Saturday, May 30, 2009

10 Things I want to see from the Stanley Cup Finals

It is 85 degrees outside, there isn’t a cloud in the sky, and summer is truly upon us here in California.  That can only mean one thing. 

It is time to talk some puck.

Let’s just get this out there.  I don’t want to hear about how this is the matchup that is best for the NHL.  I hate rematches.  Sure, it is great to see Sid and Gino, step up, and get into the finals again, but really, who outside of Western Pennsylvania and Michigan wants to see the exact same finals.  I, for one, am bored of the Wings.  On top of that, I really don’t like redundancy. 

Really, I don’t like this matchup.  No one outside of the rust belt is going to like this series, mainly because we have seen the boys from the Joe in the finals way to many times in the last 10 years, and no one likes when things repeat themselves too much.  I really don’t think that this is the best matchup for the league, despite what some people are saying.

Sure it is good to see Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby in the finals, but who really wants to see the same two teams in the finals year after year.  It would have been much more exciting to see a young team like Chicago matchup with the Pens, or the more exciting Capitals, than to get the same matchup again, even though some people seem to think that this is the best matchup.  I don’t, because I like it when things change, rather than just seeing the same thing play out again and again. 

(If you don’t get this joke yet, read the last three paragraphs again.  If you still don’t get it, you don’t have any sense of irony, and should probably look for a new blog that is a bit more lowbrow.)

That aside, I am definitely pumped for the finals, because, well, how can you not be?  So, rather than dwelling on what should have been (Sharks-Bruins, as it happens, is what should have been), I will make the most of what we have.  Besides, it isn’t as though it is hard to do that. 

With that in mind, here are the 10 things that I want to see in Penguins-Wings II.  I would do 20, but like I said, it is 85 and the nearest cloud is somewhere near Reno.  Would you spend all day writing about hockey?  Didn’t think so.

1.      1.  7 Games

This one is pretty self explanatory.  More hockey is better for everyone, plus you get a game seven at the end. 

2.-5.       Stars

This series is all about the big names.  If the big guys are shut down, this has the potential to be a very boring series.  If they step up, it could be the best we have seen in years. 

While I may not be satisfied with the matchup from a jerseys perspective, there is no shortage of players that I can root for.  Four of the top 9 players (by my count) will be playing in this series.  I have never been one to root for players over teams, but if ever there was a time to do it, it is now.   In reverse order (#5 being the most likacitelling- that’s likable, exciting and compelling) here are the guys to watch, and the guys I will be rooting for.

2.     2. Pavel Datsyuk- C, Detroit

Datsyuk can, quite simply, deke like no one else.  On top of that, with all due respect to Zetterburg, he is definitely the most complete player on Detroit.  He is also the second most complete player in the NHL (foreshadow anyone?).

3.       3. Evgeni Malkin- C, Pittsburgh

As I said after Malkin’s hat trick against Carolina that can only be described as magnificent, I will never question number 71 again.  It took me a while to come around on Malkin, and for a long time I contended that if he weren’t on Pittsburgh alongside Crosby, he would be closer to a Jason Spezza or Ryan Getzlaf than a Crosby or Ovechkin.  I was wrong.  He is an absolute force, and while I still have him behind Crosby and Ovechkin, he is certainly a first tier player.

4.       4. Marian Hossa- LW, Detroit

Also known as Benedict Arnold, if you are a Pens fan.  Hossa is certainly at the center of the best story line in the finals.  If you don’t know already, you surely will after it is beat into the ground in game 1, that Hossa turned down an offer from Pittsburg in order to move to Detroit where he thought he had a better chance of winning a cup.

That isn’t why I am interested the Hos though, and certainly isn’t why I will be rooting for him.  Quite simply, I love watching the dude play.  He isn’t the most complete player on his team (he is probably 5th, actually in terms of playing both ends), but he is rivaled only be three others (Ovechkin, Malkin and Kovalchuk) in terms of offensive ability.  In November, I saw what I still believe to be the two most talented teams in the league play each other (San Jose and Detroit), and Hossa actually stood out as the most talented player on the ice.  If he were more consistent he would be the best in the world.

Up until last July he was also my favorite non-Shark.  That particular honor can never be held by a Red Wing though.  Now he is third (to Kovalchuk and Backstrom), but only because of the winged wheel on his chest.  Like I said, I just love watching the dude play.

5.     5.  Sid Crosby

Sid is, quite simply the best hockey player in the world.  He does everything you could want in a first line center (now that he has started to go to the net and score ugly), and he makes the other 19 guys on his team better by elevating the guys he plays with, and matching up against the other team’s best players.  No one else can do what Crosby does.  Period.

Since there is really nothing else to say about Crosby’s game, there is really only one question that I have regarding 87.  That question will serve as #6:


6.      6.  Sidney Crosby’s facial Hair

Did Crosby give up on the playoff beard and shave down to the chin strap type thing, or is he simply incapable of growing hair on his cheeks?  I have looked at countless pictures and I cannot figure it out.  This has literally kept me up at night (actually it was a combination of my being an insomniac and having a cold, but the question did cross my mind while I was lying in bed, so I’m sticking by it).   This may very well be the one thing that I want answered in these finals.  So, to answer the question, I am going to do the only thing that can give me a definite answer.  I’m putting up a poll.  For the love of god, readers, vote and solve this enduring mystery.

7.     7.  Kobe-Lebron

Having read that, you are surely asking yourself two questions.  First, what does that have to do with hockey?  The answer to that is simple. Nothing, but this is my blog and I will write what I damn well please for my 10 things (and besides, I can only think of 9 for this series).  Second of all, you are probably asking why I, as a hockey fan want to see that.  After all, wouldn’t such a compelling NBA Finals take away attention from the real championships?  Yeah, it probably would, but Kobe already got to the finals, and I bet $20 on the Cavs.  So there you go.

8.    8.   Ratings

The NHL has experienced a Bill Simmons induced renaissance this year.  I just can’t help but think that a lackluster final could undo a lot of that momentum.  I have no idea what it would take, but I really hope that we can get a good finals, so that the NHL can gain momentum going into next year (although number 7 would suggest that my desire to see this has a monetary value of between $0 and $19.99.  That is, in fact, not the case.  In reality, I want it both ways.  Is that too much to ask?)

9.     9.  Offense

Come on, who doesn’t.  Maybe we can mix in a couple of physical 2-1 games, but this series has too many offensive talents to not have a few 5-4 games.  The finals are always intense, physical and defensive, but I think it would be great if, for once, the teams opened it up.

10. 10.   Overtime

There is nothing better than sudden death, do or die in the Stanley Cup finals.  Unfourtianately, I am going outside, so there will be no such overtime with this list.

Enjoy the finals, they should be great.

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