Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

A battle of equals for NHL's Stanley Cup

There are a plethora of contenders for the NHL's top prize this season

The age of parity is alive and well in the NHL.

With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, seven teams can make a claim as the league's leading Stanley Cup contenders.

The Vancouver Canucks, the first team to 50 victories and the probable Presidents' Trophy winners as the best team in the regular season, would be right to consider themselves a half-stride ahead of the pack. But the season-ending injury suffered by Manny Malhotra, their checking-line centre, as well as the concussion to Dan Hamhuis, their top defenceman, will challenge the team's depth.

And, of course, there is the question of Roberto Luongo's ability to win in the heat of the play-offs. Until the goalie and the Canucks prove themselves in the post-season, doubt will remain.

In the East, the same question haunts the Philadelphia Flyers that spooked them in last season's cup final and the 20 years before that. Their goaltending is the great unknown. They have entrusted the crease to Sergei Bobrovsky, a rookie who was brilliant early but has worn down over the course of a six-month season.

Bobrovsky has shown a propensity to be streaky; if he gets on a roll, all is well, but if things slide, it is another Flyers obituary.

And really, that is how it reads for the rest, too. They are very good teams, with evident deficiencies.

The Washington Capitals can score, but their indifference to defence is growing legendary. Plus, Alex Ovechkin is nursing a nagging injury, and they've got a three-headed goaltending monster between semi-proven Semyon Varlamov and youngsters Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby, you never know who is going to start from one day.

The Detroit Red Wings have been the league's gold standard for 20 years, but they are a veteran team and have battled injuries all season. Never count out the Wings, but it is also hard to rely on a team on the limp.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, despite the season-ending loss of Evgeni Malkin and the continued absence of Sidney Crosby, have been able to remain among the East's elite. But can any team be expected to win after losing arguably the two best players in the world?

Perhaps, then, it will come down to the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks.

The Bruins have offensive punch, great goaltending and heaps of motivation after blowing a 3-0 series lead in last year's East final. The Sharks, meanwhile, have bided their time as a contenders who could not win in the play-offs, finally shaking that reputation last spring and then swimming under the radar this season.

It would make for a great final, and solve that age-old Bruins v Sharks argument, besides.

sports@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Manager Matt Williams benching star Bryce Harper, above, may have sent the wrong message to the rest of the Washington Nationals. Mike Ehrmann / AFP

Benching Harper sends Williams’s right message the wrong way

Matt Williams, the Washington Nationals manager, made the biggest move of his 18-game tenure on Saturday, benching rising star Bryce Harper for his “lack of hustle”.

 Players such as George Springer are a sign that things are starting to swing in the Houston Astros' favour. But more help is needed. Scott Halleran / AFP

Houston Astros are still earth-bound but help is on the way

As harbingers of a new era go, the Houston Astros could have done worse than misspelling their new phenom’s name on his major-league debut.

 Luis Suarez became the first Liverpool player to score 30 Premier League goals in a season since Ian Rush in 1987. Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

Sterling and Suarez inpire Liverpool to win over Norwich City

The win takes the Premier League table-toppers to 80 points from 35 games.

 Arsenal's Lukas Podolski celebrates his second goal during the Premier League match against Hull City at The KC Stadium in Hull, England, on April 20, 2014. Lynne Cameron / AP Photo

Arsenal maintain push for top-four finish with victory at Hull

Hull could end up in Europe regardless of the FA Cup final result if Arsenal finish in the Uefa Champions League places

 Chelsea’s manager Jose Mourinho, second from right, holds back assistant coach Rui Faria, centre, after he was sent off by referee Mike Dean, left, during their Premier League match against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge in London. Philip Brown / Reuters

Angry Jose Mourinho mocks referees for ‘fantastic performance’ after Chelsea defeat

Manager targets Mike Dean, who awarded the 82nd-minute penalty from which Fabio Borini scored the winning goal for Sunderland.

 Michelle Wie’s other two LPGA titles also came in North America, at the 2009 Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico and at Canadian Women’s Open in August of 2010. Jamie Squire / Getty Images

Michelle Wie’s win snaps LPGA title drought

The American, who erased a four-shot deficit to win with a 14-under par total of 274, wins her third career LPGA crown.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National