Whose Cup? The Hockey Finals Are Worth a Look
By Aidan Linscott:
Ice hockey. That sport most Americans associate with maple syrup, moose, and people that are Santa’s neighbors. Many have never even heard of the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, the final tournament of the National Hockey League is drowned out in the media by the NBA finals. However, the 2015 Stanley Cup is well worth tuning in to.
At the moment, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning are duking it out in spectacular fashion. Coming into the final (a seven game series), the Hawks are the three seed from the Central district in the Western Conference and the Bolts are the two seed from the Atlantic district in the Eastern Conference. Although not entirely uncommon, none of the one seed teams reached the finals. Chicago and Tampa made some impressive series wins in order to edge out the higher ranked teams.
In brief recap, Tampa had its hardest series to date in the first round against Stanley Cup regulars, the Detroit Red Wings. After winning in game seven, the Bolts proceeded to beat the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers, the one seeds in the East. However, they have never been considered a particularly strong team despite winning the 2004 Stanley Cup and making it to the Eastern Conference finals in 2011. This postseason, the bench has not been up to snuff with thirty of the last thirty-one goals being scored by Tampa’s first shift.
The Hawks have certainly made a name for themselves this postseason. Despite coming in as the three seed, they have dealt decisively with higher seeded teams. In the first round, they beat the Nashville Predators in six, with two of the games heading to overtime. In the quarterfinals, they took on the Minnesota Wild (who impressively took St. Louis in six games, an unexpected result) and swept them to head to the conference finals. There, they clashed with the Anaheim Ducks, one of the strongest teams in the tournament, and won in seven with three overtime games. The Hawks are on the hunt for their third Stanley Cup since 2010. Clearly, both teams have made a name for themselves in the conference games and produced a highly dramatic tournament, worthy of more viewership.
In game one of the Stanley Cup Final, the Bolts scored early on. However, the Hawks are comfortable playing from behind, and in classic Chicago style, they came out in the third and slammed two goals home for a game one win in Florida. Unfortunately, there was much controversy over the first game as the Lightning franchise tried to exclude Chicago fans and gear from Amalie Arena in an attempt to have as much home support as possible. Consequently, they have received their share of grief from the news and hockey community.
Game two was much more intense than the first with the Bolts scoring an unassisted goal in the first. The second period was twenty minutes of intense back and forth hockey with Ben Bishop of the Bolts giving an impressive performance in goal, while Chicago’s Corey Crawford had an off game. Just a few minutes into the second, Chicago scored once and soon after on the power play. However, the Lightning scored right after on a spectacular deflection past Crawford. After scoring once more, Tampa took Chicago into third up by one. The Blackhawks scored at the start of the third on a controversial play, where Marián Hossa got his stick stuck in Ben Bishop’s pads with a possible crease violation. The goal stood, however. Tampa proved to be not as strong as Chicago on the power play, but snuck in a winning fourth goal nonetheless on a deflection off of—a former San Jose Shark—Andrew Desjardins’ stick to make a final score of 4-3, Tampa. Now, the series heads to the Windy City tied 1-1.
Ice hockey is always a fantastically exciting sport with high energy, fast movement, die-hard fans, and the occasional tussle on the ice. The 2015 Stanley Cup Final is certainly a series to watch as a member of the Original Six and a hockey team from Florida cross sticks for one of the oldest trophies in sports history.