Wednesday, June 03, 2015


The Stanley Cup Final: A Classic Confrontation



The general consensus amongst the so-called experts is that the Chicago Black Hawks will have no trouble disposing of the Tampa Bay Lightning in this year’s Stanley Cup final. I beg to differ. I believe it will be a battle, and a fine one at that.



The Hawks are favoured because of recent history. They are on a path to win their third Cup in the last six years. You can hear the word “dynasty” bantered about in hockey circles. They are hungry to establish themselves as one of the elite teams in hockey history, joining other teams with multiple Cups over a short period of time: Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Oilers, and Islanders come to mind in a flash.



The Lightning are not prepared to roll over right away. They are a young team, and they also would like to sip ginger ale from the mug. They have clawed their way to the final, especially with their recent victory over the Rangers, in game seven in New York.



I spoke with a Ranger scout last Monday in Toronto at the monthly NHL alumni luncheon. Gilles Leger acknowledged that the Hawks were strong, but his sentiments lie with the Bolts. “Well,” he began, “they beat us out, so I suppose I will have to support them in the final.”



Pete Conacher played several seasons in the NHL, and was also a member of the Belleville McFarlands when they won the World Title in 1959. He is still an avid hockey fan. “I am really impressed with the play of Jonathan Toews. He is the best leader today in the NHL. He has elevated his status to be ranked amongst the great hockey captains. He has what it takes to be ranked with Gretzky, Howe and Yzerman.”



Steve Yzerman is one of the architects of the Lightning, and is well respected in that capacity. His man behind the bench, Jon Cooper, is also gaining respect as a fine coach. Rarely rattled, he has guided his team to this plateau in two years. A native of Prince George, British Columbia, Cooper attended university in the United States on a lacrosse scholarship. Hofstra University is located near the rink where the Islanders played, until the end of this past season. One of his high school buddies, Brad Lauer, played for the Islanders at that time.



Cooper was recently quoted in the Toronto Sun: “I remember being in that building. We used to go to games all the time. I just loved being a part of it.” Well, in June, 2015, he has become a major part of the hockey world. His counterpart across the ice, Joel Quenneville, has been through the hockey wars many times. I am certain his experience will come into play at some time in this series.

The Lightning will rely on its leader, Steven Stamkos. But it will also get energy from its second line, affectionately known as “The Triplets”: Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat. Defenceman Victor Hedman is one of the top five in the world, and Ben Bishop is usually solid between the pipes.



The Black Hawks have a host of great players ready to go: Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Brad Richards, Patrick Sharpe, and, of course Toews. Corey Crawford will start in goal for the Hawks, facing the fire power that the Bolts can generate. Many pundits believe that this will be a high-scoring series. Not this lad. I expect both coaches and their staffs will devise restricting defences to protect the nets. Mind you, that can only go so far. There will be fireworks, to be sure, especially if teams are given power play opportunities.



Does the winning team really have to wear those damn baseball caps at the conclusion of the series? Likely. Such an uncomfortable marketing ploy.


June 2, 2015.


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