Stanley Cup Final
We are now finally into the month of June, which is hands-down my favorite month of the year. Not only is the Stanley Cup, the hardest trophy to win in all of professional sports, awarded to the team that prevailed over the two-month grind that is required to win it, but June also marks my birthday month. Yes, I said birthday month, because this is not just a one-day celebration, I am taking advantage of the whole month.
Having two of the league's most storied franchises competing for the silver chalice is a great thing for our game. Take it from me -- after growing up in Toronto, attending Michigan State right near Detroit, and playing professionally for New York and Boston, I can tell you personally that hockey in Original Six cities is not just a fad, it is a way of life. Having huge fan bases from two of America's greatest sports cities only adds to the excitement of this evenly matched series.
While the triple-overtime marathon of Game 1 offered a glimpse of how evenly matched these two teams are, both play very differing styles of hockey. Boston plays a stingy, defense-first style of hockey, while Chicago runs a deep, uptempo attack. Here are a few key aspects I will be focused on while watching this series unfold...
Both Crawford and Rask have been outstanding throughout the Playoffs. It is only fitting that it took a shot with two deflections in triple-overtime to beat either of those goalies in Game 1. Pressure is at an all-time high at this point of the postseason, but don't expect either of these goaltenders to falter.
A franchise-changing defenseman, Zdeno Chara is the best of this era. Don't believe me? Give the Ottawa Senators a call and ask them. Chara impacts the game in so many different ways, whether it is using his canon from the point, setting a screen in front on the PP, making the opposition pay in the corners, or using his enormous stick (a.k.a, The Fishing Pole) to disrupt attacking puck carriers. Big Z shut down Nash and Crosby, so look for him to do the same with Chicago's big guns.
They're mobile and they're skilled. The reason why the Blackhawks are able to play so fast is because their defense is quick to get back and retrieve pucks. Instead of waiting around dusting it off, that first outlet pass is right on the forward's tape which starts their transition attack. It's so much fun to watch; in fact it reminds me of my time in Vancouver. Our Canucks defense wasn't allowed to make blind rims around the boards, essentially just giving the forwards their problems. Our coaching staffed forced our defense to hustle back, not coast, to a loose puck and turn and make that first pass on the tape of our forwards who also had to bust their butts to get back to provide an option thus igniting our transition attack. It was clear then why the West Coast Express had so much success and always attacked with speed. Yes I scored 33 goals that year, but it wasn't like I hadn't scored before. I had previously scored 28 goals a few times and even rang up 24 goals in an injury-shortened 55-game schedule in Boston.
Why is that even relevant? Well the following season I signed in Columbus and our system was built around "hard around." If our defense even thought about making a crisp outlet pass they never saw the ice again. Our forwards spent much of the game with our faces up against the glass just fighting to get the puck out of our zone and we never created any speed or had puck position coming through the neutral zone. I scored only 14 goals playing on the 3rd line, which is a good year for a forward playing 3rd line minutes but it clearly wasn't good enough (I took my talents to Lugano Switzerland the following year LOL!). We had trouble scoring goals like all teams do when you force your defense to just rim the pucks in your own zone.This will be a good chess match to watch because the Bruins game is predicated on their aggressive forecheck.
Calder Memorial Trophy
Given the approximately 7 billion people in the world, the odds of becoming one of 700 players to play hockey at its highest level are not in your favour. Stepping in as a rookie is not an easy feat, and making an impact your freshman year is even tougher. These three young players, Jonathan Huberdeau, Brandon Saad, and Brendan Gallagher, all have bright futures ahead of them. Only one will win the Rookie of the Year and that player is Huberdeau. His combo of size and skill makes his future in Florida very bright.
Frank J. Selke Trophy
Patrice Bergeron and Pavel Datsyuk have already won this award. This year's trophy will go to the best two-way player from the best regular season team: the Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews.
Antti Niemi provided the San Jose Sharks with elite goaltending this season. Their erratic swings of going on a long winning streak, then following up with a long losing streak, knocks him out of contention. Henrik Lundqvist had another strong season for the New York Rangers playing behind a pretty strong defense bolstered by a shot-blocking forward group. My pick to win the Vezina is Sergei Bobrovsky, who played behind a suspect Columbus Blue Jackets defense, and almost single-handedly dragged them into the postseason. I cannot stress this enough for Columbus: PAY THE MAN!
