Tag Archive | Hockey

Why Pittsburgh Won Again

The Stanley Cup Finals are over a game too early! This postseason was one of the best ever. Overtimes were plentiful, heartbreak was everywhere, and the sport put on a show that no other league can. There’s just one issue: It ended before we got to Game 7 of the Finals! Aside from that disappointment, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators provided fans with a well played and exciting cap to the 2017 NHL playoffs. At the start of the series, I predicted a Penguins victory with the provision that it was a toss up decision. With the series over, let’s take a look at what led to Pittsburgh hoisting their second consecutive Stanley Cup. 

1. Predator’s Lack of Offensive Potence

The chatter before the series was about Nashville’s defensive unit going up against Pittsburgh’s hall of fame forwards. Both teams were injured in critical ways and tried to play to their strengths with their cores. Nashville won when their defensive unit could keep Pittsburgh off the puck. Unfortunately, the Predators did not have the forwards to keep pace with the Penguins lines. Nashville was short on the offensive end, which makes some sense as Pittsburgh sports two guaranteed Hall of Famers in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and one borderline Hall of Famer in Phil Kessel. But there were two major pieces that could’ve lifted the Preds offense. 

24 year old Ryan Johansen was one of the best centers in the league this season. This postseason, he played in 14 games and collected 13 points. He was a major piece of the Predators attack. And he was not able to play in the Finals. In Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Anaheim Ducks, Johansen took a hit and felt unusual pain in his leg. He played the whole game, which went into overtime, showered, realized just how bad his leg was, and got himself to the hospital. He was diagnosed with Acute Compartment Syndrome in his left thigh and was shut down for the remainder of the playoffs. So Nashville was without a top center. 


There’s one other personnel issue that undercut Nashville’s chances for success. In 2012, Nashville selected Jimmy Vesey, a left winger from Harvard, with the 66th pick in the draft. Vesey played all four years inn Cambridge, winning the Hobey Baker Award as the best collegiate player in 2016 and laying the foundation for Harvard’s hockey renaissance. Near the end of his time in college, the Crimson star was guaranteed a spot on the Predators regular season and postseason roster in 2016. However, Vesey informed Nashville that he was not interested in signing with them. He did not want to play in Tennessee and wanted to choose his own destination. He ended up signing with the New York Rangers. He helped the team to a playoff series upset over the Montreal Canadiens, but they lost in the second round to the Ottawa Senators. While Vesey watched, the team he spurned had a legitimate chance at the Stanley Cup. The Boston native wanted to determine his own landing spot. He got what he wanted, but for now, Vesey screwed up royally. He could have been competing alongside PK Subban and Mike Fisher for the Stanley Cup in his second year in the pros. 


Without two major potential pieces, Nashville was behind the eightball against the Pittsburgh forwards and they failed to overcome the deficit. Their defensive corps was good, just not the forwards. 

2. Controversial Stripes

Let’s deal with this now: Nashville got absolutely screwed by one of the worst officiating calls I’ve ever seen. To be fair, the Predators had plenty of opportunities after the blown call to score, including a 5 on 3 power play in the third period. But proceeding opportunities do not change the fact that the game should have been 1-0 Nashville in the second period. Early in the frame, Nashville had momentum, energy, and the crowd. Filip Forsberg fired the puck on net and it got through Matt Murray for Colton Sissons to put it home. Except the official thought Murray had controlled the puck and whistled the play dead, wiping the goal off the board. To repeat myself and ensure my position, the Preds had opportunities to score and take the lead later in the game, but those later chances do not excuse abysmal officiating. 


3. Pekka’s Poor Play

In the first three rounds of the postseason, 34 year old Pekka Rinne played the best hockey of his career. He totaled a 1.71 Goals Against Average and a .943 save percentage, both among the best in the history of the NHL for a postseason. Against Pittsburgh though, Rinne was a mere mortal. He was pulled twice in the series, in games 2 and 5, and his GAA went up to 2.33 while his save percentage dropped to .888 for the series. The Predators needed exceptional play from Rinne to beat Pittsburgh and they did not get it, especially in Pittsburgh. His counterpart, Matt Murray, lived up to the pressure and performed admirably all series, with a shutout in the final game of the series. Pekka turned into a pumpkin before midnight while Murray got to dance at the ball the whole night. 


