Monday, 16 June 2014

Sport: Stanley Cup Finals (sob)

There's not many things more heartbreaking in life than a heartbroken Henrik Lundqvist. His face after Sweden's defeat in the Olympic final was enough to bring a tear to the eye of every hockey fan. So when Tyler Toffoli rifled a shot off the award winning goalie's pads, and Alec Martinez converted for the Stanley Cup winning goal the images of Lundqvist laying flat out on the ice will live long in the memory.

A 4-1 scoreline does, somewhat, flatter the LA Kings; In those four wins were five periods of Overtime, and in the first two games of the series the Kings didn't lead once in regulation but managed to clinch both games in OT, which must have left the Rangers' players deflated as LA took the next game 3-0. During Game 4 Hank's 40 saves made headlines as New York gave themselves a chance before it was cruelly snatched away after 95 minutes of play two nights later.. In fact, Hank's stats (.927 sv%, 2.14 GAA in 25 games) mean that only Tuukka Rask (.928, 1.99 in 12) bettered him this play-offs, and is one of the better play-off runs historically too.

Rangers never really had a right to be anywhere near the final after being 3-1 down to Pittsburgh, and being blanked in the opening two Penguin wins in back-to-back games. Whether it was the situation surrounding Martin St. Louis bringing the team together, or whether it was just the team coming out swinging the Pen's '3-1 curse' struck again, and Rangers played for the Prince of Wales. If there was ever a play that summed up Hank's`contribution to the team it must be the 'twirling blocker save' as seen in Game 6 against the Canadiens in the ECF.

The team found stars in grifters, Carcillo and Dorsett came good at the right time. The ZuBraPou line was impressive throughout, stacking up 16 goals between them, and the penalty kill was outstanding, at 85.4%. The PK meant that even while the PP was faltering there was a safety net. It even contributed three goals, including a delicious play from Brian Boyle in the final match.

Obviously there's been negatives. Rick Nash's reluctance to put the puck in the net left fans frustrated Only mustering three goals despite playing every game in the post-season. Scoring on 3.6% of shots taken, compared to 10.1% during the regular season - which, tellingly, is his second lowest average since he played his first game in the NHL in 2002 anyway. In fact, 3.6% is the lowest s% of any Ranger who buried the puck. (Interestingly Carcillo was top with 18.2%). The Powerplay misfired so often that every opposition penalty was met with a groan, in the final game a beautifully worked move was finished by Kreider, which provided the proverbial 'what if?'.

There were three reasons I was willing a win, other than the obvious team affiliation. Marty St. Louis, Dominic Moore, and Henrik Lundqvist. The latter for his ludicrously impressive displays during the finals, and the fact that Hank deserves to wear a Stanley Cup ring. St. Louis for losing his mother, and Dominic Moore losing his wife but still giving everything to our team. I'm gutted that we didn't manage to do it for them, but this team can be incredibly proud of how far they got. The Kings were always going to be a tough test, and a couple of lucky bounces toward the Blueshirts could have made it an entirely different series. Maybe next year?

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