Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Hockey Geek's Guide to the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals

For hockey fans, this is one of the most exciting times of the season. The Stanley Cup Finals are finally here! This is a bittersweet moment as some of the best hockey is played at this time, but it also marks the long wait for September when the season starts up again. For NHL fans this year's Stanley Cup matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins is special because it marks the first Original Six* matchup since 1979, or at least that is how Gary Bettman would like fans to feel. What also makes this year's Stanley Cup winner, regardless of who it is, different from the last nine years is that it will NOT be a new team. That is correct. There has been a new winning team drinking from Lord Stanley's Cup for the last nine years, but that is about to end. The Chicago Blackhawks won back in 2010 when they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Boston Bruins won it the following year as they took down the 2011 President's Trophy** team, Vancouver Canucks. Coincidentally, the Bruins will again be facing another President's Trophy team as the Chicago Blackhawks went on their historic point streak by not losing a game in regulation for 24 games during the regular season. Both teams have changed dramatically since they last won, so let's take a look at how they have changed and whatever really interesting but totally useless factoids we can find.

Boston Bruins
New Additions:
Jaromir Jagr: The future hall-of-famer was acquired by the Bruins from the Dallas Stars for prospects Lane McDermid and Cody Payne along with a conditional pick in the 2013 draft at this year's trade deadline.
Wade Redden: Another 2013 trade deadline acquisition, the St. Louis Blues traded for a pick at this year's draft.
Kaspars Daugavins: He was claimed off waivers from the Ottawa Senators at the end of March of this season. He is now taking the place of Gregory Campbell since his injury.

Who Has Left:
Mark Recchi: The Recchin' Ball retired after winning his third Stanley Cup in 2011.
Michael Ryder: The right-winger signed as a free agent with the Dallas Stars after winning the Cup but has since been traded to the Montreal Canadiens.
Tomas Kaberle: Here is an intriguing signing. The Bruins traded for Kaberle from the Toronto Maple Leafs, who received prospect Joe Colborne, a first-round pick in the 2011 draft, and a second-round pick in the 2012 draft. After winning the Cup, Kaberle signed with the Carolina Hurricanes who traded him to the Montreal Canadiens and is rumored to be a compliancy buyout.
Shane Hnidy: The defenseman quietly retired after fifteen years in the league.
Tim Thomas: This is perhaps the most surprising change to the Bruins roster. The goaltender announced that he would take the 2012-2013 season off but would return the following season. Perhaps he was avoiding the lockout or disliked how the Bruins intervened with his political FaceBook statuses.*** In any case, his rights were traded to the New York Islanders during the shortened 2013 season.

The Youngsters:
Torey Krug: The undrafted defenseman has been clutch for the Bruins and has already notched six points in nine games during his first postseason.
Dougie Hamilton: The ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft.
Matt Bartkowski: The 190th pick overall in the 2008 draft taken by the Florida Panthers but traded along with Dennis Seidenberg in 2010 to the Bruins for Byron Bitz, Craig Weller, and a second-round pick in the 2010 draft. He was also a piece in proposal the Bruins had made to the Calgary Flames for Jarome Iginla at the 2013 trade deadline, which was kiboshed when Iggy decided to go to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Scoring Scenario:
-David Krejci had 23 points in the 2011 postseason. He already has 21 points.
-Nathan Horton notched 17 points during the last Stanley Cup bid and has tied that before entering this year's Finals series.
-Zdeno Chara posted nine points in 2011 and has exceeded that to net eleven points.
-Milan Lucic had twelve points in the last Cup run and already has thirteen points.
-The rookie Torey Krug has an impressive six points in nine games.
-Daniel Paille notched six points in the 2011 postseason and will enter this series with five.
-Shawn Thornton has upped his game since the last run in which he only had a point. He now has four.

Impressive (but Useless) Factoids:
-Nathan Horton leads the B's with two goals, one each in the 2010-201 and the 2011-2012 seasons, against goaltender Corey Crawford. Johnny Boychuk, Zdeno Chara, and Chris Kelly each have a goal.
-Chris Bourque is the son of hall-of-famer Ray Bourque.
-This will be Chris Kelly's third Finals appearance in his career. He played in the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals with the Ottawa Senators in which they lost to Anaheim Ducks before winning with the Bruins in 2011. Therefore, if the Bruins win it again, he will be two for three.
-Jaromir Jagr has won the Cup twice with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992. The second Cup was coincidentally against the Chicago Blackhawks. If the Bruins win it again, Jagr will be three for three.
-Jay Pandolfo also has won the Stanley Cup twice but with the New Jersey Devils in 2000 and 2003. He was also a member of the 2001 team that made it to the finals but lost. This could also be Pandolfo's third win, but he would be three for four.
-Shawn Thornton was a member of the 2007 Anaheim Ducks team that defeated Chris Kelly and the Ottawa Senators to win the Stanley Cup before winning for a second time with the Bruins in 2011. Amazingly, this tough guy would also be three for three like Jagr should the Bruins win.
-Andrew Ference has a single appearance in the Finals in 2004 with the Calgary Flames before winning for the first time with the Bruins in 2011.
-Wade Redden has never won the Cup but was on the Ottawa Senators team with Chris Kelly that lost to Shawn Thornton and the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

