Everything You Could Ask For
For those of us who call ourselves die hard hockey fans, we will watch the Stanley Cup Final every year. However, some have been better than others in terms of bringing in the casual viewer. The Ducks steamrolling the Ottawa Senators in 2007 wasn’t a very intriguing matchup. Neither was the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils 2012 final. OK, to be fair, most of the other recent finals matchups have been fun series to watch. But I can’t be the only one who feels like they are having more fun than usual this year, right?
Casual sports fans ought to be getting on board with this final because it has everything you could ask for. Both sides bring big name star power, Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Toews to start, elite puck moving/fluid skating defensemen, Duncan Keith and Victor Hedman, great fourth line centers, Brian Boyle and Andrew Shaw, and some big time saves by both goalies.
The series is tied at two games a piece going back to Tampa Bay for Game 5. Each team has won on the road, showing home ice matters little, every game can go either way. Every single one of these contests has been a one-goal game, with the loser pushing strong for a tying goal as time expires. The end of Game 4 with Stamkos failing to convert two glorious chances as the Lightning were absolutely swarming was playoff hockey at its finest.
Stars Shining & Depth Doubles Down
Guys like Hedman and Toews have been making some absolutely world class plays in this series, showcasing the beautiful game at the highest level. Furthermore, neither team ever seems out of any of these games no matter the score. Tying and go-ahead goals have come frequently after the other team has scored. Rarely does either team dominate possession for long stretches, with tons of back and forth action.
This series has been a perfect example of what makes hockey so great, you can’t predict what happens next. Yes, there is star power on the ice but the great part about the playoffs is the stars aren’t always the heroes. Unlike say the NFL, where quarterbacks get all the buzz in the playoffs, any of the lower tier players can score the big goal to win a huge playoff game. In their Game 1 win, the Blackhawks’ two goal scorers were Teuvo Teravainen and Antoine Vermette. Both guys have at times been healthy scratches in these playoffs. Yet they were the offensive stars in a Stanley Cup Final game. Yes, Toews has been amazing in these playoffs, but he can’t do it by himself. Fortunately for him, he has never had to do it by himself in his years with Chicago.
On the flip side, while Stamkos has just one point in his last six playoff games, nobody thinks the Lightning are down-and-out in this series. Again, in other sports if the biggest star on the team isn’t producing, they would probably be losing the game or the series. However, the Lightning, like Chicago, have the depth to make up for it. They have this line of Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, and Tyler Johnson, nicknamed the Triplets. A team has to be deep with talent to have a forward line (sans the biggest star on the team) with a popular nick name.
The only thing we haven’t had yet is an overtime game but with all these games going down to the wire, it feels like one is coming. There is nothing more awesome than a Stanley Cup being won in overtime. The Blackhawks won the 2010 Cup in overtime of Game 6, hopefully this time around we see another OT Cup winner like Jason Arnott scored 15 years ago (video below). This Blackhawks-Lightning series feels like it will end in that type of dramatic fashion.