Maybe it’s posturing, maybe it’s honesty. But whatever the case, Randy Carlyle didn’t mice words when it came to picking who he thought was the lead horse in the Stanley Cup race.
“Everybody’s going to look to Chicago as the favorite,” Carlyle said, per the O.C. Register. “It’s pretty simple. And then everybody else will probably be bunched in because that’s the way standings read right now.
“Chicago with their history and their Stanley Cup experience and their group of players, I’d have to say that any team sitting with 107 points in the Western Conference would be the favorite.”
Standings wise, Chicago has emerged as the class of the West. The ‘Hawks are well clear of their two closest challengers — Minnesota, who sits six points back, and the Ducks, who are seven back — and, along with Washington, are currently the only two NHL clubs on 50 wins.
So Carlyle’s words make sense. Throw in the fact the core of this Chicago team has won three championships, and it’s hard to argue his point.
There’s no doubt a bit of gamesmanship here. Two years ago, the Ducks and ‘Hawks met in the Western Conference Final, and Anaheim looked to be in control.
The Ducks were within one win of advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, but couldn’t close — Chicago won Game 6 at the United Center, then jumped out to a 4-0 lead to cruise to victory in Game 7. At the Honda Center, no less.
Carlyle wasn’t the coach then — it was Bruce Boudreau — but a large chunk of the current Ducks team was around in ’15. A large chunk of last year’s team is around, too, and that’s the same squad that crashed out in Round 1 (which ultimately cost Boudreau his job). Perhaps this is Carlyle’s way of taking some pressure off his club.
Or, maybe motivating it.