Unless you are a fan of the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, or Calgary Flames, you should probably be pulling for the Eastern Conference to win the Stanley Cup right now. Almost all of the Blackhawks players (including all of their veteran stars), and the Ducks’ two biggest established stars, have already won Stanley Cups. Furthermore, the Calgary Flames don’t have any big name older stars without a Stanley Cup either. Jiri Hudler has a ring from 2008 with the Red Wings. One can make an argument to root for the Wild’s Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, but each of the four remaining Eastern Conference teams have even bigger household names that have yet to win the Cup. Any of the following Eastern stars hoisting the Cup for the first time would be fantastic for the game of hockey.
Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos
Steven Stamkos is one of the biggest names in the world and one of the most prolific goal scorers in the NHL. The 2008 first overall selection was by far the highest rated draft choice in the years between Sidney Crosby being drafted (2005) and this year’s consensus No. 1 Connor McDavid. Now well into his career, Stamkos has completely lived up to the billing as a super-duper star. He has already scored 276 goals in less than 500 games played. Barring significant injury he will no doubt play a 1,000 games in his career and is on pace to have over 500 goals by that point. There is a really good chance he finishes with over 600 by the time he hangs up his skates and currently only 18 players have ever reached that milestone in the league’s history. To end his career, it is very likely that Stamkos will be considered one of the top-25 goal scorers of all time. The Lightning have been up and down since Stamkos entered the league but have been really good the last couple years. Seeing a star captain like Stamkos hoist the Cup for the first time would be awesome to witness.
Washington Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin
The only goal scorer in the league that surpasses Stamkos is the Captials’ Alexander Ovechkin. The Great Eight is a three time MVP of the league and led the league again this year in goals with 53. One of the most animated players in the league, Ovechkin already has 475 goals for his career in just 760 games. He is well on his way to over 700 barring injury, and only seven players in league history have reached that plateau. Not to mention, while Wayne Gretzky’s career points record will never be touched, his record 894 goals is within striking distance for Ovechkin if he can stay healthy. It is very much a long shot to reach Gretzky, but not completely out of the realm of possibility for Ovechkin. Seeing one of the game’s most marketable stars finally receive the Cup from the commissioner would be great for the league.
New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist
Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick may have two Stanley Cups and another goalie to be mentioned further down in this article may win MVP this year, but Henrik Lundqvist is the biggest goaltending star in the league. He isn’t called King Henrik just because his name is close to King Henry. He is as dominant a goaltender as there is in the league. For the past six straight seasons Lundqvist has finished with a save percentage over .920, that is remarkable consistency. The league average save percentage is around .914 and percentages is in the mid .920s often receive Vezina buzz as the league’s best goaltender. Every year Lundqvist is one of the top rated goaltenders. He has yet to win a cup but took the Rangers all the way to the final a year ago. Finally seeing King Henrik lift the Cup would be a treat for all hockey fans.
New York Rangers’ Rick Nash
If the Rangers come all the way back to win the Stanley Cup after losing in the final last year, not only will Lundqvist get to raise the cup but so will star left wing Rick Nash. The 2002 first overall pick has had a lot of detractors over the years. Similar to a number of players who haven’t had much playoff success, Nash gets a lot of criticism. His playoff goal scoring numbers are bizarre as recently noted by our friends at Yahoo’s Puck Daddy because he still gets his chances but his shooting percentage is inexplicably low compared to his regular season percentage. Nash has given us hockey fans some incredible highlight reel moments we will never forget. Would be nice to see his dues pay off in raising the chalice.
Montreal Canadiens’ Carey Price
The last time a team from Canada won the Stanley Cup was the 1993 Montreal Canadiens. The current Canadiens and the Flames are the last two Canadian teams remaining. Calgary looks overmatched and Montreal lost the first two games at home but if either team can come back, I’ll bet it is the Canadiens because of one man, Carey Price. The Habs’ goaltender isn’t just a slam dunk for the Vezina trophy as the league’s best goaltender but he may very well win the Hart Trophy for MVP. If there is any goaltender in the league capable of single handedly winning his team a playoff series, it is Price. A highly touted goaltender coming out of junior, Price was drafted fifth overall back in 2005 and has been solid his whole career. The past two seasons though he has obliterated his career high save percentages. Going into 2013-14 his career best mark was .923 until he raised it to .927 last year. This year he outdid himself again by an even larger margin, finishing with a .933. Montreal has a history of some great goaltenders, including arguably the greatest ever in Patrick Roy. Seeing Price lead the Canadiens to the Cup would be awesome to see as well.