Here we are folks, the Stanley Cup Final! For everyone involved in hockey from players, to coaches, to the media, and fans, this is what we have been waiting for since the puck dropped back in October. It is the most important part of the hockey season and now, it is time to see who can bring their game to another level.
With that in mind, here are five players who need to step it up in this final playoff series:
With today’s much-anticipated announcement, it’s official. The Atlanta Thrashers are moving to Winnipeg as True North Sports and Entertainment has successfully purchased the team. The Thrashers – or whatever name they’ll be – will play in Winnipeg next season. Most people are wondering what the new team name will be, whether the NHL will even work in Winnipeg after the city lost the Jets in 1996, and calling out the league for allowing the move.
But what kind of team is the city getting? One with a bright future and an array of young talent, unlike what an expansion club would look like.
The Canucks and Bruins have had similar roads to where they are now. Both have dealt with playoff disappointment over the years, but have been building for this moment ever since passing the torch to different/younger leaders after the lockout. Let’s take a look at how these teams have been built.
Just a few hours before the Memorial Cup final, Saint John forward Stanislav Galiev said via Twitter, “I want to tell you only one thing right now... You can alredy put my name in the cup!!!”
Shortly after the game ended, his tweet read, “Just won a memorial cup!!!!! Woooow”
The Saint John Sea Dogs are the 2011 Memorial Cup Champions, following a 3-1 victory over the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors. The game was dangerously close to having to go to overtime, but goaltender Jacob DeSerres was a key factor in preserving the lead, making tremendous saves to keep the Sea Dogs on top.
The 2011 Memorial Cup is quite different from recent years, as this year's host was the favorite to win the OHL Championship. Last year, the Brandon Wheat Kings lost the WHL Eastern Conference Final before hosting the Memorial Cup. 2009 host Rimouski Océanic lost in the QMJHL semifinal to eventual QMJHL Champions Drummondville.
This year’s host Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors came close, but even without the OHL title, they’ve made it to the Memorial Cup Final, hoping for their shot at the championship. However, the Majors play a very different style than opponent St. John Sea Dogs.
For the second straight year, one of the final two teams will get a chance to end its Stanley Cup misery. Chicago won their first Cup in 49 years, while Philadelphia also had the chance to end their drought of 35 years.
This time around, the Bruins will look to end their 39-year skid ever since Bobby Orr leaped into the air. Vancouver has never won it in their 40-year history. Furthermore, it’s been at least 17 years since either has even made to the final. We bring some perspective to these droughts.
The Stanley Cup Final is all set. Starting on Wednesday, Vancouver and Boston will meet for the chance to win hockey’s Holy Grail. So who will win this clash of Cup-starved franchises? Carolyn and I give you five reasons why the Canucks and Bruins will win it all…
Everyone talks about Tim Thomas. Everyone talks about Patrice Bergeron. Everyone talks about David Krejci. And rightfully so. Yet, one name that seems to get lost in the shuffle for the Boston Bruins is Nathan Horton. In the first postseason of his career, Horton has been clutch for Eastern Conference Champions.
RLD 3 Stars of the Night: 1. Tim Thomas, BOS (24 Saves, Shutout)… Thomas didn't face as much pressure as Roloson, but he picked up a clutch Game 7 shutout to send his team to the Cup final. 2. Dwayne Roloson, TB (37 Saves, 1 GA)… Roloson was fantastic all night long, making a lot of big saves, but gave up one goal too many. It was arguably his best effort this spring (and that's saying something). 3. Nathan Horton, BOS (1 Goal)… Horton netted his third game-winning goal of the playoffs and recorded six shots -- all while missing a portion of the first period with an undisclosed injury.
The two teams involved in Friday night’s Memorial Cup semifinal both had tough starts to the tournament. The Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors lost 4-3 in a hard-fought battle against the St. John Sea Dogs last Friday. The Kootenay Ice were hammered by the Owen Sound Attack in their first game, with a final score of 5-0.
The Majors and the Ice made recoveries to make it to the semifinal game. Only one would make it to the final to face the St. John Sea Dogs for the Memorial Cup. Since Kootenay played the previous evening, Mississauga executed a strategy to tire out the Ice. The Majors played very physical early, throwing hard hits to exhaust the Ice players, and then turned on the jets to outskate and outwork them.
Their plan worked, and Mississauga won 3-1 to advance to the Memorial Cup final and send Kootenay home.