Update from Hockeywood
I remember growing up spending long hours playing baseball or street hockey outside or wrestling with my brother inside. We would always alternate between being Hulk Hogan, Junk Yard Dog, Macho Man, and my man Bret "The Hitman" Hart. It is always fun catching up with Bret to hear his wrestling stories that I always find so fascinating. Bret is a HUGE hockey fan! When not at events supporting The March of Dimes Canada, he has been keeping up to date with the games as he rehabs his knee from replacement surgery.
"The playoffs have really made up for the short season. In fact, it's been one of the best playoffs that I can remember," Bret offered. "I thought L.A. would've beaten Chicago. They looked strong last year and I thought they were just starting to hit their stride."
A close friend of Joe Thornton's, Bret was really hoping the San Jose Sharks advanced. I was curious if Bret thought any hockey players reminded him of any of the wrestlers he competed against. His response?
"Chara is the Andre The Giant of hockey." As for the Stanley Cup Final, "Rask and the Bs are so solid. Even though they lost their first game, I see Boston winning the Cup!" All of you hockey fans who are wrestling fanatics (let's be honest, we all secretly are), don't forget to follow The Hitman @BretHart on Twitter.
That's it for this week. And remember, Sleep is for the Offseason!
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 13: Boston police officer Steve Horgan reacts as Torii Hunter #48 of the Detroit Tigers tries to catch a grand slam hit by David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox in the eighth inning of Game Two of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park on October 13, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Paris Saint-Germain's Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic (C) kicks the ball to score during the French L1 football match Paris Saint Germain (PSG) against Bastia (SCB) on October 19, 2013 at the Parc des Princes in Paris. AFP PHOTO / LIONEL BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
Jamaica's Usain Bolt (L) wins the100 metres final at the 2013 IAAF World Championships at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on August 11, 2013 while a lightning strikes in the sky. AFP PHOTO / OLIVIER MORIN
Manchester United's Dutch striker Robin van Persie (C) scores the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Swansea City and Manchester United at Liberty Stadium in Swansea, south Wales, on August 17, 2013. AFP PHOTO/IAN KINGTON == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. NO USE WITH UNAUTHORIZED AUDIO, VIDEO, DATA, FIXTURE LISTS, CLUB/LEAGUE LOGOS OR LIVE SERVICES. ONLINE IN-MATCH USE LIMITED TO 45 IMAGES, NO VIDEO EMULATION. NO USE IN BETTING, GAMES OR SINGLE CLUB/LEAGUE/PLAYER PUBLICATIONS. == (Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Michigan guard Trey Burke (3) walks off the court as Louisville celebrate their win during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 8, 2013, in Atlanta. Louisville won 82-76. (Charlie Neibergall / AP)
Athletes start the New Zealand Ironman on March 2, 2013 in Taupo, New Zealand. (Phil Walter / Getty Images)
Oakland Athletics left fielder Yoenis Cespedes flips over after missing a shallow fly ball off the bat of San Francisco Giants' Brandon Crawford as center fielder Coco Crisp (4) backs him up during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Monday, May 27, 2013. (Tony Avelar / AP)
Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova casts a shadow while serving to Switzerland's Romina Oprandi during their Portugal Open semifinal tennis match Friday, May 3 2013, in Oeiras, outside Lisbon. Pavlyuchenkova defeated Oprandi 0-6, 6-3, 6-1. (Armando Franca / AP)
Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Ben Revere (2) cannot catch a one-RBI triple hit by Washington Nationals' Adam LaRoche during the fifth inning of a baseball game at Nationals Park, Friday, May 24, 2013, in Washington. (Alex Brandon / AP)
Pittsburgh Pirates' Travis Snider, bottom, rolls into Houston Astros catcher Carlos Corporan after being tagged out trying to score from second on a single by Gaby Sanchez in the sixth inning of a baseball game on Sunday, May 19, 2013, in Pittsburgh. (Keith Srakocic / AP)
Auburn's Ryan Tella makes a diving catch in center field off the bat of Alabama's Mikey White during the second inning of a Southeastern Conference NCAA college baseball tournament in Hoover, Ala., Tuesday, May 21, 2013. (Dave Martin / AP)
Stanford players dump water over head coach Lele Forood's head as she gives an interview to Dave Kozlowski in the NCAA division 1 women's team tennis championship at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex Tuesday, May 21, 2013 on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana, Ill. Stanford defeated Texas A&M 4-3. (Stephen Haas / AP)
Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, left, is robbed of a foul ball by a fan in the stands during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, May 19, 2013 in Miami. The Marlins defeated the Diamondbacks 2-1. (Wilfredo Lee / AP)
The car driven by Conor Daly slide down the track after hitting the wall in the first turn during practice for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Thursday, May 16, 2013. Daly was not injured. (Joe Watts / AP)
Belgium's RSC Anderlecht coach John Van Den Brom, center, after winning the final soccer match of the Belgian League against SV Zulte Waregem at the Constant Vanden Stock stadium in Brussels, Sunday, May 19, 2013. (Yves Logghe / AP)
Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a left jab against Robert Guerrero in the fourth round during a WBC welterweight title fight, Saturday, May 4, 2013, in Las Vegas. (Isaac Brekken / AP)
Saudi Al-Hilal club player Nawaf Shaker celebrates after scoring a goal against Qatar's Al-Rayyan club during their AFC Champions League football match in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, April 30, 2013. (Osama Faisal / AP)
Oakland Athletics' Eric Sogard gets a shaving cream pie in the face from Josh Reddick, rear, after Sogard scored the winning run on a sacrifice bunt from Coco Crisp during 10th inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Sunday, April 28, 2013, in Oakland. Calif. Oakland won 9-8. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)
Fans try to catch a bat that Arizona Diamondbacks' Cody Ross lost on his swing during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants, Tuesday, April 30, 2013, in Phoenix. (Matt York / AP)
A worker grooms away tracks after an alligator crossed through a sand trap on the 14th hole during the first round of the PGA Tour Zurich Classic golf tournament at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, La., Thursday, April 25, 2013. (Gerald Herbert / AP)
Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Ben Revere dives for a fly out by St. Louis Cardinals' Carlos Beltran during the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, April 20, 2013, in Philadelphia. (Matt Slocum / AP)
In this photo made with a fisheye lens, Kevin Harvick celebrates winning the Toyota Owners 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Va. (Jared C. Tilton / AP)
Sunderland's manager Paolo Di Canio, celebrates after Stephane Sessegnon scores his goal during their English Premier League soccer match against Newcastle United at St James' Park, Newcastle, England, Sunday, April 14, 2013. (Scott Heppell / AP)
New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera, left, laughs with former New York Mets closer John Franco after Franco caught Rivera's ceremonial first pitch before an interleague baseball game at Citi Field in New York, Tuesday, May 28, 2013. (Kathy Willens / AP)
San Diego Padres' Carlos Quentin charges into Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke after being hit by a pitch in the sixth inning of baseball game in San Diego, Thursday, April 11, 2013. (Lenny Ignelzi / AP)
San Diego Padres' Chris Denorfia breaks his bat as the ball flies foul during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in San Diego, Wednesday, April 10, 2013. (Lenny Ignelzi / AP)
Minnesota Twins' Brian Dozier, left, flips over after making a catch of a shallow fly ball off the bat of Los Angeles Angels' Peter Bourjos as right fielder Chris Parmelee watches in the first inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, April 16, 2013, in Minneapolis. (Jim Mone / AP)
Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer reacts after a dunk during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons in Chicago, Sunday, March 31, 2013. The Bulls won 95-94. (Nam Y. Huh / AP)
Baylor's Brittney Griner gestures as she answers a question during a news conference for a regional semifinal in the women's NCAA college basketball tournament in Oklahoma City, Saturday, March 30, 2013. Baylor is scheduled to play Louisville Sunday. (Sue Ogrocki / AP)
Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos loses the ball as New York Yankees' Eduardo Nunez slides safely into home with home plate umpire Adam Hamari looking on at right during the fourth inning of an exhibition baseball game at Nationals Park Friday, March 29, 2013, in Washington. (Alex Brandon / AP)
A young fan with his face painted with the colors of Chile's national flag gestures before the start of a 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Uruguay in Santiago, Chile, Tuesday, March 26, 2013. (Victor R. Caivano / AP)
Serena Williams reacts after winning a point against Dominika Cibulkova, of Slovakia, during the Sony Open tennis tournament, Monday, March 25, 2013, in Key Biscayne, Fla. Williams won 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. (Lynne Sladky / AP)
