of who will be playing who. With the postseason nearly on our doorstep, we called on Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times for her expertise in the frozen sport.
The New York Rangers will enter the playoffs as the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and allowed the fewest goals of any team in the East this year, but Elliott said success in the regular season doesn’t necessarily mean success in the playoffs.
“The correlation between the best regular season team and the best team in the playoffs isn’t very strong,” she said. “There’s always the theory that you don’t want to win the President’s Trophy and have the best record because that means you’re expending too much energy now, before it really matters.”
Out west, the top team is the Vancouver Canucks, who reached the Stanley Cup Finals last year before falling to Boston. As the only team in the Western Conference to win 50 games, might seem like the favorite at first glance, but Elliott wasn’t as optimistic.
“The Canucks, when they’re at full strength – they’re deep, they have an enormous amount of skill – but they’ve had a number of injuries, and Roberto Luongo’s goaltending hasn’t exactly inspired tremendous confidence lately,” she said.
“There’s no favorite in the West,” Elliott continued. “St. Louis has had an incredible season. You look at their goaltending, No. 1 in the league, it’s the two-headed goalie monster, they’re both so good. It’s very rare, normally a team will have one goalie that plays a great majority of the games, and they haven’t had that. They’ve had [Jaroslav] Halak and [Brian] Elliott playing a lot of games – each of them.”
With the regular season drawing to a close, we asked Elliot to share some of her favorite moments from the season, and she was more than happy to oblige with a few memories. One in particular stood out.
She said, “the night, very recently, when Ryan Clowe of the San Jose Sharks reached over the bench to play the puck with his stick, and everyone in the building saw it, except for the referees.”