Stanley Cup

Every year, the National Hockey League’s elite franchises battle through the postseason as they bid to win the sport’s ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup. To get to this prestigious event, a team must win three best-of-seven rounds against hockey’s elite – which is why the likes of Bleacher Report claim that this particular trophy the most difficult title to win in the entire sporting universe.

The Stanley Cup is gruelling and the road to the finals is unforgiving. Teams are competing against each other most nights and there isn’t much time for resting up. It’s all about grit and determination and for most, adrenaline will carry them through certain matches. If nothing else, the Stanley Cup is the culmination of the intense 82-match regular season and is designed to split the men from the boys.

Hockey fans have been spoilt in recent times and some of the greatest ever Stanley Cup moments have took place in the last decade or so. With plenty of famous triumphs, unfortunate and embarrassing incidents and heart-breaking defeats, the National Hockey League’s showpiece event remains the most exciting and exhilarating event on the planet – and here are just a few of the key moments from down the years.

Famous Stanley Cup victories

The Montreal Canadiens are the NHL’s most successful franchises and, as of the 2016 season, have won the Stanley Cup an incredible 24 times since the era began in 1915. In recent times, they have struggled to make a major impact on the league however, and the Canadiens haven’t won the showpiece event since 1993. After being so dominant during the previous century, it is sad to see the Canadiens struggle on a regular basis but they may be on the verge of bouncing back very soon…

In one of the most exciting and topsy-turvy Stanley Cup series’ of all-time, the Tampa Bay Lightning earned a 4-3 victory over the Calgary Flames to win their first and only National Hockey League title. Bizarrely, neither team won a home game until Tampa snuck past Calgary in the final match to join the history books as Stanley Cup winners. And who knows, the Lightning – priced at 9/1 with – could add another title to their trophy room this season.

In 1998, the Detroit Red Wings made history as they won a second successive Stanley Cup series without losing a match in the finals. After defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in 1997, Detroit managed to whitewash the Washington Capitals 4-0 in one of the most dominant ‘mini-eras’ in National Hockey history. Will we ever see anything like it again in the modern era? Probably not…

Who could win the title in 2016?

This year, the Capitals are one of the well-fancied sides and many believe that Alexander Ovechkin could fire the franchise to their first Stanley Cup crown. However, they will have to advance past the Pittsburgh Penguins without defenseman Brooks Orpik after he picked up a three-game suspension for an unnecessary late hit on Penguins offensive star Olli Maata. But if they can get past Pittsburgh, they stand a great chance of reaching the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1998.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are no longer a dominant force in the NHL but they do have the necessary quality on offense and defence to win a Stanley Cup. They were well beaten by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015 but it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see the Lightning continue their good form throughout the playoffs. After all, this is the time of the season where they seem to come from nowhere and challenge for glory, so why should that be any different this year?

Meanwhile, the San Jose Sharks are just one of six NHL teams to never feature in the illustrious finals event and the California-based franchise could go all the way this year. At the time of writing, the Sharks have developed a 2-0 series lead over the Nashville Predators in the second round of the playoffs and Peter DeBoer’s men are looking incredibly strong – both offensively and on defence. It wouldn’t quite be up there with the great sporting fairy tales but a San Jose success would certainly be nothing short of spectacular.

But it would be foolish to rule out the Dallas Stars. They haven’t reached the Stanley Cup for some time but Dallas’ offensive tactics worked during the regular season and they’re working in the playoffs. As of May 2nd, the Stars breezed past the Minnesota Wild and are currently tied 1-1 in their clash with the St Louis Blues. And while defeating the Blues is no easy feat, Dallas have enough quality to reach the next round, especially as many associated with the franchise believe the Stars should advance comfortably.