Bruce Boudreau chimes in on the race to Lord Stanley. Toronto, Edmonton, and Winnipeg are Canadian representatives this post-season. Photo credit: NHL
Friday is the final day of the 82-game regular season for the 32 NHL teams.
The 16 teams that qualified for the postseason will begin competing for Lord Stanley’s mug Monday night.
The Boston Bruins record setting season for wins and points has them locked in as the number one seed in the NHL Eastern Conference standings, and No. 1 seed overall.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, and New York Islanders are the other Eastern Conference representatives.
The Colorado Avalanche or Dallas Stars will be seeded tops in the Western Conference. The other Western Conference teams in the postseason include the Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets, Vegas Golden Knights, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, and Seattle Kraken.
The aforementioned Maple Leafs in the east, and the Oilers and Jets in the west, are the three Canadian franchises to qualify for the playoffs.
Two other interesting story lines or tidbits as the regular season wraps up – it’s now 12 straight seasons the Buffalo Sabres have failed to make the postseason, while for the first time in 16 years the Pittsburgh Penguins are on the outside looking in.
Longtime NHL head coach, and now analyst on the NHL Network, Bruce Boudreau feels the Penguins and one of the other Canadian franchises are the disappointing stories of the 2022-23 campaign.
“To me the biggest surprise is Calgary and Pittsburgh not making the playoffs,” said Boudreau from his home in Pennsylvania.
“On the positive side, I knew New Jersey was good last year when we (Vancouver Canucks) played them earlier this year, Seattle was much better too.”
As for Boudreau’s picks to represent each conference in the Stanley Cup Final, a lot of hockey fans in Southern Ontario will like his answer.
“Every time Toronto plays a good team they can shut that team down, they give up very little,” Boudreau explained. “They’re very good defensively, they’re deep, four-line deep, and I think they’re going to be pretty determined this year.”
As for the west.
“I mean Colorado’s the best if everyone is back and they’re healthy,” said Boudreau.
“You see Edmonton crawling in there, and Dallas is so good and so balanced – so I don’t rule them out either.”
It’s only mid-April, but Boudreau’s pick to lift the Stanley Cup come June may surprise some.
“Oh my goodness, hey I’m from Ontario, I’m going with Toronto, believe it or not. I think if they get by the first round I think the confidence will ooze out of them, and they have proved they can play with anybody.
Hopefully they do what they’re supposed to do and win the Cup and bring it back home to Canada.”
That being said, let’s not forget the Maple Leafs haven’t won a playoff series since 2004.
Toronto takes on Tampa Bay in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Boudreau will be back in his former hometown St. Catharines later this summer when he and his sons Ben, Andy and Brady run the Golden Horseshoe Hockey School.
Boudreau started the hockey school in 1982 while playing for Toronto’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the St. Catharines Saints.
The Saints left St. Catharines in 1986 when they became the Newmarket Saints.
Rod Mawhood is a lifelong Niagara native who has had the pleasure of working in all three mediums – Radio, Print and TV – for over 20 years. His first announcing gig was with the then St. Catharines Stompers. Since then he’s worked in radio and TV in Toronto, and currently is the announcer for the Niagara IceDogs and Niagara River Lions.
Rod also covers the Buffalo Bills for FOX Sports and the Buffalo Sabres for NBC Sports.