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Rick Zamperin: NHL on the cusp of losing its two biggest superstars

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) and Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) could both be eliminated in Round 1 of the NHL playoffs.
Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) and Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) could both be eliminated in Round 1 of the NHL playoffs. AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

The National Hockey League‘s marketing department employees must be getting close to throwing a little temper tantrum as they watch the playoff qualifiers unfold.

Can you blame them?

The NHL’s two biggest superstars, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, are on the cusp of being bounced out of their respective bubbles.

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The heavily-favoured Penguins trail the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in their best-of-five series heading into Game 4 Friday afternoon, and it is the same story in Edmonton, where the equally heavily-favoured Oilers are on the brink of elimination, down 2-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks entering Game 4 Friday evening.

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Can you imagine if both the high-powered Penguins and Oilers are both knocked out before the 16-team Stanley Cup playoffs begin?

Talk about bursting the league’s bubble!

It is a script that has been written many times in the past, the underdog team that feels disrespected because very few people are expecting them to win.

But in each of these two series, Montreal and Chicago have shown more will than skill as they each attempt to pull off a massive upset of a much higher seeded team.

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When the NHL season was paused on March 12 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Habs and Hawks had a very small chance of making the playoffs, and now they are both one win away from taking the next step towards Stanley Cup glory.

However, if Pittsburgh and Edmonton are eliminated, there is a bit of a silver lining for their fans.

The NHL says it will hold its Draft Lottery on Monday night and the Penguins and Oilers (again, if eliminated) would have a 12.5 per cent chance at getting the No. 1 overall selection and the right to pick Alexis Lafreniere.

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It’s not the Stanley Cup, but getting the two-time CHL player of the year is one heck of a consolation prize.

Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.