They were a team that rolled through the regular season at a pace only seen once before.
Winning a record-tying 62 games was supposed to be only the start for the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning, as they were the unanimous favorites to be hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup in June...and then the first round of the playoffs happened.
After looking so dominant for 82 games, the Lightning were manhandled by the Blue Jackets in the first round, and their playoff run lasted just 4 games.
This was not the first time that the league’s top regular season team lost in the first round of the playoffs either. In fact, it has happened 7 times since the Presidents’ Trophy began being handed out in the 1985-86 season.
On top of this, the #1 seed has lost 7 times in the second round of the playoffs during the same time period.
Does this mean that the Presidents’ Cup is cursed? If so, do the Bruins really want to finish at the top of the standings?
Let’s take a look.
It ain’t all bad for #1
Everyone remembers the collapses of the true regular season juggernauts, and for good reason. When a team like the 2019 Lightning or the 2006 Detroit Red Wings has a historic regular season campaign then bows out in the first round, it’s shocking.
In fact, those early exits are sometimes so surprising that we often remember these failures more than who wins the Stanley Cup that year.
While it’s true that there have been some early departures by Presidents’ Trophy winners, it’s also true that the NHL’s best team has also won the Stanley Cup 8 times in the past 35 seasons.
That’s about 23% of the time, which for Bruins fans probably doesn’t sound too bad. If you also include the teams that made it to the Cup Final but lost, the number jumps up to 12, or 34%.
The 2012-2013 Chicago Blackhawks are the most recent example of a team that dominated throughout the regular season and still hoisted the Stanley Cup at the end of the playoffs...unfortunately for the Bruins.
Instead of looking at this as a trend, you really have to break down the Bruins scenario and previous first round losers’ scenarios individually.
In the Canucks’ situation, they had just lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final the previous year and had the misfortune of running into the Kings just as they were beginning their mini-dynasty of winning 2 cups in 3 years.
Clearly, a curse wasn’t at play in this situation. The same could be said for the aforementioned 2005-2006 Red Wings: they lost because they ran into a hot Edmonton Oilers team that went on to beat the Sharks and Ducks on the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
What could derail the Bruins season
As mentioned above, a curse isn’t really what Bruins fans should be worried about. Instead, like the 2011-2012 Canucks, Bruins fans should be worried about this team running out of gas.
The core of the B’s has played a lot of hockey in the past two years (and really, over the past decade). It could catch up to them at the wrong time. A team like the Rangers, on the other hand, would be relatively ‘fresh’ and could use young, rested legs to oust the Bruins early in the playoffs.
In addition, the playoffs are always a time when a red-hot goalie can pulled off the unexpected (see 2011 Tim Thomas).
Why the Bruins should want to finish 1st
For the Bruins, a top spot finish would secure them home advantage throughout the playoffs, which would really be an advantage for Boston. Currently, the Bruins are 22-3-9 at home, and Tuukka Rask has only two regulation losses during this period.
Finishing at the top of the Atlantic would also essentially guarantee a first-round match-up against a team that isn’t the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Yes, the Bruins have had their recent playoff successes against the Buds, but the Leafs are still a very dangerous match-up for anyone. If Frederik Andersen gets hot and the Leafs offense remains potent, they could beat any team in a seven-game series.
Instead a top spot would likely match the Bruins up against a Metropolitan Division team like the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, or New York Rangers, teams that the Bruins have had success against over the past two seasons and teams that the Bruins should beat.
Of course, there are still 15+ games left in the regular season, so all of this could be moot if the Blues or Lightning get hot and the Bruins cool off.
However, if the Bruins do find themselves on top when the season ends, it’s not something fans should be concerned about. A Presidents’ Trophy would set the Bruins up nicely for another shot at the Stanley Cup...as long as the don’t touch the Prince of Wales Trophy of course,because that thing is definitely cursed.
If the Bruins win the Presidents’ Trophy how far do you think they will make it in the playoffs?
This poll is closed
First Round Exit
Eastern Conference Finals
Stanley Cup Finals