4. Steady Sullivan

Ever since getting the job as head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mike Sullivan has been the most steady coach in the league. His team was outplayed by Washington for most of their second round series, and got destroyed by Ottawa in multiple games of that series. Sullivan saw the team through both of those roadblocks and led the Penguins to their second consecutive championship. He joins Toe Blake as the second head coach to win Stanley Cups in their first two seasons. Enjoy the stability of a BU Terrier favorite Pittsburgh!


5. Perseverant Penguins

The calling card for Pittsburgh all postseason was their ability to persevere and fight. They went the length of the hardest postseason in sports without their top defenseman, Kris LeTang, and lost Nick Bonino in the Finals. They used both goaltenders in the playoffs. Marc-Andre Fleury almost singlehandedly beat Columbus and Washington after Murray injured himself during warmups in Game 1 of the postseason. Then Murray replaced Fleury in the Conference Finals against Ottawa when Fleury gave up 4 goals on nine shots in Game 3. And they went on to topple the Senators in Overtime. They then struggled to find a way to beat Nashville on the road in Games 3 and 4 of the finals. They outlasted Nashville, and created the opportunities to win. They killed a 5 on 3 late power play, scored off Rinne’s back, and escaped with the franchise’s fifth Stanley Cup. 


One last thing, Crosby should not be a 2 time Conn Smythe Trophey winner. Phil Kessel was robbed of that trophey last year and this year’s award should’ve gone to either Evgeni Malkin or Jake Guentzel. 

All that said, congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins on their second consecutive Stanley Cup. They fought through an incredible series of battles and deserve the win. Crosby has secured his position in the upper eschilon of hockey’s elite, and the Penguins earned the title in a sport not built for repeat champions. I feel for the Predators. They went on a deep run and established themselves as a bonafide hockey destination. They have a great team and will be a competitor in the West. I just hope they can rebound from the pain to start next season strong. And now we have to wait until autumn to get the glories of hockey again. 

Why Watch the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals?

This hockey postseason has been exciting, entertaining, and miles better than the disappointing NBA postseason. Pre-playoff favorites Washington and Chicago were beaten shockingly early, underdogs like Ottawa and Nashville thrilled their rabbid fanbases with deep runs, and the NHL has another example of their postseason as the best in the sports world. It’s been exciting, maddening, and worth every second! 

Tonight, the Stanley Cup Finals begin! We get a matchup between a perennial powerhouse and a new arrival. The Pittsburgh Penguins are looking for their fifth Stanley Cup and second consecutive cup. The Nashville Predators have only been in existence since 1998 and are making their first trip to hockey’s grandest stage. Both teams have rabbid fanbases, smart head coaches, and loaded talent. They will combine for an outstanding Finals series. So what are the things to watch the series for?

1. Repeat?    

The NHL has had regular competitors in the postseason recently, but no repeat winners. Chicago has three Stanley Cups this decade, LA has two, Boston has been to two Finals, and Pittsburgh is in their fourth Finals since 2008. However, there has not been a back-to-back champion since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. In fact, there has not been consecutive conference champions since 2008 and 2009 when the Red Wings and Penguins split the Cups. It is fitting then that Pittsburgh has a chance to be the first repeat champions in close to 20 years. Parity is the rule in the NHL, which makes what the Penguins are doing so remarkable. Pittsburgh will be remembered as one of the best teams of the modern age if they win the series. They will do what Chicago, LA, Boston, and every other great team recently has failed to do: win consecutive Cups. 

2.  Goaltending

The goalie is the most important position in hockey by far. Games have been decided by the net minders as far back as people have skated with vulcanized rubber. This postseason has been no different. Nashville had ridden Pekka Rinne to their first Finals appearance. The 34 year old Fin has played the best hockey of his career this postseason, with a 1.71 Goals Against Average and a .943 save percentage. Rinne has given Nashville their best season and will have to be big time against the powerful Penguins offense.


Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has had quite the adventure in net. Matt Murray won the Stanley Cup last year as the starter and was slated to open the postseason this year. Instead, he got injured and Marc-Andre Fleury was summoned to start. Turns out it worked. Fleury dominated Columbus and stole the second round series from the Washington Capitals, including a Game 7 shutout on the road. In the Conference Finals against Ottawa, Fleury got shelled in game 3, giving up four goals on nine shots in the first period. They replaced him with a now healthy Matt Murray, who has played superb hockey since getting back in, getting Pittsburgh back to the Finals. 


