The Boston Bruins clinched the Presidents' Trophy on Thursday night, therefore securing home ice advantage throughout the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It's an impressive accomplishment, especially when you consider the Bruins' 58 victories are the most in team history, and they still have a chance of setting the NHL wins record with 63.
And yet, some fans are pretty anxious about the fact the B's won the Presidents' Trophy. It's certainly not an unfounded fear. The reality is the last nine Presidents' Trophy winners have all failed to reach the Stanley Cup Final. Only one of those nine advanced past the second round.
Is the Presidents' Trophy curse actually real?
Even if it exists, Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery isn't worried about it.
“Yeah, for sure we’re gonna look at it. But the Presidents’ Trophy teams have also won the most percentage of Stanley Cups. So I’m gonna look at it that way,” Montgomery told reporters after Boston's 2-1 overtime win against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden. “I’d rather be Presidents’ Trophy than second, third, fourth or fifth, because they haven’t won the Cup as much.”
If you look at the totality of NHL history, the No. 1 overall seeds and No. 1 seeds in general have won more Stanley Cup titles than any other seed. Over the last 95 years, 40 percent (38 of 95) of the Stanley Cup champions entered the playoffs with the league's best record (h/t to Ty Anderson).
Since the league doubled in size from six teams to 12 teams for the 1967-68 season, 35 percent (19 of 54) of the champions were the No. 1 overall seed -- higher than any other seed.
Home ice advantage might not be as important to winning the Stanley Cup as home court advantage is in the NBA. The Bruins have experienced this first hand. They won Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final on the road and lost Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final at home. Being at home for Games 1, 2, 5 and 7 is no guarantee of a series win, but it's still much better to have that advantage than not. And when you consider the fact that the Bruins have been a historically good home team this season with a 31-4-3 record at TD Garden -- five more home wins than any other team -- it's absolutely an advantage for them to be the No. 1 overall seed.
"I think it’s really important," Montgomery said Thursday when asked about home ice advantage. "You look at our home record, you look at how much we love playing in front of the rabid Bruins fans, teams aren’t gonna look forward to coming in here."
How do the Bruins compare to the last nine Presidents' Trophy winners? Here's a graphic that breaks it down in several key statistics.
To recap, the Bruins have scored the third-most goals per game, given up the fewest goals per game, posted the best save percentage and own the top penalty kill of any Presidents' Trophy winner since 2013-14. So, when compared to recent winners, the Bruins stand alone as arguably the best of the bunch.
Another difference between this year's Bruins and many of the recent Presidents' Trophy winners? Several of Boston's top veterans -- including Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand -- know what it takes to get to the Stanley Cup Final and win it. If you look at the past Presidents' Trophy winners since 2013, most of their top players had never been to, or won a Stanley Cup. The Capitals, Predators, Avalanche, Panthers and Rangers are examples.
Sure, the Bruins had that experience when they won the Presidents' Trophy in 2013-14 and 2019-20, but at least the B's veterans know and understand the type of pressure a No. 1 overall seed is going to face come playoff time.
The Bruins' road to the Cup Final will be very difficult, no matter how it unfolds. They likely will play the Penguins or Panthers in the first round. Their second round opponent would be the Tampa Bay Lightning or Toronto Maple Leafs. The Carolina Hurricanes are the most likely team to survive the Metropolitan Division side of the bracket and play Boston in the Eastern Conference Final, assuming the B's get there.
The Bruins will face plenty of adversity in the playoffs, but they are a battle-hardened, experienced group that understands the significance of this season and why taking advantage of this specific opportunity is so important. Securing home ice advantage in all four rounds will make the challenge a little easier than it otherwise would have been.