Archive | May 2016

Why Watch the Stanley Cup Finals? 

I’ve been a little bit of a distant observer of the the Stanley Cup Playoffs so far this year. I only started watching the NHL Playoffs closely when the conference finals got underway. I was thoroughly entertained by the games in those series and I am excited for the matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks. I’ll admit that I’m not as much a hockey game as I am other sports, namely baseball and basketball, but I will watch the Stanley Cup Finals with great interest and here are some reasons for that. 

1. Old Men Hunting for a Ring

The San Jose Sharks have never been to the Stanley Cup Finals. They are a team that was formed in the wave of southern NHL expansion in the 1990’s. They have been rather succesful since their inception, making the playoffs 18 times in their 24 season existence. And they have seen some excellent players in the bay. Two sharks are among the most veteran players in the NHL and have not gotten a chance to play on the biggest stage in Hockey yet. Joe Thorton was drafted first overall in 1997 and has crafted a Hall of Fame career with succesful runs in Boston and San Jose. He has averaged a point a game for his entire career, and has never appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals. The other veteran Shark is Patrick Marleau, who was drafted right behind Thorton, second overall in the 1997 NHL draft by the Sharks. He has been the Captain of the team since 2004, and owns the records for most shots, goals, power play goals, and points. These players have seen the Sharks through many battles, and now they have a chance to win a championship. 


2. Best Player in the League?

 Switching focus to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a second, their star player has a chance to show why he is one of the best players in the history of the NHL. Sidney Crosby has already demonstrated that he is an all star player with incredible stick handling and skating skills. He’s crossed the 900 point milestone this season and was announced as a finalist for the Hart Trophy (League MVP) for this season, hoping for his 3rd Hart Trophey. But he struggled this season. It was not until a coaching change that he returned to peak form. Combine that with many around the league questioning his toughness, playoff struggles through his career, and a chance to win a championship, and this makes for an excellent opportunity for Crosby to shine on the game’s greatest stage.


3. Testing the Goaltenders

Hockey is often decided by which goaltender has the stronger performance. Usually it’s possible to determine the favorite goalie based off the compared experience and results. That comparison isn’t possible this year. Neither of the starting goaltenders have an immense amount of experience in the playoffs and both will be tested against strong offenses. Martin Jones is the starting Sharks goalie. He was acquired by a trade with the Bruins who had picked him up from the Kings just before sending him to San Jose. This was his first season as a starting goaltender in the NHL and he performed admirably with a .918 save percentage and a 2.27 goals allowed average. Through the playoffs, he has gone 12-6 with a 2.02 goals allowed average. He also is the only player on the Sharks roster with any experience playing in the Stanley Cup Finals. He was the backup goaltender for the LA Kings in 2014 when the Kings beat the Rangers to win the Stanley Cup. The Pittsburgh net minder, meanwhile, is not even the regular starter on paper for the team. Matt Murray has been the backup goalie for the team most of his time in Pittsburgh so far, and was in the American Hockey League (the NHL’s equivalent of Triple A baseball) as late as February of this year. He has since become the team’s starter, as Marc-André Fleury (the regular starter for the team since 2003) has missed time due to post concussion symptoms. Murray has seen time in hard playoff battles in this run, including against the President Cup winning Washington Capitals and a frantic game 7 in the Conference Finals against the Lightning. He still lacks on ice playoff experience. Both goalies do. And this matchup will be among the most interesting to watch in the series. 

4. Seeking Redemption

These organizations are regulars to the postseason. However, both teams have seen difficulty in recent playoff runs, with some spectacular failures in the last few postseasons. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009, and have not been back to the finals since then. They lost to the Montreal Canadians in a seven game series in the 2nd round of the 2010 playoffs, closing their long time home, the Mellon Arena, on a bad note. They lost to the Lightning in the first round the next year, surrendering a 3-1 series lead in the process. They lost to in-state rival Philadelphia the next year, though Crosby and Fleury were not 100%. They made it to the Conference finals in 2013 but got utterly annihilated by the Boston Bruins in four games, scoring only two goals in the entire series as a team. The team lost to the Rangers in each of the last two postseasons, and made significant changes in the offseason, including a giant trade with the Maple Leafs to bring Phil Kessel to Pittsburgh. The Penguins now look to make these postseason failures a distant memory. 