Ultimately, Rinne is the most consistent goalie in the playoffs. Pittsburgh has used both of their goalies, which normally doesn’t work out, but has for the Penguins. Nashville has the stronger individual net minder, but Pittsburgh is no slouch with both goalies. 

3. Contrasting Styles

These teams might have similar color schemes, but they do not play similar games. Nashville’s strength is from their blue line. PK Subban, acquired from the Montreal Canadiens in an offseason trade for stalwart Shea Weber, can direct a power play better than most defensemen in the league. Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm round out a strong unit that can control the blue line, limit shot totals, block shots, and create offense. The forwards can create offense, but Mike Fisher and Filip Forsberg are not dominating offensive stars. 


Pittsburgh, on the other hand is  a glass cannon. They led the NHL in goals per game this season and feature two sure fire hall of famers and one guy who’s got a more borderline case. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have won two Cups and have four Art Ross Trophies as the league’s leading scorer between them. The addition of Phil Kessel to their lineup last year had the same effect as adding Ron Francis to the 1991 Penguins, making them a Stanley Cup winner. The problem for Pittsburgh is that their defensive corps is limited. Kris LeTang is gone for the entire postseason, Olli Maatta, Justin Schultz, and Trevor Daley are not on par with Nashville’s defensive unit. Their respective personnel require different styles of play, which makes for an intriguing clash of play this series. 


4. Securing Legacy

This year is the 100th anniversary of the NHL and the 50th for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The NHL has featured a few star players that transcend the regular descriptions of excellence. Sidney Crosby is one of those players. Pittsburgh lucked into him when they won the lottery in 2005 for the top pick in the draft. Since then, Crosby has led the league in scoring, won MVPs, and led the Penguins to multiple Stanley Cups. If he wins another Stanley Cup, he climbs higher up the ranking of all time greats. Same thing for Evgeni Malkin. Phil Kessel also secures himself a spot in the hall of fame if he helps Pittsburgh to a championship. 


Nashville also has some legacy to fight for. PK Subban wants to secure his spot as one of the best defensemen in the game, Pekka Rinne wants his reputation as a top goalie to be solidified, and the Predators want Nashville to be a secure hockey market. That third one is the most important. Hockey has grown in popularity internationally, but still is struggling to keep up with basketball and football in the United States. The sport needs some cities in untraditional places to take to it for development. Nashville’s success in developing a rabbid fan base is already reason for being happy, but if they win the Stanley Cup, they would bring hockey in the south to the forefront. 


Prediction

I cannot tell you how excited I am for this series to start! I also cannot tell you what’s gonna happen. These teams play differently enough that the question must be who can dictate the rhythm of the game? If Pittsburgh can skate and shoot as fast as they’re capable of, this is a Pittsburgh exercise in domination. If Pittsburgh goes cold and Nashville can dictate a defensive and hard hitting game, Nashville’s got their first Stanley Cup. If I were forced to pick who will win, I’d guess Pittsburgh. They have the experience, the scoring, and the capable goaltender play. This postseason has reminded us to not take chalk on the predictions. I will watch this series with baited breath and see what happens. I hope you will too. 

Welcome to the Recording World! 

I’ve been writing and broadcasting sports for going on 3 years now. I’ve gotten to cover a huge variety of games in many different sports and levels of play. It’s a fun profession and a busy career to have, but I greatly enjoy it. Today, I expanded my repertoire of sports content. 

I have a friend named Tomas, a graduate student at BU that I met in my Junior Year. He has a wide taste in sports. He watches rugby, soccer, and a number of sports that I’ve never even heard of before. We’ve known each other for years, gone to sporting events together, and analyzed everything from movies to politics together. Earlier this year, we decided to buy sound and recording equipment to make a podcast and express opinions on various games. We worked out the details and put in money for real equipment. 

When our mics and mixer arrived, and we started fiddling with the equipment. We got things running, got our opinions ready, and recorded a few segments. The next week, we got together to record our first podcast. It was successful! We recorded it, and tried to publish it. It was only after attempting to publish it that we discovered that Audacity, the recording software we used, had glitches out and lost our whole podcast. After that minor frustration major annoyance, we had Thanksgiving Break, and we had time to sort out what went wrong. We went through the week, got together this morning, and finally recorded a podcast. When we finished it, we tested it out, published it, and posted it to YouTube, where it lives now. If you want to hear opinions on the MLB end of season awards, predictions for various NBA, NHL, and NFL games, and jokes and references, then click the link below to listen. I promise you’ll like it! 

