Yale’s run potential preview

For all intents and purposes, the Yale Bulldogs had absolutely no business coming away with the “Frozen Four” championship this season, which they captured in Pittsburgh on Saturday with a 4-0 win over the Quinnipiac Bobcats.
Having snuck into the NCAA men’s hockey tournament at the absolute last minute after the Michigan Wolverines lost in the CCHA tournament final, the Bulldogs were the 16th and lowest seed—and were given little chance of winning it all.
But after knocking off two of the top programs in the U.S. in Minnesota and North Dakota, and dispatching another strong team this season in U-Mass Lowell, the Bulldogs then shoved aside the number-one squad to win their first national title.
While watching the Bulldogs celebrate their achievement, I couldn’t help but think that while it was a huge stunner to see them knock off so many dominant programs en route to the title, it’s not really that much of a surprise when it comes to hockey.
For example, the Shawinigan Cataractes lost in the second round of the QMJHL playoffs last year and were not expected to do much in the Memorial Cup. But they were able to beat the London Knights on home ice to earn the title of Canada’s best junior team.
However, this is something that has happened time and time again when it comes to the Stanley Cup playoffs. The L.A. Kings won from the eighth seed a year ago and both the Philadelphia Flyers and Edmonton Oilers have reached the final after just squeaking into the playoffs.
So why is this happening with more regularity? Well, I think there a couple of reasons for that. The first—and probably more clichéd—has to do with the fact that the playoffs are a completely different ball of wax compared to the regular season.
I mean, how often have we seen a team that just destroyed everyone in their path during an 82-game campaign, only to trip over the first hurdle in the playoffs when they go up against a team that has a hot goalie or extra momentum heading into the playoffs?
But I think the reason we see more and more upsets in the post-season comes from the fact there is a lot more parity among the teams.
It’s been said that the NFL is the most dead-even league (due to the fact that anyone can win on “Any Given Sunday”), but it’s becoming more and more clear that you could put that statement into any sport (minus European soccer, where free-spending is the way to the top).
Ever since the lockout, there seems to be an ebb-and-flow when it comes to the NHL’s playoff match-ups as a team could be one of the best one season and then not even make the post-season a year later.
But the best example of this in hockey has to be from this year’s “Frozen Four” given all four teams had never won a national championship before, which goes to show that you don’t have to be going to Minnesota, North Dakota, or Boston College in order to be on one of the best teams in the country.
It might be maddening for some to try and piece together what is going to happen from game to game, and that having home-ice for the playoffs might not mean a whole lot, but it’s certainly a lot of fun as a fan.
So while everyone seems to be anticipating a seven-game war between the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins for Lord Stanley’s mug this season, don’t be surprised if this year’s final come down to a battle between the N.Y. Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets.

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