3 Teams’ Journey From Presidents’ Trophy Curse to Stanley Cup

It’s time to face the music: the Presidents’ Trophy curse is real, with the Boston Bruins being the latest to feel its wrath. After having a record-setting season, they succumbed to the Florida Panthers in Game 7 of Round 1 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Journey From Presidents' Trophy Curse To Stanley Cup Colorado Avalanche, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals
Colorado Avalanche, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals (The Hockey Writers)

Not all hope is lost when you win the Presidents’ Trophy. In recent history, teams that have won the Presidents’ Trophy have soon after won the Stanley Cup. Of the past five Stanley Cup-winning teams, three of them had won the President’s Trophy the year before hoisting the Stanley Cup. Those teams are the 2017-18 Washington Capitals, the 2019-20 Tampa Bay Lightning and the 2021-22 Colorado Avalanche.

Capitals: Back To Back Presidents’ Trophies

The 2017-18 Washington Capitals helped cement Alexander Ovechkin’s legacy as one of the greatest hockey players of all time. On the tail of back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies, they finally won a Stanley Cup. The 2015-16 season was the first year they won the Presidents’ Trophy on the back of a 120-point regular season. They won 56 games that year, with their star goaltender Brayden Holtby winning 48 of those games himself. The Capitals lost their second-round series in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the eventual Stanley Cup champions of that year.

Brayden Holtby (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The 2017-18 edition of the Capitals saw them finish first in the Metropolitan Division with 105 points. In the playoffs, they exorcised their own demons in the second round. Their rival, the Penguins, put up a fight but lost in six games to the Capitals. In the end, they defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in five games in the Final, with Ovechkin being named the Conn Smythe Winner.

Lightning Swept By Blue Jackets

One of the most surprising upsets happened in the 2018-19 postseason. The Lightning were favorites to advance past the eighth-seeded Columbus Blue Jackets. But in a shock felt around the world, the Blue Jackets swept the Lightning. No one saw it coming, and no one expected the Blue Jackets to win the series in that way. The 128-point season by the Lightning seemed like a waste.

Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay Lightning 2020 Stanley Cup
Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning hoists the 2020 Stanley Cup. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Fast forward a year later, and the entire world is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a way to keep the playoffs alive, the “playoff bubble” was created to limit excessive travel and the spread of the coronavirus. They endured extensive time away from their families, homes, and loved ones and sequestered themselves for a couple of months. Under these circumstances, the 2019-20 Lightning redeemed themselves of their embarrassing defeat a year prior.

MacKinnon-Led Avalanche Get to the Top of the Hockey Mountain

The COVID-19 pandemic did not go gently into that good night and was a major hurdle for the NHL to navigate for the 2020-21 season. There was a realignment of divisions, and each organization only played regular season games against the other teams in that division. Hopes were high after the Avalanche clinched their division and secured the Presidents’ Trophy. Then after sweeping the St. Louis Blues in Round 1 and cruising to a 2-0 series lead after two games, things were looking great. However, the bottom fell out, and the Avalanche lost four straight games, knocking them out of the playoffs.

Gabriel Landeskog Colorado Avalanche 2022 Stanley Cup
Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche lifts the Stanley Cup (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Enter the 2021-22 season. The Avalanche finished second overall in the standings, three points behind the Florida Panthers. The playoffs begin, and they sweep the Nashville Predators in Round 1 before taking out the Blues in six games in Round 2. The Avalanche sailed past the Edmonton Oilers in four to win the Western Conference, then capped it off by defeating the reigning back-to-back champions, the Lightning.

Related: The Sad Reality of the Presidents’ Trophy “Curse”

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While we are on the topic: the Panthers won the Presidents’ Trophy last season and are currently ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs 1-0 in their Round 2 series. If I was a betting man, I’d consider making a wager on the Panthers. They fit the mold of the three teams above, and maybe it’s their time.

The last team to win both the Stanley Cup and the Presidents’ Trophy in the same season was the 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks. It’s one thing to be the best team in the regular season and quite another to win the Stanley Cup, so the Presidents’ Trophy curse remains for another year.

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