By Scott Taylor
Photos by James Carey Lauder and Jeff Miller
New York Rangers professional scout Tom Thompson has been around the game of hockey for more than 40 years. By his own admission, he’s probably seen it all.
However, if there is one thing that still stokes his fire every season, it’s the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“There is absolutely no doubt that the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is always the best,” said Thompson. “You have teams that finished high in the standings expecting to win against teams that were lucky to make the playoffs and now they have nothing to lose. The first round is always the toughest, the fastest, the closest and the most exciting. The first round is where the upsets happen. This is always hockey at its very best.”
And when we get started on Wednesday night, the 2017 Stanley Cup tournament should not disappoint. Especially here in Minnesota.
The Wild have one of the best teams in the post-season tournament – despite that March swoon – and if they get the goaltending they need from Devan Dubnyk, should find themselves through to the second round and a date with their long-time nemesis, the Chicago Blackhawks.
This should be a terrific two weeks. The defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins are back. The three-time Stanley Cup-winning Jonathan Toews version of the Chicago Blackhawks are favored in the West. The Alexander Ovechkin-led Washington Capitals just might be ready to snare their first Cup. While the aging San Jose Sharks will take a solid veteran lineup into the biggest tournament of the year against the upstart – and exciting – Edmonton Oilers.
The 2017 Stanley Cup Tournament begins on Wednesday, April 15 with 16 teams. In two months, only one will be standing.
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty fired up….