Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Stanley Cup Final 2013 Leftovers

First, let me say congratulations to the 2013 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. They had a tremendous season with an amazing unbeaten streak, more impressive in a 48 game condensed season, the best record in the NHL, and won as a much more balanced team than they are given credit for.

Chicago does not get enough credit as they should for being such an excellent defensive team. After 6 games, I can say without a doubt that they made the Boston Bruins earn every inch of ice.

Both teams displayed why the sport of hockey is truly the best sport of all. The games were beyond thrilling with three out of the six going to overtime, game one was triple overtime, and unfortunately for us Bruins fans, it looked like it was going to be a 7 game series until Chicago scored two goals in the final minute of the game.

Simply put, the Blackhawks are an opportunistic team that once again, like they did all season, took advantage of defensive lapses and cashed in for the ultimate prize.

I hate to use the word "deserve" when it comes to situations like this, so I'll say this, they earned the win and ultimately, the Stanley Cup.

Stepping back from all the emotion as a fan, you couldn't have asked for better action, entertainment and drama. This is what NHL playoff hockey is all about.

For the Blackhawks best, my three stars:

Patrick Sharp
1) Patrick Sharp - For my money, hands down the most consistent, best player on the ice for all 6 games for the Blackhawks. Tough, skilled, great skater with relentless drive and determination.

2) Patrick Kane - Amazingly opportunistic player. Knows where to be and when to be there. Looks like he could be easily knocked around in a physical game, but has an uncanny sense of timing and skill. I thought he was asleep for the first three games but when he woke up, look out.

3) Brent Seabrook - Outstanding defenseman who had a great series both offensively and defensively. He made countless plays that frustrated the Bruins. He was a major factor in why many of the Bruins shots were blocked, hit posts and/or went wide.

For the Bruins best, my three stars:

Patrice Bergeron
1) Patrice Bergeron - Playing game 6 with a broken rib, torn rib cartilage and a separated shoulder, Bergeron showed why he is not only the Bruins MVP, but the heart and soul of the team. His fierce determination, all around play and his leadership are what separates him from just about every other player in the league. No disrespect to Selke Award winner Jonathan Toews, but Bergeron is hands down the best two way player in the NHL.

2) Tuukka Rask - Is he a number 1 goaltender? How will he do in the playoffs? Can he control his emotions when things get rough? These were all questions that Rask answered with a resounding YES. Following Tim Thomas' 2010-2011 season for the ages was obviously an immensely tough act to follow. Rask passed all the tests with flying colors.The future looks bright for Rask as the Bruins netminder for many years to come. He also is a restricted free agent which means his financial situation also looks very bright.

3) Milan Lucic - Benched toward the end of the regular season because he was lost, Lucic found his game and never looked back. When Lucic is skating and hitting, he is the most unstoppable forward in the NHL bar none. In the first period of Game 6, the Lucic, David Krejci, Nathan Horton line put on a clinic of what cycling in the offensive zone is all about. Had the Bruins been able to sustain that level of play through Game 6, Chicago would not have had a chance.

Some observations:
  • I'm sorry, but I'm not sold on Corey Crawford. I know he's got plenty of fans who say that he is a legitimate number one goalie,but I'm not impressed. That's one hell of a team in front of him and I don't think he'd be as "good" on another team that isn't as strong defensively.
  • Don't understand the disrespect by some Blackhawks fans for coach Joel Quenneville. Just like Claude Julien, Quenneville has his detractors who for whatever reasons refuse to recognize what a terrific job he does. Every team in every sport is a reflection of their coach. And Chicago is no exception. They play hard, fast, clean and make you work for everything. You let up and they make you pay. How can you criticize that? Quenneville, like Julien is great at handling multiple personalities and is very underrated with that aspect of coaching. Many fans do not understand how tough a job it is to keep up a level of consistency throughout a season and the playoffs. 
  • The NHL is very lucky that they have some of the greatest athletes in the world playing in their league. What started out as a disastrous season with the lockout ended with a great 48 game season and playoffs right on through to the final game. You couldn't ask for more excitement than what you saw this season.
  • NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sure looked really angry (yet again) as he was being relentlessly booed by the TD Garden crowd in Boston. He's been hearing it for every cup presentation and especially for this year due to the lockout. I know it's the commissioner's honor to present the MVP and championship trophies to league champions, but maybe the NHL should consider changing that (which of course they won't). Bettman is universally disliked by every fan base in the NHL. It isn't going to stop.
  • Anyone who says that this championship isn't a real one because of the shortened season is delusional. It still took 16 wins to take the Cup. Get over it. This one is as real as any of the others.
  • It's likely that Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference played his final game as a Bruin last night. Ference is an unrestricted free agent who is likely not going to be offered a contract by the Bruins. Ference was terrific in the Finals after suffering a pretty serious foot injury early on that sidelined him for a few weeks during the playoff run. He also started the tradition of awarding the Ranger Jacket to the Bruins player of the game during the playoffs. Other than being a solid player, another part of Ference that makes him a great addition to any team is his sense of community. He and his family have become Bostonians living in the city year round and participating in many community events. Great guy.
  • Ference also wasted no time getting ready for next season:
  • All you Tyler Seguin naysayers; all I have to say is the best is yet to come. Too many fans look at how many goals a player scores as a measure of their contribution. Yes, Seguin had 1 goal in 31 games and he should have produced more. The same standard has been applied to Jaromir Jagr who did not score in the playoffs. Both players made major contributions to the Bruins playoff run. To dismiss them as playing poorly is wrong. The scoresheet doesn't always tell the whole story.
  • Once again, Bruins center David Krejci was incredible. He is without a doubt, one of the most underrated and under appreciated players in the league. Krejci led the playoffs in scoring with 26 points (9 goals, 17 assists) and was 2nd to teammate Nathan Horton in plus/minus with +13. Horton led all players with a +20. It was really close between Krejci and Lucic for my 3rd star.
  • Leave it to the yahoos in Toronto to think that Chicago winning the way they did last night is somehow karma for the Bruins beating them. If that's the case, what do fans in New York and Pittsburgh have to say? The only thing worse than entitled Maple Leaf fans are entitled Canadiens fans.
    Right...that's what the Bruins get for rallying to beat Toronto in Game 7
  • I know in the grand scheme of things it doesn't mean a thing, but can we please stop hearing about these insipid bets between mayors and governors of the competing cities/states? Do they even deliver? I seriously doubt Gov. Patrick could even name 3 Bruins.
  • Former Boston Celtics coach Rick Pitino was right about Boston being the "fellowship of the miserable": Not that I listen to these guys any more because they are so insufferable, but here in Boston, 98.5's Felger and Mazz will be even more unlistenable than ever. Good luck to anyone who wants to listen all the miserable clowns who will call and point fingers at Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Brad Marchand and anyone else Felger starts bleating on about. I have literally turned them on about a dozen times during the playoffs and changed the channel after about 15 seconds each time. Whether the B's win or lose, they are just dreadful.
  • Great insight from Bruins defenseman, Adam McQuaid who wrote a blog for NHL.com during the finals. A nice inside look that proves these guys aren't mindless robots who aren't supposed to fail, feel pain and emotions. Great stuff.

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