Austria's Wolfgang Loitzl soars through the air during his competition jump of the third stage of the four hills ski jumping tournament during foggy weather in Innsbruck, Austria, Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. (Matthias Schrader, AP)
Sweden's skip Margaretha Sigfridsson shouts during her gold medal game against Scotland at the 2013 world women's curling championship in Riga, Latvia, Sunday, March 24, 2013. (Roman Koksarov / AP)
Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Ben Revere makes a diving catch of Will Middlebrooks's seventh-inning fly ball in a spring training baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Clearwater, Fla., Sunday, March 24, 2013. (Kathy Willens / AP)
North Carolina coach Roy Williams cheers on his team during the second half of a second-round game against Villanova in the NCAA college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo. (Charlie Riedel / AP)
North Carolina's Dexter Strickland (1) and Reggie Bullock (35) stretch before practice for a second-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 21, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo. North Carolina is scheduled to play Villanova Friday. (Charlie Riedel / AP)
Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine (45) grabs a rebound over Valparaiso guard Matt Kenney (23) in the first half of a second-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament in Auburn Hills, Mich., Thursday March 21, 2013. (Paul Sancya / AP)
Miami Marlins' Placido Polanco, left, scores on a double by Giancarlo Stanton as Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki, right, cannot hold on to the ball during the sixth inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game Wednesday, March 20, 2013, in Jupiter, Fla. The Nationals won 7-5. (Jeff Roberson / AP)
Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen, left, of Finland, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, center, of Spain and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel of Germany celebrate on the podium after the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, March 17, 2013. Raikonen won the race with Alonso second and Vettel third. (Andrew Brownbill / AP)
Florida guard Mike Rosario (3) reacts after being fouled by Alabama during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament, Saturday, March 16, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (John Bazemore / AP)
In this photo taken with a fisheye lens, Boston Bruins' Nathan Horton, left, celebrates a goal by Andrew Ference against Washington Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth (30) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Saturday, March 16, 2013. The Bruins won 4-1. (Winslow Townson / AP)
Utah's Jason Washburn celebrates after blocking a shot by California in overtime during a Pac-12 men's tournament NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, March 14, 2013, in Las Vegas. Utah won 79-69. (Julie Jacobson / AP)
San Diego Padres shortstop Tyler Stubblefield misses a ground ball hit by Kansas City Royals' Orlando Calixte for a double in the ninth inning in an exhibition spring training baseball game Friday, March 15, 2013, in Surprise, Ariz. (Gregory Bull / AP)
Miami's Kenny Kadji (35) tries to go over Illinois' D.J. Richardson for a shot during the first half of a third-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 24, 2013, in Austin, Texas. (David J. Phillip / AP)
Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, of France, perform during a practice session for the World Figure Skating Championships, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, in London, Ontario. (Darron Cummings / AP)
Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, of the United States, react as they watch their scores during the pairs free program at the World Figure Skating Championships Friday, March 15, 2013, in London, Ontario. (Darron Cummings / AP)
Wanderlei Silva, left, defeats Brian Stann by knockout in their light heavyweight fight during the UFC on FUEL TV event at Saitama Super Arena on March 3, 2013 in Saitama, Japan. (Josh Hedges / Zuffa LLC / Getty Images)
St. Louis Cardinals' J.R. Towles (46) reacts after fouling a ball off his foot as New York Yankees catcher Chris Stewart watches in the third inning of a spring training baseball game in Tampa, Fla., Monday, March 11, 2013. (Kathy Willens / AP)
Auburn forward Cabriana Capers (35) crashes into the scorer's table after saving the ball from going out of bounds during the second half of their NCAA college basketball game against LSU in the Southeastern Conference tournament, Thursday, March 7, 2013, in Duluth, Ga. LSU won 65-62. (John Bazemore / AP)
Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah (13) drives to the basket as San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan, right, defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, March 6, 2013, in San Antonio. (Eric Gay / AP)
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