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Winners & Losers | The Stanley Cup Playoffs

By Rick Bouch

The victory parade in downtown Pittsburgh marked the end of a remarkable 2016-17 National Hockey League season. The Penguins won their second consecutive Stanley Cup becoming the first team in the salary cap era to repeat as champions. Not only were the Penguins and the city of Pittsburgh winners, but there were plenty of others this postseason. There were also a few big losers.

WINNERS

Sidney Crosby became the first player since his boss, Mario Lemieux, to win consecutive Conn Smythe trophies. Crosby may also win his third Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP later this month. That would give him three total. In an era designed to promote league parity, Crosby is becoming more dominant like the greats of the past. He is cementing his name among the game’s elites.

NHL fans were presented one of the most exciting postseasons in recent history. Compare the NHL’s postseason to the lopsidedness of the NBA’s and one can see why the NHL playoff ratings were through the roof. The party known as a hockey game in Nashville is a site to behold. Plus, fans got to see greats like Crosby and also some of the game’s best young players such as regular season scoring champion Connor McDavid, Erik Karlsson, and Auston Matthews.

The city of Nashville became a true hockey town in 2016-17. While the Predators did not win the Stanley Cup, they did win the franchise’s first championship – the Western Conference. The atmosphere in Bridgestone Arena and the seemingly all-night party in the streets of Nashville compares to no other city’s home games.

LOSERS

The Washington Capitals underachieved once again. With a star-studded lineup that added former St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk at the trade deadline, the Caps were poised to make a deep postseason run. It appeared that way as Washington won the President’s Trophy for the second consecutive year.

With the NHL’s best regular season record, the Capitals once again bowed out in the second round to the team’s nemesis, eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh. A number of key players become free agents – T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams to name a few – and the team is likely to lose at least one quality player to Vegas in the upcoming expansion draft.

Even though he won another Stanley Cup, Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury once again experienced the postseason primarily as an observer. Last year, he suffered a concussion and watched as Matt Murray took over.

As the playoffs began this season, Murray got hurt prior to Game 1 of the opening round. Fleury took over and played exceptionally well in Rounds 1 and 2, but he faltered against Ottawa and Murray came back to lead the Penguins to the Cup. At 32 years of age, Fleury was persuaded to waive his no-trade clause which likely means he will be in Vegas next season. It will be a huge change for a goaltender that has been part of three Stanley Cups.

P.K. Subban was supposed to lead Nashville to a Stanley Cup title. He helped the eighth-seeded Predators get to the finals where Nashville found itself down 2-0. Subban predicted that he and his teammates would win Game 3, which they did. They also won Game 4, but then Subban and the Predators were crushed 6-0 in Game 5. We all know the outcome in Game 6.

As one of the NHL’s highest paid defenseman, will Subban remain in Nashville? Click here to see why I think P.K. is the most overrated NHL defenseman. Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin said he would never trade Subban, but then he couldn’t wait to get rid of him. Subban apparently violated some team rules during the Stanley Cup Finals and was not permitted to talk to the media. Could that be the beginning of the end for Subban? Nashville will protect four defenseman for the expansion draft. It would be surprising if Subban is not protected, but you never know.

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