I’ve been busier than 16 motherfuckers lately so I can only do a pared down Stanley Cup Final preview this year. Besides, the Bs aren’t in it so I’m not wasting four hours on research and number crunching for this Class of ’67-’68 vs. Class of ’74-’75 match-up—a clash in which the former can finally break its cherry or the latter (and its HOF-bound goalie) can notch their fourth title in the last 17 years.
Everyone and their mother seem to be picking the Kings due to their thus far dominant run to the SCF (and Vegas oddsmakers have them at a healthy -170 favorite). They beat up on a sack-less Canucks squad, crushed a Blues team that couldn’t score on Deena from “Jersey Shore”, and then ordered an extra large ACME anvil for an overmatched Coyotes squad. Former ZooMass goalie Jonathan Quick has been incredible, their scoring and forechecking finally began to gel late in the year, and their defense has been pretty stout.
But the Devils didn’t exactly beat up the little sisters of the poor en route to their fifth SCF in franchise history (none as KC Scouts or Colorado Rockies, if you can believe that). They got taken to the brink in the first round by the Panthers but, thanks in large part to a resurgent Marty Brodeur, the Devils survived a classic Game 7 double-OT marathon. Next, they smacked around their down-state rivals from Philly in easy fashion (how’s that Bryz contract looking, Homer?). In the third round, they outworked and outscored a favored though taxed Rangers squad to become the surprising Wales representative.
Now, however, you can throw out the first three rounds—they mean shit right now.
Despite Quick’s overall brilliance, Brodeur found his 1.21 gigawatts somewhere in Sunrise, Florida and has resumed his Superman saves reminiscent of a decade ago. He also has the experience of three Cup wins and several other lengthy playoffs runs. Though Quick has the better numbers and youth, Brodeur can’t be overlooked and has gotten better as the playoffs have gone on. The goalies are a wash.
We’ve heard a ton, rightfully so, about Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar leading the way for LA. But Ilya Kovalchuk (who, it should be noted, beat fellow Russkie Alex Ovechkin to the SCF after years of being the forgotten man after being intrinsically linked for so long) and Zach Parise are every bit their equal, if not better. After the stars, each team has quality grinders and secondary scoring. But the Devils get the nod here.
Drew Doughty and Bryce Salvador have been great for their respective teams. After them, there are a lot of pack-it-in, clear-the-crease guys on each side. But I see no great advantage for either. The defensemen are a wash.
Like Andrew Ference in ’11, Darryl Sutter will be trying to exercise his ’04 demons and has a wealth of experience. Peter DeBoer is still relatively new to this NHL coaching thing but you’d never know it by the way his team his playing. The call here is that the Devils offense will be just a bit better and Marty will continue to mainline Ponce de Leon’s energy drink en route to his Pat Roy-matching fourth Cup. Devils in 7 and +150 for those who enjoy gaming.
A few more buds for your Stanley Cup bowl…
*Aww, we didn’t get our (allegedly) much-hoped for NY vs. LA Final. Boo-fucking-hoo. Unless you’re an NBC ad exec or a company buying airtime, WHO GIVES A FUCK ABOUT THE RATINGS? I’m not getting a cut and neither are you. And don’t expect us to buy this tripe (assist: Simpson, Lisa) about “bigger ratings are better for the NHL and the game”. Look, the NHL is all set now. It’s juiced in with a Big Four network, it turned the goddamn Outdoor Life Network into the NBC Sports Network (which will slowly siphon free-thinking former SportsCenter zombies), game ratings are the highest they’ve been since the ‘70s, and casual fans are flocking to TVs to watch the plethora of sudden-death elimination games. The game is in great shape and it is here to stay. Just because one opponent is on the west side of the Hudson rather than the east makes no difference to hockey fans (in fact, the NHL will likely have a better SCF because it wasn’t stuck with Hank and the Shot-Blocking Grunts). Honestly, do you give a shit that the Post won’t be able to make fun of the Devils’ divorce-and-donuts goalie? Or that Kelly Ripa won’t be gabbing about a goal-less Gaborik? No, of course not. Because you don’t live in fucking New York City. The Stanley Cup Final is about the two best teams to survive the first three rounds of the gladiatorial NHL playoffs. Where they play or what kind of dipshit fans they may (cough…Greenwich Sports Guy…cough) or may not have is irrelevant—it’s about the players on the ice and the crest on the jersey. That’s it. Anything else is extraneous, corporate bullshit that real fans don’t give a frog’s fat ass about.
