Saturday, May 30, 2009

Top 5: Stanley Cup final rooting interests

The serious analysis of this thing which starts tonight, the Stanley Cup final, is best left to those who do it better: From The Rink, Puck Prospectus, Puck Daddy and so forth. Many of them, not to name names, seem to be saying, "Detroit in 7," which seemed to be a common prediction last year, although the Prospectus says Penguins in 7.

Anywho, there are some good individual stories, after the jump.

5 players to root for on the Red Wings:
  1. Darren Helm: The Red Wings energy player could earn his second Stanley Cup ring before he scores his first regular-season goal. (He has five in the playoffs the past two seasons, but zero in 23 regular-season games.)

    There is a half a mind to argue for him to be the 13th forward on Team Canada at the Olympics, but it's not clear if it would be a serious case or a parody of puckheadism. Who will be our Rob Zamuner? Besides, the Red Wings penalty killing has actually been poor throughout the playoffs.

    Helm was a classic Red Wings find (fifth round in 2005).

  2. Niklas Kronwall: The big defenceman hits hard, and occasionally high and late. Penguins fans have no right to hate him, though, since they loved Ulf Samuelsson, another Swede defenceman who played a greasy game, so during the early 1990s. Kronwall appeals to that raise-the-black-flag, start-slitting-throats side of human nature, the battle between good and evil which cannot be won.

  3. Ty Conklin: By now you've heard 1,001 times that Detroit's backup goalie is in the final for the third time in four seasons, and that his giveaway in Game 1 of the 2006 final with the Oilers led to the game-winning goal (granted, it was Oilers coach Craig MacTavish's fault for being so cavalier about which reserve goaltender dressed while Dwayne Roloson played).

    Conklin's also the only player who has participated in each of the NHL's two Winter Classics. It's about time he got a Cup ring.

  4. Dan Cleary: OK, so the story about the former first-round bust who bottomed out and reinvented himself with the Red Wings is passe, since the pride of Harbour Grace, N.L., earned a Cup ring last season. However, this space is sworn to always cheer for Cleary, who played for the Kingston Voyageurs in the mid-1990s before moving on to the Belleville Bulls, where he lit up the Frontenacs on a semi-regular basis.

    No one ever seems to make the connection between Cleary's early-career struggles and the fact his OHL coach was Larry Mavety. A decade after escaping Mav's Pro Hockey Factory, Cleary's become a complete player. He has eight goals and a +16 plus/minus in 16 games in these playoffs.

  5. Brad Stuart: No one ever talks about him even though he logs 25 minutes a night on the Detroit blue line. He needs to fire his agent.
5 players to root for on the Penguins:
  1. Marc-Andre Fleury: At some point, people have got to stop referencing the Pittsburgh goalie's infamous puck-handling gaffe which cost Canada the gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championship in 2004. That was before the lockout, for pity's sake. It's like The Sopranos: It's over.

    Fleury's likely going to have to make 35-40 saves a night for the Penguins to win.

  2. Bill Guerin: The ageless winger took a puck in the face in a game against the Red Wings in 2007 when he was with San Jose and struggled for the rest of that season. Now he's playing against Detroit in the final, so there's a revenge thing happening.

    Guerin is almost as old (38) as then-Pen Gary Roberts was during last season's playoffs (42) and he actually takes a regular shift, unlike Gary Roberts during last season's playoffs. However, Guerin's American, so Hockey Night in Canada won't make him out to be the most important player in the series, unlike it did with Gary Roberts during last season's playoffs.

  3. Maxime Talbot: Another late draft pick who's become a solid player for the Pens. He might have also given the Red Wings some bulletin-board material, and you just know this has a chance to get blown out of proportion.
    Maxime Talbot may not have expected Detroit Red Wings fans to be listening during an interview on a French radio station.

    If the was the case, the Pittsburgh Penguins center clearly underestimated the reach of his Stanley Cup finals opponent. A Red Wings fan from Montreal translated Talbot's comments about Red Wings forward Marian Hossa and sent them to the Detroit Free Press:

    "There's nothing I'd like more than to be able to shake Marian's hand at the end of this series, look him in the eye and say, 'You chose the wrong team.' "
    The hockey gods will surely punish Talbot for such a brazen show of personality.

  4. Sidney Crosby: Reasonable people have made their peace with The Crosby Show playing 24/7/365 for the next 10-15 years. The time for Sidney-slagging was about 2½ years ago. Don't hate him for how he's marketed; he's still only 21 and he has the same representation as Derek Jeter. He's been schooled in the art of saying little.

    Besides, as The National Post's Bruce Arthur pointed out a couple weeks ago on Prime Time Sports, Crosby has started to show some personality in interviews. The rote answers he gives (seldom much longer or shorter than 30 seconds) were kind of a defence against the media attention Crosby has had since he was 16.

    Face the facts. Crosby is the Boy Next Door ("He comes home and he’s just like one of us all over again," former minor hockey teammate Mike Chiasson, a goalie for the Acadia Axemen, told the Halifax Herald). It's akin to what Bill Maher said about right-wingers who criticize him: Slagging Sidney means you're really just revealing your own inadequacies.

    Besides, the Crosby-Ovechkin corollary will be fun to bat around for the next decade. Maybe it's like what baseball fans said about Henry Aaron and Willie Mays back in the day. If you were only going to watch one game, you'd watch Mays (Ovechkin). If you were going to watch someone for an entire season, you'd pick Aaron (Crosby).

  5. Miroslav Satan: Because some people need to believe Sidney Crosby cannot hoist the Stanley Cup without the help of Satan.

    (Plus he was once captain of the Buffalo Sabres, who are the third-favourite team of so many hockey fans.)
Prediction: Pittsburgh in 7

1 comment:

Dennis Prouse said...

Brave prediction, given that Detroit has home ice and the home team wins two thirds of Game Sevens.

Pittsburgh is already facing a must win tonight -- not a chance they can go down 2-0 and win this.