Tuesday, May 27, 2014
And the Winner is?
Barring unforseen miracles, the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers will meet in the Stanley Cup final this year. Each team has taken a commanding lead, three games won, one lost. Each is playing with great confidence.
The Chicago Black Hawks and the Montreal Canadiens will likely be the last two teams to fall by the wayside this year. They fought valiantly through the playoffs, but the Kings and the Rangers seem to have that little bit extra in their tanks. That is what leads to success.
Injuries have taken their toll in this year’s hockey playoffs. Where would the Habs be had Carey Price not been run over in the first game against the Rangers? Jonathan Toews does not appear to be too healthy, and knee on knee collisions are just not helpful. Local favourite Andrew Shaw had to sit out several games with a “lower body injury”. He has returned, but is not up to full speed. The coaching staff from the Kings picked up on a flaw in his repertoire, and Shaw lost his first seven face-offs in the fourth game.
I may be going out on a limb with this observation, but I would like to compare the Kings’ defenceman Drew Doughty with two other former NHL stars: Paul Coffey, and Bobby Orr. They have similar styles: great skaters, slick passers, and brilliant hockey minds. When necessary, each could mix it up in a physical way to let the opposition know that they are not just pretty faces.
Doughty spends a lot of time on the ice. It is not uncommon to see him quarterback the power play for an extended period of time. He kills penalties, unless he is in the box! He is usually the first one back to grab the puck behind goaltender Jonathan Quick, surveying the ice, wheeling from behind the net or passing to an open man. Therein lies another of Doughty’s skills: his passes are almost always on the tape, and he seldom forces the issue with long stretch passes that do not guarantee success.
Short “easy” passes get the job done. Because of the speed of the game, it is important to control the puck as much as possible. Turnovers lead to transition, and when the puck changes hands quickly, players must be prepared to go from offense to defense instantly. Doughty is always ready to make the change. He never loafs, which is a very good thing for the Kings.
Henrik Lundqvist is in his ninth season with the Rangers. He has played most of the games for the New Yorkers in that time. He is called “The King”, for good reason. He has played brilliantly throughout his career, and he would dearly love to put a Stanley Cup on his mantle. He suffered disappointment in the Olympics at the hands of the Canadians, and he would love to pick up a little hardware for his troubles this year.
I suppose I am getting a little ahead of myself, in all of this talk about the Kings and the Rangers. The semi-finals are still under way, and the faithful still cling to the prospect of a Habs or a Hawks victory. Alas, I fear, those are pipe dreams; however, stranger things have happened. We shall see.
A final note: in case you haven’t noticed, the Toronto Blue Jays have had a magnificent month of May, and lead the East in the American League.
Thank goodness for remotes!!