*While I’m at it: fuck ESPN, fuck SportsCenter, and fuck Mickey Mouse right in the ass (he dumped Minnie because she was fucking Goofy). If you’re an NHL fan/player/obsessive and you’re still watching SC waiting for goals and hits, you’re doing it wrong. Very wrong.
*I honestly wouldn’t have minded if the Rangers made the Final because, despite their status as a New York team, I do enjoy watching Lundqvist and would have liked to see him on the world’s highest stage. I also like seeing him play hockey, too. But I’ll be eternally grateful to the Devils for knocking off the Rangers if only so we don’t have to read anymore bore-me-to-fucking-tears stories about “that mean, old-man Tortorella’s rude pressers” and the perfectly legal, ballsy, and gutsy-as-hell shot-blocking style that the Rangers employed so effectively all year until they finally ran out of gas (you’d think they were laying down police stop sticks at the fucking red line). As an NHL-credentialed writer, I don’t care if a coach is curt, terse, short, abrupt, brusque, gruff, or laconic minutes after he just suffered a soul-crushing defeat (or even a subpar win). And I sure as hell know my readers don’t want to read about a coach’s Al Jaffee impression. Why? Because they just saw the fucking thing on TV—there’s really not much more I can add. The days of people waiting until tomorrow for last night’s news have gone the way of the Rubik’s Cube. Write about something else that we all didn’t see right after the game or because you felt talked down to by a guy who just had a shit day of work.
*In a similar vein, players are often criticized by some media when they don’t “make themselves available” after a shit game or a particularly brutal loss. Well, the Phoenix Coyotes gave us a glaring example of why sometimes it’s best to take a 20-minute shower or suck down an extra Bud Light in the players’ lounge while the media scrum head downs the hallway for the coaches’ pressers. After Pancakes Penner did them in during OT of Game 5, the crying canines of the Southwest embarrassed themselves first by blazing toward the refs to complain about a non-call on Brown for his crunching, unavoidable, .3 seconds after the whistle burying of Michal Rozsival at the blue line that felled the Coyotes defenseman. Goalie Mike Smith, who the late Johnny Most would no doubt describe as a “Stanislavski”, even chucked his stick in the direction of one official. After the game, they made it worse by bitching about the refs in a series in which they were dominated and lost 4 games to 1, so it wasn’t exactly Gretzky’s uncalled high-stick on Dougie Gilmour. The NHL is looking into these incidents and slap-on-the-wrist fines may be in the offing. But the real kicker was Smith’s claim that Brown should be “done forever” if his scumbag, headhunting teammate Raffi Torres got 25 games for maiming Marian Hossa. Which is utterly laughable. Yet is also reminded us that had the Coyotes continued their miraculous run to the SCF, the jet black dark underbelly would have been the potential of having Torres name engraved into the Cup. That alone was enough to be thankful the Kings winning the series.
*Lesson from this year’s Twitter racism: if a fan that hates your team/city (and is probably from Vancouver) aggregates a bunch of Tweets from nimrod, allegedly diversity-sensitive millennials and people with Red Wings avatars and titles them “Racist Tweets from Bruins fans”, then it’s a story. But if Rangers fans (using #Rangers hashtags) from diverse, racism-free NYC Tweet out a similar amount of ugly, racist bullshit about the same poor guy but nobody aggregates them and titles then “Racist Tweets from Rangers fans”, then it’s not a story. Got it.
*Bs fans, Rick Nash is not coming here. Give it up. Get over it. Forget about it. Have you not been paying attention to Peter Chiarelli’s M.O. for the last several years? $7.8M til ’18 ain’t fucking happening. Also, settle down with the “trade Lucic/Krejci/whoever else” talk. The team just won the Cup last year. They were a mentally worn down bunch in April (except for maybe that animal Dennis Seidenberg). Given the parity of the league, there’s no more shame in losing in the first round than in the third round (see: last year’s run when the Habs gave the Bs their biggest scare of the playoffs). They’ll be back. And in greater numbers.
*In case you missed it, the Bs finally cut bait with their disappointing 2007 first round pick Zach Hamill rather than deal with his RFA status this summer. The undersized Hamill showed a couple of flashes of passing brilliance but was easily knocked off the puck and didn’t figure into the Bruins long-term plans. So they dumped him for some UFA named Chris Bourque that led the AHL with 93 points in 73 games last year. I got a hunch they’ll be able to sign him.