The playoffs are over and as we all come down from our celebration/misery/fury/hatred hangovers, time for reflection sets in. And because nothing is complete without a brutal evaluation post-event, I present to you the Winners and Losers of the 2016 NHL Playoffs.
WINNERS: The St. Louis Blues and the San Jose Sharks.
What? you cry. How can they be winners? One simple reason: they slayed their dragons. Everyone thought they would fall to their traditional enemies, Chicago and Los Angeles, and everyone dutifully wrote in a Chicago vs LA conference final in their brackets. Instead, these two teams with reputations for choking made it, and played exciting hockey to boot.
LOSERS: Everyone’s brackets
LOSERS: Starting goalies
Okay, not exactly losers but they weren’t the story this year. Usually the playoffs goalie talk turns into a discussion of Lundqvist vs. Quick, Rask vs. Crawford, etc. This year, Murray vs…Raanta?
WINNERS: Backup goalies
But on that note, it’s been great to see a new generation of goalies take their turn and do well. Vasilevskiy once again had to step up to the plate for the Lightning, Raanta played when Lundqvist went down, and Matt Murray has easily been the most fascinating subplot of the postseason.
WINNER: Joe Thornton’s beard
It was big. It was bold. It…wasn’t exactly beautiful. Adjectives used to describe it included awful, disgusting, hideous, godawful, mop-like, unkempt, unnecessary. But one thing can’t be denied: it got the attention. And miracle of all miracles, it managed to steal the show from Brent Burns’ convincing cosplay as Bigfoot.
LOSER: Sidney Crosby’s beard
There were a couple of years there where it looked as though Sid might actually be able to work the beard. Most notably, in 2013 he looked like a rakish pirate with his beard and long curls. Admittedly, it wasn’t a truly impressive beard, but as far as Sid goes, it was decent. This year…I’m not sure what it is, but man, is it not a good look.
LOSER: Jeremy Roenick
WINNER: Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi
This is going to go down as one of the most iconic goal calls in hockey history:
(ALMOST) WINNER: NBC Sports Advertising Team
I know I deride them for being lawful evil on Twitter, but since their twitter is clearly run by someone who has no idea what social media is, I think I’m justified.
That being said, I do like a lot of the commercials they pump out, and this one would be perfect if it didn’t feature Patrick Kane so heavily. Blech.
LOSER: NHL Players’ Dignities
Have you seen the World Cup Commercials that they’ve playing during the playoffs? Please make them stop. Burn the footage. For good measure, destroy any hard drive they ever existed on.
LOSER: Steve Simmons
Look: people were already mocking Steve Simmons for the hot dog article even before it was proven that it wasn’t factually accurate. The fervor went down a little during the season when the Penguins struggled, but even then Kessel stood out. And then…
WINNER: Philip J. Kessel
…Kessel exploded in the playoffs. Fun fact: his career all-time playoff points is 43. Half of them have come this post season. Phil Kessel is close to a point-per-game in all his postseason appearances, which just makes it tragic that he’s only played a total of 46. (Compare that to Sidney Crosby, drafted only a year earlier, who has played in 124 playoff games, or Nick Backstrom, drafted one spot ahead of him, who has played in 83 playoff games.) I don’t really want to rag on the Leafs, since it isn’t their fans’ fault that the team is awful, but we have been straight-up robbed of Playoff Phil Kessel these last few years.
ALSO WINNER: Hot Dog Vendors
The vendors of Toronto may have lost their most valuable customer, but the vendors of Pittsburgh have found new life. Even I, a dedicated hot dog hater, very seriously considered going out to get one last night as the Penguins celebrated their cup.
LASTLY, THE BIG WINNERS: The Pittsburgh Penguins, for obvious reasons
But there’s also the fact that they started out looking terrible, to the point where people questioned if they’d lost their window or if they’d even make the playoffs. A midseason coach replacement helped turn things around, but it’s the Penguins, so of course they were beset by injury woes throughout the season, none more devastating than Pascal Dupuis’s eventual forced retirement. You may not be a Penguins, but I defy you not to be happy to see Dupuis get one last Cup, all of his family in tow.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have come a long way–not just this year, but in the seven years since they last won the Cup. The main core has mostly remained unchanged, but in that time they’ve grown up–gotten married, had kids, won medals, faced criticism and doubt, and they emerged as this year’s Stanley Cup Champions. Congratulations, Penguins. You did it.