Whoever survives the Eastern Conference gauntlet during this season’s Stanley Cup playoffs will be a worthy winner of the Prince of Wales Trophy.
Battling through three rounds to reach the Stanley Cup Final from the East will be harder than ever, because, for the first time in NHL history, all eight playoff teams from one conference have eclipsed the 100 point mark.
Together, the eight Eastern Conference teams combined for an astonishing 883 points on the season, led by the President’s Trophy winning Florida Panthers. Along the Panthers, the Eastern Conference playoff field also includes five of the last six Stanley Cup champions, including the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
It’s no secret the Stanley Cup playoffs are always a slog where only the strongest survive, but knowing whoever you face in any given round posted triple digits in points makes that task even harder than it may have been in past years.
While this will mark the first time either conference has ever achieved this feat, it should be noted that it was never a true possibility until the shootout was introduced for the 2005-06 season. Removing ties guaranteed a winner in each game, this someone was walking away with two points.
In addition, the overtime point, often called the “loser point,” wasn’t introduced until 1999 so any season before then just one or two teams hitting 100 points was a special mark.
These days, it’s not rare for several teams to hit the 100 point milestone on the season, but this will mark the first time that all eight qualifying teams from one conference have reached it.
For comparisons sake, of the eight Western Conference playoff teams, five reached 100 total points in the standings, meaning the Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars, and Nashville Predators all would be on the outside looking in if they were to play in the East.
That’s taking nothing away from those teams, it just shows how dominant and perhaps top heavy the East was this season compared to the West.
Whichever two teams survive their respective conference and advance to the Final will both be worthy, but coming out of the East this year will be more difficult than ever, and whoever survives will be worthy of hoisting the Prince of Wales Trophy.