Two more Original Six franchises -- to bring the total to five -- made it on the final weekend of the regular season, not that the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks did it all on their own.
The Carolina Hurricanes and the Dallas Stars were a great supporting cast.
The Hurricanes needed a victory -- in regulation, OT or a shootout --- against to the Tampa Bay Lightning to make it in. Instead, they got boat raced in a 6-2 loss on Saturday. The Blackhawks faltered against the Detroit Red Wings, allowing the Dallas Stars to clinch with a regulation or OT victory later Sunday evening. Instead, the Stars fell to the Minnesota Wild, 5-3.
“With the fingers crossed and the wishful thinking, you have to look at it knowing that things can happen in your favor if you just believe,” Chicago coach Joel Quennville said in a conference call with reporters Sunday night. “But certainly we got lucky. Now let’s take advantage of being lucky.”
Both the Rangers and the Blackahwks enter as the No. 8 seed in their respective conferences, not that the low seed is necessary a bad thing in the modern NHL. The Montreal Canadiens, an eighth seed in the a East a season ago, dispatched the Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington Capitals and made it to the conference finals. The Anaheim Ducks needed six games to beat the 2009 Presidents' Trophy winners, the San Jose Sharks. The 2005-06 Edmonton Oilers made it all the way to the finals as an eighth seed.
And these aren't the typical No. 8 seeds.
The Rangers have dominated the Washington Capitals this season and could give them a go even without Ryan Callahan, the Rangers' second-leading scorer who is out indefinitely with a broken ankle. New York won three of the four meetings this season, including a 7-0 victory on Dec. 12 and a 6-0 win on Feb. 25.
"I think sometimes, (the season series) can work in your favor," Rangers forward Chris Drury, who played Saturday for the first time in two months, said on a conference call (via The New York Daily News). "I’ve been on teams that have done well in the series and lost in the playoffs, and vice versa. To me, it’s a whole new season and something we can learn from, having played against them, and had success in the year."
The Blackhawks are of course the defending Stanley Cup champs and even if many of the parts aren’t there from their title run -- including forwards Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd, and goalie Antti Niemi -- any team with Jonathan Towes, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith is formidable, especially if you consider their success against the Canucks.
The Blackhawks have beaten the Canucks in the second round the last two postseasons. The two teams split their four meetings this season.
"I think with the group that we have we don't want to tip-toe our way to the Stanley Cup," Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieska told The Vancouver Sun. "If we're going to win it I think we'd prefer to go through the best and that being said, Chicago are the defending champs. Until someone wins it this year, they are the champs. So what better way to start than with the champs."
-- A.J. Perez