Original Six Playoffs a rare occurrence

Last season represented the first time since 1996 that all six NHL Originals made the Stanley Cup playoffs in the same year; an event that has sadly become a rare occurrence. And part of what made the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs so enjoyable was that the Original Six teams clashed several times throughout the tournament.

The 2013 first round featured a series between the Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs that ended in an epic seventh game overtime after the Leafs blew a 4-1 third period lead to a Bruins team that had blown a 3-1 lead in games to get to that point.

In the second round the Bruins played the New York Rangers and the Chicago Blackhawks met with their biggest rivals the Detroit Red Wings. The Bruins made short work of the Blueshirts, but the Hawks and Wings put on a show: the Hawks bounced back from 3-1 down in games to defeat the Wings in game seven extra time.

Unfortunately, last year’s Original Six playoffs may not be duplicated and part of the reason for that is the fact that the Detroit Red Wings have switched conferences and now play in the East with four of the other Original Six clubs. Furthermore, it may remain rare for all six Original Six NHL clubs to make the playoffs at the same time because five of them vie for eight available spots in the Eastern Conference.

We will see an Original Six playoffs this spring, we just may not see all six of them. That being said, there is a very good chance that five of the six will continue playing once the 82 game regular season schedule concludes in a few weeks.

The Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers are in great shape to make the playoffs. The Leafs and Red Wings are fighting for a few final spots in the East and there remains a fairly strong possibility that only one of them will manage to secure a placement in the top eight.

The Bruins lead the NHL in points with 103 and are in the midst of a 12-game winning streak. The record is 17, set by the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins. Boston has represented the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup finals in two of the last three tournaments. The B’s won the Cup in 2011 and lost the 2013 Finals in six games to Original Six brethren the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are the defending champs and winners of two Stanley Cup titles since 2010. They’ll be back in the playoffs this spring and will be the only Original Six club in the Western Conference playoffs.

The Canadiens have become comfortably playoff bound for the second straight season. With 85 points – a six point cushion with eleven games remaining – the Habs control their own destiny, but the Toronto Maple Leafs have shown us how quickly things can change.

Eight days ago the Leafs were in the Habs’ current situation – they controlled their own destiny and had a comfortable cushion on the rest of the pack for a spot in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. Five straight losses and the Leafs cushion is gone – they occupy the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, holding a one-point lead over the Washington Capitals.

The Detroit Red Wings have gained nine points on the Leafs over the last ten days, drawing the two teams even in points. The Wings, however, have two extra games remaining, and to be fair, they’re missing Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader, Stephen Weiss and Johan Franzen up front.

If the playoffs began today the Leafs and Bruins would meet in the first round for the second straight season. There is a very good chance that the East will feature a few Original Six matchups in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Bruins are almost destined to meet the Leafs, Wings, Rangers or Habs in Round One. It is also still possible for the Canadiens to play either the Leafs or Red Wings in the first round. The Blackhawks won’t see an Original Six team this post-season unless they make the Stanley Cup finals again, assuming an Original Six team meets them there.