Gordie Howe: Mr. Hockey

Hockey is not my favorite sport. I do appreciate how brutal the sport is, how tough the players are, and have excellent experiences involving the sport, including calling the Beanpot, rooting for BU as a fan, and a childhood of Hartford Wolf Pack games. I also appreciate the stories and myths of the ice, like I do for all sports. So when I heard that Gordie Howe died on Friday, I couldn’t help but be sad, as the toughest and most mythical player in hockey’s long history has finally passed on.

Of all the players to play the survival game called hockey, no one captured the balance of physicality and skill the way Gordie Howe did. From 1946 until 1971 with the Detroit Red Wings, and then from 1973 until 1980 in the World Hockey Association, Gordie Howe wrote a story that defied the odds and saw him play a grand total of 32 professional hockey seasons. He set records for scoring and career longevity and become the standard for hockey toughness.

That toughness came from his home town and upbringing. Howe was one of nine children; born in a farm house in Floral, Saskatchewan, a remote part of an obscure state who’s name is the definition of the middle of scenic nowhere to non natives. He moved out to Saskatoon when he was nine days old, and they lived there through the worst of the Great Depression. When he was old enough, he spent his summers working construction with his father. He started playing hockey at 8 years old, and showed a natural talent for the national sport of Canada. He also showed disinterest in school. He quit school at 16 years old and joined his father as a construction worker, while continuing to play hockey in the local leagues. He eventually got a tryout with the New York Rangers, and the Rangers offered him a contract. But Howe would have to go to Notre Dame, a school in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, that was known for churning out good hockey players. Howe did not feel comfortable going there and declined the contract. He returned home to play with his friends and stayed for a year.

In 1944, he was noticed by the Detroit Red Wings organization. He signed on and played with the Red Wings minor league team, and was called up in 1946. He played his first two seasons wearing number 17, and was effective but not great. He did not take his biggest strides towards hockey immortality until 1948, when he changed his number to 9. He gained a reputation as a skilled scorer and a man quick to throw down his gloves and fight. There is an occurrence in hockey known as a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick”, which is when a player scores a goal, records an assist, and gets in a fight. He fought so much his rookie year that his coach, Jack Adams, asked him “I know you can fight. Now can you show me you can play hockey?” Howe showed that he could play better than anyone who had taken the ice to that point. He led the Red Wings to four Stanley Cups in the 50’s and wrote the NHL record book.  He would set a record for scoring 20 or more goals every season from 1949 until 1971, became the first player to score 90 points in a season, and then 100 points in a season. He won the Hart Trophey (League MVP) 6 times, and along with Maurice “The Rocket” Richard, he became the standard bearer for the NHL.

Gordie-Howe

He retired in 1971 as the leading goal scorer in the history of the NHL, but mostly capable of playing. He had bad wrists and was forced to retire before he was ready to do so. The amazing thing was that he was able to keep playing after he turned 42, when mere hockey mortals would have to retire. Instead, with the help of a wrist surgery and fueled by disputes with the front office of the Red Wings, Howe returned to the ice in 1973, playing in the World Hockey League, a competitor to the National Hockey League. He joined the Houston Aeros, because his sons were playing there. He led the Aeros to consecutive championships in 1974 and 75. After his time in Houston ended, the epilogue arrived. He went with his sons to the New England Whalers, later the Hartford Whalers, and played until he was 51 years old. In his last season in Hartford, he scored 15 goals and collected 26 assists for 41 points in a career high 80 games played that season.

161569380.0

Gordie Howe did things on the ice with skill and strength that no one else ever could. Wayne Gretzky was not the complete package that Howe was. Bobby Orr was not the physical marvel that Howe was. No one has or will ever match the physical prowess and scoring skills of Gordie Howe, and no one will ever match the influence on the sport that Howe had. Wayne Gretzky has always said that Howe is the greatest hockey player ever, and he is correct. Gretzky holds all of Howe’s former scoring records, and holds scoring records that will never be topped. But Howe did it for much longer and never showed the physical decline that Gretzky showed. They won the same number of Stanley Cups, four each, and they were at least comparable in the influence they could have on the game. I’d give Howe a very slight edge as the greatest total Hockey player ever, and that is only by a tiny, TINY margin.