 Chicago Blackhawks
New Additions:
Michal Frolik: The Blackhawks traded Jack Skille, Hugh Jessiman, and David Pacan to the Florida Panthers for goaltender Alexander Salak and Michal Frolik during the 2010-2011 season.
Johnny Oduya: The Winnipeg Jets traded Oduya for second and third round picks in the 2013 draft at the 2011-2012 trade deadline.
Michal Rozsival: The defenseman signed with the team before the lockout at a free agent.
Daniel Carcillo: The left-winger signed as a free agent in 2011 and in 2012 was awarded a contract extension to play through next season.
Sheldon Brookbank: Brookbank signed as free agent in 2012.
Ray Emery: The backup goaltender signed in 2011.
Viktor Stalberg: The Toronto Maple Leafs traded Stalberg along with Chris DiDomenico and Philippe Paradis for Kris Versteeg and prospect Bill Sweatt.
Michal Handzus: The San Jose Sharks traded the veteran for a fourth-round pick in the 2013 draft at this year's trade deadline. I would also like to make a special note that he was very impressive against the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals. The Lokomotiv tragedy**** in which he lost many friends really affected him and his game, and it was not until that series that the old Hands of Zus came out. If any player would stand out against my favorite him, I am happy for Zus and wish him the best of luck.
Jamie Kompon: After winning the Cup with the Los Angeles Kings, the assistant head coach did not have his contract renewed and joined the Blackhawks. He spent six seasons with the Kings and was a large part of the success of its defense and penalty kill. Chicago's penalty kill has vastly improved, and I give the majority of the credit to Kompon.

Who Has Left:
Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager, and Akim Aliu were traded to the Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets) for first- and second-round picks in the 2010 draft, Marty Reasoner, Joey Crabb, and Jeremy Morin after winning the Stanley Cup. This huge multi-player transaction occurred because the Blackhawks had a major salary cap crisis following their win.
Kris Versteeg and prospect Bill Sweatt were traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Viktor Stalberg, Chris DiDomenico, and Philippe Paradis at the end of the 2010 postseason.
Antti Niemi: The young goaltender who outplayed Michael Leighton of the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Stanley Cup win signed with the San Jose Sharks and was a Vezina Trophy***** candidate for the 2013 season.
Troy Brouwer: The defenseman was traded to the Washington Capitals in 2011 for a first-round pick in the 2011 draft.
Tomas Kopecky: His rights were traded to the Florida Panthers in 2011 for a seventh-round pick in the 2012 or 2013 draft.
Andrew Ladd: Immediately after winning the Cup, Ladd was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets) for Ivan Vishnevksiy, not to be confused with Visnovski, and a second-round pick in the 2011 draft.
Brian Campbell: On the draft floor of the first day of the 2010 draft, those watching the draft watched the agent for the defenseman on the cell phone working a deal that sent Campbell to the Florida Panthers for Rostislav Olesz.
John Madden: The non-football-related veteran signed with the Minnesota Wild but retired in 2012.
Jordan Hendry: After suffering a significant injury in the 2010-2011 season, Hendry signed with the Anaheim Ducks but has since remained in the AHL.******
Adam Burish: After winning the Cup, Burish signed with the Dallas Stars as a free agent. He now plays for the San Jose Sharks.
Colin Fraser: The center was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for a sixth-round pick in the 2010 draft a the conclusion of the Stanley Cup win. The Oilers then traded Fraser along with a seventh-round draft pick in the 2012 draft to the Los Angeles Kings in 2011 for veteran Ryan Smyth. Despite my initial outrage at this deal, the Kings won the Cup (so Fraser's second) in 2012, so all is forgiven, because I know Dean Lombardi really cares.
Nick Boyton: The veteran was claimed off waivers by the Flyers in 2011 but has since retired.
Cristobal Huet: Unable to find a position in the NHL, he went to play overseas following the Stanley Cup win.