The Sharks have some even more hideous failures in recent postseasons, and this season is their first time breaking through the playoffs into the Finals. The team won the President’s Trophey in 2009 (had the best record in the league) but were beaten by the 8th seeded Anahiem Ducks in the first round of the playoffs. They then made it to the Conference finals two years in a row, losing to the Blackhawks in 2010 and the Canucks in 2011. After a first round loss in 2012 to the St. Louis Blues, the team lost to their biggest rivals, the LA Kings in the second round of the 2013 playoffs. The very next season, the Sharks and Kings rematches in the first round of the playoffs and San Jose took a three games to none lead. They then proceeded to become the fourth NHL team and fifth team in professional sports history, to lose a series after leading three games to none in the series. They missed the playoffs last season, and have rebounded under new coach Peter DeBoer and have made the Finals for the first time in franchise history. 

Both teams have a laundry list of recent failures, but now have a chance to make them distant memories. 

Prediction

I think this will be a fun series. Both teams have skilled forwards, good coaching, and young goaltenders with considerable talent. I think that San Jose does have the better defensemen in this series, and Martin Jones does have a little more playoff experience than Matt Murray does. Plus the Sharks are sure to play with emotion and energy. They want to get the names of their mainstays and two future Hall of Famers, Joe Thorton and Patrick Marleau, on the Stanley Cup. I think the Sharks will win in 6 games. 

Also, please marvel at the masterpiece that is Joe Thorton’s beard. 

Top Ten Stanley Cup Finals

Top 10 Stanley Cup Finals Series

It is that most special time of year for hockey fans: The Stanley Cup Finals!!! The final round to determine the best team in the world, the stage for the best players to put on the greatest show the sport has to offer. If you look back through the history of the NHL, there have been many magical moments, games, duels, battles, and memories in the final series of each season since it began in 1926. But what are the greatest Finals series ever contested? Well that’s what I’m looking at here.

To be considered, the series doesn’t have to have gone the full seven games, though that does help. What makes the series great is the quality of hockey played. Did both teams play like champions and well enough to win the ultimate series? Could either team have won if a few events went the other way? These factors will help determine my list here. Also, there have to be multiple truly great games to land a series on here, not just a few stellar moments. My apologies to Bobby Orr, but game 4 of the 1970 finals does not get that series on this list. The Bruins dominated the Blues during the rest of the series which was not close or very interesting. The games need to be close, entertaining, and the series has to be tight, with both teams getting close to a title. As the Penguins and Sharks prepare to battle for the Cup, we can only hope that their duel joins this list someday. So here we go!

10. 2014, L.A. Kings vs New York Rangers, Kings in 5.

The closest five game series ever played. That’s the universal description of the 2014 Finals between NY and LA, and I can’t argue against that. All but one of these games were decided by one goal, and three of them required extra time to decide, including double overtime thrillers in games 2 and 5. The Kings won their second Stanley Cup, sealing a reputation as a resilient hockey team. They came back from down 3 games to 0 in the first round of the playoffs against San Jose, and won three game 7’s on the road. The Rangers managed to make it to the finals despite almost impossible scheduling of their games. Because Madison Square Garden expected little of the Rangers and overbooked Billy Joel, the Rangers had to play 5 playoff games in 7 nights, including two sets of back to back games. Somehow, a captain-less Ranger team rode Henrik Lundqvist to the Finals and battled the Kings in the most unlucky series they could possibly have contested. The Rangers played admirably and had several chances to win all the games they lost, except game 3. But because they didn’t I can’t justify this series going any higher than #10.

2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five

9. 2006, Carolina Hurricanes vs Edmonton Oilers, Hurricanes in 7

An unexpected classic and one that began to restore the luster to the Cup after the lockout season. That’s how the 2006 finals should be remembered. Both teams missed the previous playoffs, and got into contention behind great goaltending, experienced defensemen, and young offensive talent. The Hurricanes tied the record for the biggest one game comeback, coming back from down three goals to win the opener 5-4. The Oilers continued in freefall, losing 2 of the next three games badly. They had to use three different net minders, and somehow forced a game 7. Cam Ward was too good in game 7, and Carolina won their first Cup. The NHL won fans back with a great final series a year after a labor strike cost the entire 2004-2005 season. It lands this series at the 9th spot here.

9729729

8. 2001, Colorado Avalanche vs New Jersey Devils, Avalanche in 7

The winningest goaltenders of all time lead the best teams in the league to the finals and play seven games to decide the final. That’s a dream set up for the league, and that’s exactly what hockey got in 2001 when Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy led the Devils and Avalanche respectively to the finals. The teams alternated winning each game throughout the series. Ultimately, Colorado’s home ice advantage and Alex Tanguay’s 2 goal game in game 7 won the Avalanche’s second Stanley Cup. This was the last time that the top seeds in each conference met in the Finals. The series met all expectations, and was an instant classic.

