There are eight teams left in the Stanley Cup playoffs and four of those teams have pretty big reputations for choking when it really matters. Their fans may not want to admit it, but the Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks are not exactly known for their ability to turn it on when it counts. However, looking at the current series, it seems like this is the year where at least a couple “chokers” finally break through.
The Washington Capitals have been one of the strongest teams in the NHL for the last several years, but they haven’t made it past the second round of the playoffs since 1998. Last year they famously exited the postseason after losing to the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens in seven games. The fact that they built up a 3-1 series lead before watching it crumble certainly didn’t help their reputation either.
The Boston Bruins pulled off one of the biggest choke-jobs in NHL history last season when they blew a 3-0 lead against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Bruins haven’t been out of the second round since 1992, despite missing the playoffs only five times since then.
Over in the West, the Vancouver Canucks are in a pretty similar boat. They’ve been a competitive team for years and they’ve had a great deal of regular season success, but they haven’t been able to bring that same success into the playoffs.
The San Jose Sharks are well known for their choking as well. Every year it looks like this will be the season that they’re going to go all the way, and it never quite works for them.
Is this the year?
Right now the Bruins and Sharks are both leading their respective series 2-0. The Canucks are tied 1-1 with Nashville. Out of the four teams we’re talking about, only the Capitals trail in their current series. That means that it’s entirely possible that at least one of the teams mentions makes the next round of the playoffs. One of these four teams could even make the final.
We will note, however, that the Bruins being up 2-0 on the Flyers essentially means nothing, thanks to last year. We kid because we love.
And that brings us to our most important point: If the Bruins, Capitals, Canucks and Sharks succeed this year and if one of these four teams wins the Stanley Cup, the hockey word will lose a lot of easy jokes. No longer will we be able to say things like “he folded faster than Joe Thornton in the playoffs” or “that was more disappointing than a Capitals’ playoff run.”
And what will we do then?
Montreal fans didn’t even riot this season, so we’re running out of material here. Philadelphia goaltending jokes can only go so far.
Regardless of what happens, it’s still exciting to see teams that have struggled for quite some time finally do well. If the NHL has different teams in the mix and different storylines each season, it adds to the drama and the intrigue. It makes new fans and strengthens bonds with old ones. It makes the sport more interesting.
That can only be good for the league.