As the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrated their second straight Stanley Cup championship last summer, my eyes were drawn to one player: defenseman David Savard.
He had played 597 NHL regular-season games and 37 more in the playoffs before the Columbus Blue Jackets traded him to the Lightning at the deadline. He walked into a locker room filled with newly fitted Stanley Cup rings from 2020, having never played for one yet in his career -- no pressure, new guy.
After Game 5 against Montreal, Steven Stamkos collected the Stanley Cup from the commissioner and passed it to Victor Hedman, who then gave it to Savard. Hedman did this out of tradition: The longest-serving veteran who has yet to raise the Cup will usually receive it early in the celebration. Because he played hundreds of games in an unforgiving sport for that moment. Because he dreamed about it every day as a kid, from the driveway net to the local rink. Because the wait is finally over.
That's why the Stanley Cup celebrations never get old: It will always be someone's first time. In the 2022 NHL postseason, there are multitudes of players seeking their first drink from the Cup. Some are legends of the game, some are just entering their prime.
Here are my tiered rankings of the Cup-less wonders of the upcoming playoffs.