Howe also lived for a long time after his playing career ended. He finally retired for good in 1980, and lived a long and fruitful life afterward. He worked for charities to counter degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s after his wife’s death in 2009. He was named to the Order of Canada, and was a living monument to the sport of hockey after his career ended. Unfortunately, he suffered from dementia towards the end of his life and had to live with his children in rotation. He suffered a bad stroke in 2014. He did recover and managed to see some good months with his grand children after. Unfortunately, even the toughest ones must go too. While staying with his son Murray, a radiologist in Toledo, OH, the great Howe couldn’t go any further. He died at his son’s home. No cause has officially been listed for his death, but as of now, what he and his family need are our prayers and respect.

Gordie Howe was the greatest hockey player of all time. Unfortunately his time finally came to an end after 88 years of living here on earth. May God welcome him with open arms.

BOOKS Gordie Howe 20141010

Gordie Howe is shown a a recent handout photo from the new book “Mr. Hockey.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Paul Horton/Neue Studios MANDITORY CREDIT: Paul Horton/Neue Studios

Why Pittsburgh Won the Stanley Cup

Well, my prediction for the Stanley Cup finals was wrong. I got the six games part right, but not the team right. The Sharks and Penguins treated the Hockey world to an excellent series and showed the sports world how exciting the sport can be when played at the highest level. Ultimately, Pittsburgh skates away with their fourth Stanley Cup. So what made the difference?

1. Sharks Lack of Bite.

When the San Jose came into the series, they came in on the back of a strong defense and excellent goaltending by Martin Jones. They had a good and effective offense, but did not rely on it. The lack of good offense came back to bite them. The Penguins outshot the Sharks in every game in the series, with Pittsburgh averaging 34.3 shots a game and San Jose only averaging 23.4 shots a game. San Jose lost the only game in which they outshot the Penguins. They got outstanding goaltending from Martin Jones, but could not support their goaltender with a top line performance on the offensive side of the puck.

2. Pittsburgh’s Defensive Forwards.

I predicted that the Sharks would win based on their strong defensemen. They did their jobs rather well, but the surprising performance came from the Pittsburgh forwards. In tonight’s game 6, they blocked 33 shots. Sidney Crosby has a reputation of being a skilled offensive player who doesn’t have much toughness. But he showed that he can play some good defense as well.

3. Matt Murray’s Coming Out Party.

Both goaltenders were unheralded coming into the series. Martin Jones probably did have the better individual series, but Murray walks away with the Stanley Cup in hand. Murray came from obscurity sitting behind Marc-Andre Fleury to winning the Stanley Cup in place of an injured Fleury.

2016+NHL+Stanley+Cup+Final+Game+Two+6LhoRtYdOSrx

Ultimately, these are the biggest reasons I can give for Pittsburgh’s victory over San Jose in the Stanley Cup Finals. The NHL now gets to take a nice summer break before coming back in October. Thanks for an awesome season NHL!

 

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

Stanley Cup Finals Wrap Up

This will be a short wrap up simply because my prediction on TRL Hockey, which you can see by clicking on the link, was completely correct. I predicted that the Blackhawks would win the series in 6 games. I gave veteran guile, Stanley Cup know how, and more steady goaltending would be the determining factors. 

Veteran Guile and Stanley Cup know how are basically one thing. The Blackhawks have won 2 Stanley Cups before and have 19 guys on their roster who have won the cup before on their roster. The Lightning are a young, and tremendously talented team that will be competitive for years to come. They may yet win a cup as they years go along. But they didn’t have the experience or veteran guile needed to outwit and beat the Blackhawks in Stanley Cup Hockey, which is more intense and draining than regular hockey. The Hawks had more on the tank late in the hardest times simply because they have been here before. 

The other important distinction was in the nets. Corey Crawford played a better 6th game, shutting out the Lightning, than Ben Bishop did. We will learn what injuries Bishop had, as he did not finish game 2, and his back up goalie won the 2nd game to tie the series. But Crawford knew how to play championship hockey late in the games, and Bishop did not come through with the saves needed. 

Congratulations to the 2015 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, a championship team to be remembered and a dynasty in hockey.