One of the things that stood out to me about hockey when I was younger was the “Three Stars of the Game” after each game. It was, different, like everything in hockey was to me when learning the game. It was reminiscent of the “Hero & Goat” caricatures by the late, great Bill Gallo that I read in the NY Daily News after playoff games involving professional teams in New York City.
Needless to say it was a bit surreal being able to one day actually vote for the three stars of the game sometimes while covering New Jersey Devils games. The 2015 Stanley Cup Final is now underway between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks and for the duration of the series in this space we will take a look at who we thought were the three stars of each game.
2015 Stanley Cup Final
Game 1: Chicago 2 Tampa Bay 1 — 3 Stars of the Game
Game 2: Tampa Bay 4 Chicago 3 — 3 Stars of the Game
Game 3: Tampa Bay 3 Chicago 2 — 3 Stars of the Game
Game 4: Chicago 2 Tampa Bay 1
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) June 11, 2015
3) Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay) The 20-year-old became only the sixth goalie to ever make his playoff debut in the Stanley Cup Final (the first since the 2006 Final) and he is definitely not to blame for Tampa Bay dropping Game 4. He stopped 17 of the 19 shots he faced and the game was tied 1-1 entering the third period; at no point did he look like he didn’t belong out there. Vasilevskiy was definitely the hard luck loser and now actually has the same record as the man he replaced (injured starter Ben Bishop) in this round (1-1).
2) Duncan Keith (Chicago) If America runs on Dunkin (Donuts), the Blackhawks run on Duncan (Keith); another amazing game in the books for the two-time Norris Trophy winner. He logged a game-high of 29:07 in ice-time and had a game-high (tied with Johnny Oduya) five blocked shots. Not to mention the countless times (I did lose count during the game) he prevented scoring chances from actually making it to the net. The play he made on the wrap around attempt by Nikita Kucherov was truly a game-saver because it did not appear that Corey Crawford was going to be able to prevent that from going in without help from Keith.
Captain Serious was Captain Clutch in Game 4:
1) Jonathan Toews (Chicago) Facing a 1-3 series deficit if his team had lost Game 4, Jonathan Toews showed us all why he is one of the best leaders in the sport. Not only did he have the game’s first goal, but he also drove the net multiple times creating excellent chances, had four shots on goal, four hits and four blocked shots; and he won eight of 14 face-offs too (57%). After a sluggish start for the entire team in the first period (a very Devil-like two shots on goal), it was Captain Serious that led the charge in the second period as they pumped 12-shots on Tampa’s rookie netminder. If the Hawks rally to win this series, it would be their third Cup in six seasons, remember this game by this super special player; oh by the way he’s only 27-year-old.
Saturday night the series resumes in Tampa Bay with what could be a decisive Game 5 for one of these two squads. Either way after tonight we all win as fans with at least two more guaranteed games before hockey goes bye-bye for the summer.