The second round is over still going on (thanks San Jose!), and we’ve had a chance to see what each of the remaining cup contenders have to offer. The question is, according to history, which team has the best chance of winning the Stanley Cup? Through a look at the past champions, we can see why some teams have already fallen and also who the favorites should be to take home Lord Stanley’s trophy this year. (Editor’s Note: I couldn’t dedicate an entire month to this story, so this only takes individual scoring into account. I realize that goaltending, team scoring, team defense, special teams, etc. all factor into post-season success, but there are some fairly striking trends here.)
I went back to the start of the 2000’s to look for trends, for no real reason other than that I thought only looking post-lockout (which occurred during the 2004-05 season) would be too small of a sample size and 2000 seemed less random than, say, since 2002. Other than the New Jersey Devils of 2002-03, no team in that span has won a cup without at least a 30-goal scorer during the regular season (that year, Elias’ 28 goals paced the club).
So according to that stat, Nashville, Phoenix, and the Rangers had basically no chance, as none of those teams even had a 25-goal scorer. Detroit, Montreal, and LA also didn’t have a 30-goal scorer, but they were close so we’ll give them a pass here.
Another trend existed in that the top scorers from the regular season needed to play that same role in the playoffs. For the past Cup winners, the majority of the time, at least three of the top-four scorers on the team for the regular season finished that way at the end of the playoffs. No Stanley Cup Champion since 2000 has ever had more than two of their top-4 from the regular season finish outside the top-4 in playoff scoring. I know role players get a lot of press in the playoffs, but the scorers better score, or the team isn’t going to win it all.
Nashville, Buffalo, and New York all had at least three players finish in the top-4 for scoring during the playoffs and not during the regular season. L.A. and Pittsburg were both in that boat due to injuries, but tough luck, they still qualify. Boston just lost the services of Bergeron, so now they are in some trouble, too (I’m looking at you, Lucic, wait, I can’t find you, are you still on the team??). San Jose also qualifies for this status, so Marleau, Pavelski, and Heatley better pick it up for Game 7 tonight or the Sharks are probably going home.
Along those lines, only one time (once again the Devils of 2002-03) has the team’s regular season leading goal scorer not been in the top-four for playoff scoring, and Elias finished 5th in the playoffs that year, so he just missed. San Jose’s leading scorer, Patrick Marleau, is currently 10th on the team in points and has scored just two goals. Milan Lucic leads Boston in goal scoring this season, but is 11th on the Bruins in playoff points and has also scored just two goals.
So where does that leave us this season? Boston is set to play Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston is missing two pieces that are apparent in almost every Stanley Cup team. They have just one of their leading-four scorers from the season in their top-four from the playoffs, and their regular season leading goal scorer is 11th on the team in the playoffs. Tampa seems to have all the pieces in place to take the Eastern Conference Title.
Detroit didn’t have a 30-goal scorer this year, but three of the top four Sharks scorers from the regular season are lagging behind, with Marleau as the ring leader of that group. As much as it pains me to say it, by these stats Vancouver probably beats either of them.
Judging purely off these stats, who wins? Game 7’s are a toss-up, so let’s just assume that, like Chicago, Detroit forces Game 7 after trailing 3-0 but doesn’t make history by winning the game. These numbers suggest that Vancouver then faces San Jose, and wins. Tampa beats Boston, leaving the Lightning and the Canucks to battle for the Cup. Equal numbers between those two, so should be fun to watch. Now, we’ll see if history really does repeat itself.
Bob Mills is the Broadcasting and Media Relations Manager for the Condors, and part of the Broadcast team. He just completed his first season with the Condors. His blog will be posted every Thursday on bakersfieldcondors.com.
Follow Bob’s new Twitter: @Mills_Bob