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History is being made again in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

On the heels of the first back-to-back champions in two decades http://www.seahawksauthorizedshops.com/authentic-byron-maxwell-jersey , the NHL will get a new champion in the salary-cap era that began in 2005. Among the Lightning, Capitals, Jets and Golden Knights, only Tampa Bay has won the Stanley Cup, making this the first time the final four teams have combined for one title or fewer.

Tampa Bay is in the Eastern Conference final for the third time in four years, and Washington has made the playoffs 10 out of the past 11 seasons. Yet after one of Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh lifted the Cup every time since 2009, this crop of new blood is refreshing.

”They’re all good stories,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. ”The same old story sometimes can get old. Once in a while a new chapter is written Daniel Castro Colorado Rockies Jersey , and it’ll be good. This year there will be a new chapter.”

The next chapter begins with the Capitals visiting the Lightning on Friday night, followed by the Golden Knights at Winnipeg on Saturday night. It’s a full turnover from the final four teams last year: Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Nashville and Anaheim.

The Jets became the fourth and final team to reach the third round when they beat the defending Western Conference-champion Predators on the road in Game 7 on Thursday night. Winnipeg is the final hope for Canada’s first Cup celebration since Montreal in 1993 and is in the conference final for the first time in franchise history.

”Having some diversity amongst the league is great, and I think it just shows the competitive balance throughout the league,” Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. ”Having good young players is a great place to start and you see that the teams that have good young players have gotten good fast. So I think it’s a good thing to have some fan bases have some extended postseason success. It just creates a better vibe.”

The Lightning are trying to create the vibe Hockey Bay hasn’t seen since winning the Cup in 2004. They fell short in a six-game loss to the Blackhawks in the 2015 final with this core, led by Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman.

Even after missing the playoffs last year when Stamkos was out long term with a knee injury, Tampa Bay has plenty of recent playoff experience from recent runs and the additions of ex-Rangers players Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and J.T. Miller.

”We’ve been here in this situation before,” Stamkos said. ”There’s no panic or nervousness. We’re excited.”

Vegas hasn’t been in any situation before Authentic Lamar Jackson Jersey , building off the best inaugural season in NHL history by beating Los Angeles and San Jose to reach the West final. Among the four good stories remaining, none is as remarkable as the Golden Knights, who pieced together players from around the league to get further than anyone expected.

”I haven’t been around a team like this,” general manager George McPhee said. ”This feels like more of a team than any team I’ve ever been with at the NHL level.”

McPhee’s former team in Washington has the same feeling. The Capitals aren’t as deep or talented as in years past, but they’re in the East final for the first time since 1998, when McPhee was in his first season as their GM.

”I’ve had some teams that have been very, very talented and they weren’t necessarily the best teams,” said Trotz, who is in the third round for the first time in 19 years as an NHL head coach. ”I think the belief in the group, or the chemistry in the group Saquon Barkley Jersey Giants , is the intangible and this group has a good chemistry about it.”

What excites Jets coach Paul Maurice most about the fresh teams in the conference finals is the hope it keeps alive in the remaining cities. And each one can legitimately believe its team has a chance to win it all.

”That’s the great part about competition,” Maurice said. ”So that’s what’s the most exciting thing is you don’t know, right? There’s not a five-time Stanley Cup champion that’s just ran the first two series 4-0. It’s up for grabs. It’s right there.”

AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed.

Kemba Walker knows his future with the Charlotte Hornets is up in the air.

But the two-time All-Star said he’s not going to spend the offseason dwelling on where he’ll be playing next season.

Walker has one year remaining on a four-year, $48 million contract and while he’d like to remain with the Hornets – where he’s the franchise’s all-time leading scorer – he knows nothing is for certain after a second straight non-playoff season prompted team owner Michael Jordan to hire Mitch Kupchak as the new general manager.

That means that if Kupchak decides a massive rebuilding project is in order, Walker could be the first one out the door given he’s the team’s biggest bargaining chip and has a favorable contract.

”I have no idea,” Walker said Wednesday regarding his future after Charlotte’s regular season finale. ”That is out of my control. I am just going to focus on getting better as a player. That is really all you can do. I don’t know what they are going to do.”

The 6-foot-1 Walker is coming off three tremendous seasons in Charlotte where he has averaged more than 20 points and five assists per game.

Walker, who led Connecticut to a national championship, has never won a playoff series since his arrival in Charlotte six seasons ago.

Kupchak offered no hints over the team’s plans with Walker during an introductory press conference on Tuesday.

”My understanding is he is great in the locker room and great in the community Orlando Brown Jr. Color Rush Jersey ,’ Kupchak said. ”I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to have a player like that going forward.”

Other things to know about the Hornets heading into the offseason:

NOT GOING THERE: While some other star players have been outspoken about what their team needs personnel-wise to get better, Walker refused to go down that path. ”I don’t want to answer that question because it could get real ugly,” Walker said. ”I will leave it up to the guys upstairs.”

CLIFFORD’S FUTURE: Coach Steve Clifford said he felt this was the most talented team he’s had with the Hornets, which made finishing 10 games under .500 all the more disappointing. His future with the team remains uncertain after his teams have failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs the last five seasons.

”The NBA is about winning in the playoffs, so if you want to look back at our five years I do feel very good about where we are and how we are perceived versus where it was five years ago,” Clifford said. ”We made great gains. To be relevant and respected in this league is a long way from where we started.”

HOWARD’S BIG SEASON: Hornets center Dwight Howard enjoyed an impressive bounce back season with Charlotte individually, averaging 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots in 81 games after struggling to find his way in Houston and Atlanta the previous two years resulting in him being traded twice. ”This year really showed a lot of people this guy really takes this game seriously,” said Howard, who finished with a franchise-record 53 double-doubles.

PLAYING WITH HOWARD: While Howard excelled http://www.billsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-jeremy-kerley-jersey , several players had to learn to adjust their games to play with him, including Nic Batum. He excelled with Cody Zeller in the pick-and-roll the previous seasons, but Batum spent more time dumping the ball to Howard in the low post and said he had to adjust his own game to play with Howard.

”I thought I feed him the ball a lot inside and play through him because he’s so big and has so much potential inside,” Batum said. ”If you have a guy like that you have to use him. … Did I give up a lot of my game? Yes, maybe. But I don’t care as long as it is good for the team.”

HORNETS LACKED SPIRIT: One overriding theme of Clifford’s post-season press conference was that he felt his team lacked ”spirit” this season. ”We’ve always had spirit,” Clifford said, ”but we didn’t have that this year. Some games (we did). But not nearly the togetherness, the spirit that we’ve had for years. And they know that. I’ve let them know. So you do have to look at that and I don’t know what the answer is. But it has to start with me.”


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