Roy

7.2009, Pittsburgh Penguins vs Detroit Red Wings, Penguins in 7

Round one between these teams in 2008 was good. The rematch was even better. The Red Wings won the 2008 Stanley Cup over the Penguins, winning the final game on Pittsburgh’s home ice. The next year, the teams made it back to the finals and war ensued. The teams combined for a brutal battle, capped by a game 7 for the ages at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Pittsburgh took a 2-0 lead early in the third when Tyler Kennedy scored his fifth goal of the series. Kris Draper cut the lead in half with 12 minutes to go in the season, and Detroit’s fans yelled lustily for their team to tie the game. Marc-Andre Fleury shut down Detroit the rest of the way to secure a revenge win for the Penguins. A great series heightened by the revenge factor. This year’s Penguins team should take notes on the way their ’09 counterparts performed. 2009-Stanley-Cup-Final_4_1

6. 1987, Edmonton Oilers vs Philadelphia Flyers, Oilers in 7

For all the great moments Wayne Gretzky had in hockey, he was only in one great Stanley Cup finals, this underrated gem. The Oilers and Flyers played different ways and finished with the best records in the league. Edmonton played like their star, Wayne Gretkzy: with finesse, passing, and an overwhelming offensive skillset. The Flyers depended on a classic Philly recipe: grit, toughness, physical play, and great goaltending, in this case from Vezina Trophy winner Ron Hextall. Philly also had revenge on their mind. They lost the 1985 finals to Edmonton in 5 games. The contrast in styles and revenge factor made for a masterful series. The Flyers fought back from being down 3-1 in the series to force a game 7. After a 2-man advantage in the first minute of play they claimed the early lead. The Flyers just did not have enough defense to contain Gretzky, Messier, and a legendary Edmonton offense in game 7, however. Edmonton won their third Stanley Cup and sealed their place as one of hockey’s great dynasties. 2_cupfinals

5. 1942, Toronto Maple Leafs vs Detroit Red Wings, Leafs in 7.

This is the oldest series on the list. It also is among the most historic in all of sports. This was the first finals series to go the full seven games. More historically, it was the first time in any major team sport that a team came back from down three games to none to win a series, and this remains the only time it has ever happened in a championship round (Yes, the next time was the 2004 comeback by the Boston Red Sox over the NY Yankees in the league championship series). Detroit went up three games to none over the heavily favored Leafs before disintegrating in game 4. Red Wing Coach Jack Adams punched a referee and was suspended, while the team could not seal the series on home ice. They were obliterated 9-3 in game 5, then outscored 6-1 over the final two games to seal their infamous spot in hockey history.  pin_apps01

4. 1950, Detroit Red Wings vs New York Rangers, Red Wings in 7.

Another old match up from ye olde days of the NHL when there were only six teams. And another series where the Rangers were affected by wonky scheduling. This is the only series where one team didn’t play a single home game. Madison Square Garden annually booked the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Baily’s Circus for Mid-April, so the Rangers couldn’t play a game in the Garden. Two games were played in Toronto and the other five were played in Detroit. And somehow the Rangers forced the series into a seventh game, and forced that deciding game into double overtime. Detroit won the game on Pete Babando’s 2nd goal of the game, his only two goals of the playoffs in his only season with the Red Wings. An incredible moment and marvelous series.  146599594

3. 2004, Tampa Bay Lightning vs Calgary Flames, Lightning in 7.

This series matched up two teams from small markets who had enjoyed little success at the time. Calgary had missed the playoffs for seven straight years before riding Jarome Iginla’s back to their first Finals since 1989. The Lightning had made the playoffs only twice in their twelve year history when they earned the best record in the Eastern Conference and powered their way to their first finals appearance. The series opened with uninteresting games one to three, but the teams amped it up for the final four games. Game 4 was a 1-0 goalie duel to Tampa. Game 5 went to Calgary in overtime. Game 6 also needed overtime, with the Flames holding a 3-2 lead in the series and a chance to win the Cup on home ice. Instead, Tampa escaped with a 3-2 victory in double overtime. The Lightning then survived a game 7 battle at home to win their first cup. This classic series left the world clamoring for more hockey that they would not get for a full year.