The Youngsters:
Andrew Shaw: The 139th overall pick of the 2011 draft.
Brandon Saad: The 43rd overall pick of the 2011 draft.
Marcus Kruger: The 149th overall pick of the 2009 draft.
Nick Leddy: The 16th pick overall in the 2009 draft by the Minnesota Wild. In 2010, the Wild traded Kim Johnsson and the rights to Leddy for Cam Barker.
Brandon Bollig: An undrafted player who provides a physical aspect to the Blackhawk's game.

-Bryan Bickell had one point in 2010 but has sky-rocketed in production this postseason with thirteen points already
-Marian Hossa notched fifteen points in the last Cup run and already has fourteen before this series begins.
-The top three in points in 2010 were Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp. This year the top three in points are Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Kane. Despite the changes that this club has undergone, the core has remained intact and on top.

Impressive (but Useless) Factoids:
-Patrick Kane is the only Chicago Blackhawk to have scored a goal on Tukka Rask. It was during the 2009-2010 season.
-Daniel Carcillo last played in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010 with the Philadelphia Flyers against the Blackhawks. This will be his second appearance in four years, and if Chicago wins, he will have one win in two tries.
-Ray Emery was the goaltender in the Stanley Cup Finals for the Ottawa Senators in 2007. With a Stanley Cup win, he will be one for two.
-Marian Hossa has made four Stanley Cup appearances in the last six years. He first made it to the Finals in 2008 with the Pittsburgh Penguins who lost to the Detroit Red Wings. In 2009, he played for the Detroit Red Wings who lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Finally, in 2010, after three consecutive years, Hossa finally hoisted the Cup with the Blackhawks. If Chicago win again, he will be two for four.
-Although the Los Angeles Kings will not be vying for a back-to-back win, assistant coach Jamie Kompon is. After winning it all with the Kings last season, he will be back at it this year.

Preview of the Matchup
The Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks present a matchup of a team of bigger, tougher, and slightly older players against a group of faster, puck-dazzling, slightly younger players. If Chicago can set the fast-skating pace that they love, I think the Bruins might be a glide too slow to keep up. However, the Bruins can deliver some hard hits that can definitely slow the game down. The Blackhawks also have to watch out if Zdeno Chara decides to snipe because we have all seen his All-Star slap shot clocking in at 108.8 mph. Ouch! I think Tukka Rask might be the better goaltender of the two, but I don't see Corey Crawford having a meltdown to become a Tomas Vokoun or a Marc-Andre Fleury, no offense. Rask will have the tougher task of stopping the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and, surprisingly, Bryan Bickell. I am interested to see if Patrice Bergeron will entice one of the Blackhawks to a taste of his hand.******* Both the United Center, where the Blackhawks play, and the TD Bank Garden, where the Bruins play, can be very intimidating places to play. Stealing a road game is going to be difficult. I think the Blackhawks will win Game One because it will be the opening to the series in their house. Game 2 will be all that more important because if the Bruins can steal the second game, I'm not sure if the Blackhawks can steal one at the Garden. I give a slight edge to the Bruins but slightly. Can't wait for Wednesday night for game one!!!

*Orginal Six: Considered the first six teams that made up the NHL. These teams include the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens (yes, I spelled that correctly), New York Rangers, and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

**The President's Trophy is awarded to the team with the best regular season record in the NHL.

***The first incident involved Tim Thomas posting on his FaceBook page that he had declined to make the traditional White House trip the Stanley Cup winning team makes because he did not believe that the government was leading the country in the right direction. This spurred a lot of discussion as to whether this was professional or not and why he even posted that particular statement in the first place. The second incident involved his posting that he was in agreement with the values of the owners of Chick-fil-A who did not support gay marriage. This was interesting because of the close affiliation between the NHL and the YouCanPlay Project, an advocacy group for gay and LGBT athletes. And of course, this spurred numerous conversations on whether people were pro- or anti-chicken sandwiches. In both cases, the Boston Bruins issued statements that they did not support his statements and that it should not reflect the team's beliefs. I believe there were also some reprimands for Thomas's little rants.

****On September 7, 2011, the airplane transporting the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) crashed. There were no survivors. The team included several former NHL players. It is one of the great tragedies in sports history.

*****The Vezina Trophy is given to the goaltender who plays the position best in the league. It is named after Georges Vezina.

******The American Hockey League, the minor league affiliate of the NHL.

*******In Game One of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks, Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins engaged in an altercation with Alexandre Burrows. The two exchanged words, and at one point, Bergeron put his hand up to the face of Burrows. Bergeron claims that Burrows intentionally bit him, while Burrows defends that the bite was more incidental contact because of the situation. The NHL did not suspend Burrows for the incident because they could not cite intention, and he was allowed to continue the series.

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