Stanley Cup Finals: Flames v Lightning

2. 2013, Chicago Blackhawks vs Boston Bruins, Blackhawks in 6

Two vanguard franchises of the NHL met to duel for the title in 2013. Both teams were recent Cup champions; both had remarkable runs to get to the finals in 2013. Both teams played with every ounce of energy they could muster. They combined for six competitive and dramatic games. They opened with a triple overtime classic, then immediately followed with another overtime game 2. There would be one more overtime game, but the most memorable game of the series ended in regulation. Needing a win to stay alive, the Bruins took a 2-1 lead into the final minutes of game 6 in Boston. Chicago put two goals behind Tuuka Rask within 17 seconds of each other to steal game 6 and the Cup on the road. It’s a painful memory for Bruins fans, but a legendary moment from a great series. It belongs high on this list. Stanley-Cup-Finals-Game-6-1

1.1994, New York Rangers vs Vancouver Canucks, Rangers in 7

The 1990’s had very few great battles in the Finals. Five of the decade’s series were sweeps, including four consecutive sweeps from 1995 to 1998. In the middle of the decade, there lies a gem that cannot be ignored. The Rangers and Canucks were two denied franchises who had magical years and playoff runs in 1994. Mark Messier took his winning resume from Edmonton and gave New York the belief needed to be champions. They met a physical Vancouver team that looked to finish an improbable run from the 7th seed to the Stanley Cup. Vancouver won game one in overtime before getting beat up in games 2-4. The Canucks won games 6 and 7 in convincing fashion to force game 7 in the Garden. This is one of the best remembered games in Stanley Cup history. New York jumped to a 2-0 first period lead, and Messier put in a second period power play goal that gave the Rangers a lead they would not relinquish. New York won the game 3-2, and earned an emotional title for their long-suffering fans. It tops the list of most dramatic and greatest series in Stanley Cup History.

New York Rangers Mark Messier, 1994 Stanley Cup Finals

Graduation: Time to Reflect

I’ve been running this blog since March 2014. Ever since then, I’ve been writing about topics ranging from sports history and past players, to long time heroes of mine. I’ve talked about school, faith, personal developments, funny stories, curious developments, and a complete change in template and title. Now, a major phase of my life is coming to an end. My collegiate career is ending. I will walk across the stage on Sunday morning at 9AM and receive my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Boston University. It will bring the complete end to my time as an undergraduate. I have held out as long as I can to not write some sappy post to look back, so I can have more time to reflect on my time here, and look back on my successes and failures at BU. I have had enough time, and here it goes. 

When I got to Boston, I was not ready to go to college. I was coming off a hard time to end my high school life, and was not prepared to handle the rigors of academic life at BU. I struggled mightily, and was not sure if I wanted to, or would, go back to school my sophomore year. But even in a hard year, there were plenty of things to look at and smile along with. The city responded beautifully to the bombings at the Boston Marathon. The city gave me many beautiful moments that inspired me to keep going and that drew me back in when I didn’t want to go back. I did also have a few academic successes that showed me I could do the academic work at BU. But most of all, I met an unbelievable group of friends who drew me into the school and made me happy to be a Terrier. The friends I met at the Boston University Catholic Center are the single biggest reason I stayed at BU, and the events of my sophomore year proved that in a big way. I found my stride, had some real academic success, grew in my spirituality in ways I never thought I could. I started this blog and saw my life grow and mature in leaps and bounds, and I loved every second of my sophomore year. Then I ran into a difficult time with my junior year. I struggled with my class work again and had a difficult time trying to adjust out of the College of General Studies, where I was for my first two years, and into the College of Arts and Sciences, from where I will graduate. I ran on a broken heart after a relationship fell apart, and I slugged through the rest of the year. But the other best part of college came my way, WTBU. I started covering BU Men’s Basketball for WTBU Sports and hosting a radio show with my friends at the studio, and I fell head over heels in love with the work I got to do in that studio. I found a home, and made my time that year so much better. Then, after the best summer of my entire life, I came back to BU for the best year of my college life. I did alright in my classes, finding success in classes that I hadn’t before. I found more joy and fun in the BUCC, and I found so much affirmation and entertainment in my work at WTBU. I had such an amazing year, topped off by a stressful finals week, fixing past relationships, finding jobs in unlikely places, and finding a way to hear God’s voice in all the madness that surrounded me. 

Wow. That is an incredible amount to take in and understand. So ultimately, it was an ugly, complicated, messy journey. But it was every bit beautiful as it was ugly. I have gotten to the end, and I am happy to say that I have completed this journey and this phase of my life. Who knows what the next phase looks like exactly? I’m still figuring out what my job situation looks like for a full time job. I’m still keeping a sense of optimism about what’s next, and after the trials I ran into here on Commonwealth Avenue, there’s not much that can knock that out of me. 

So, I need to thank everyone who’s been with me on my journey, and thank everyone who’s challenged me to improve and find my way and have supported me. If you read this, and know what my college journey looked like at all, know that you are appreciated, and know that I am thankful for every single person I’ve met. Below are a few pictures of my time at BU that sum up my time here, and show where I’ve been and how I’ve traveled through this madness. Thank you for everyone who has been here with me. 

Freshman Year


Sophomore Year



Junior Year


Senior Year