That is the perfect phrase to describe the Game 7 that took place between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night. In a game that resulted in a 1-0 win by the Boston Bruins, fans had the chance to see/watch what hockey is all about in the playoffs: guts, great goaltending and timely goal scoring.
The last two postseasons, we’ve brought you EA Sports simulations of select games on a daily basis. This year I’ve decided to only do these for Game 7’s. The rosters are updated, injured players are out of the lineup and the players’ overall totals are as close to real life as possible.
Today, I let the computer on NHL 11 play out Game 7 of Bruins-Lightning…
The tiebreaker game of the Memorial Cup was sure to be an interesting one, considering that Owen Sound had downed Kootenay to the tune of 5-0 in their game during the round robin portion of the tournament. But since then, Kootenay found their offense and beat finals-bound St. John 5-4 in overtime on Tuesday.
The Ice found revenge on the Attack with a big 7-3 win to go to the semifinal.
Combined, they are a staggering 78 years old. They play contrasting styles between the pipes. Both have had their share of ups and downs in the third round, alone. It was the matchup most fans were anxious to watch before the series. When the puck drops in Friday’s Game 7 in Boston, it will all come down to the duel between Dwayne Roloson and Tim Thomas.
The San Jose Sharks are once again heading home before the calendar flips to June. While a lot of teams would love to consistently play into May, the Sharks’ annual quest for Lord Stanley has come up short for what seems like the umpteenth consecutive spring. With that being said, this team is heading in the right direction having removed the label of being playoff choke artists.
Now that the off-season is upon Team Teal… what does the future have in store?
After six games played to a 3-3 split, the lesson of this Eastern Conference Final series is that momentum is a fickle beast. Both the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning have terrific team strengths, but like all great heroes, the teams are kept from perfection by a few obvious flaws.
RLD 3 Stars of the Night: 1. Martin St. Louis, TB (2 Goal, 1 Assist)… The veteran forward came up big for Tampa with three points, including the game-winner. 2. Steven Stamkos, TB (1 Goal, 2 Assists)… ‘Stammer’ has been off and on this spring. Tonight, he was on. He scored a huge power play goal and started the breakout on the game-winner. 3. David Krejci, BOS (3 Goals)… Lost in the losing effort, Krejci picked up the first playoff hat trick for the Bruins in 20 years.
The people who set the schedule for the round robin portion of the Memorial Cup certainly knew what they were doing when they saved the bloodiest grudge match for last. The last time that the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors and the Owen Sound Attack played each other, it was Game 7 of the OHL Championship, a heartbreaking loss for which the Majors were looking to avenge in this tournament.
Before the regular season began, there was a belief that Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa would be traded. Seeing what he’s done in these playoffs, I’m sure the Canucks are happy they held onto their do-it-all blue-liner.
As all hockey pundits say, the fourth victory is the toughest to claim in a series. San Jose certainly didn’t make it easy on Vancouver in Tuesday’s Game 5. When push came to shove, the Canucks got the job done to advance to the Stanley Cup final with a 3-2 double-overtime win. And they couldn’t have done it without their oft-criticized netminder.
RLD 3 Stars of the Night: 1. Roberto Luongo, VAN (54 Saves, 2 GA)… Bobby Lou was fantastic all night and was forced to make a lot of saves early in the first overtime. 2. Kevin Bieksa, VAN (1 Goal)… Bieksa logged a game-high 36:40 and was a +3 on the night. Oh, and he scored the series-clinching goal in double overtime. 3. Henrik Sedin, VAN (2 Assists)… Captain Henrik had a pair of primary assists, including the game-tying goal late in regulation.
Tonight, the Vancouver Canucks clinched their first Western Conference title in 17 years... thanks to this wacky double-overtime goal from Kevin Bieksa. More wacky than Patrick Kane's Cup-winning goal last year? I believe so.
Down 0-2, Tuesday’s game was do or die for the Kootenay Ice. A loss to the St. John Sea Dogs would send them home empty-handed.
The Sea Dogs rested several of their key players (including goaltender Jacob DeSerres) with the knowledge that they were going to be participating in the Memorial Cup final, and it was up to the Kootenay Ice to take advantage. They did, beating the Sea Dogs 5-4 in overtime.
The storyline heading into Monday’s Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals was who the Lightning goaltender would be. Even with surprise starter Mike Smith’s great effort, it looks like that will be another big question mark heading into the all-important Game 6 against Boston on Wednesday.
To go deep in the playoffs, you have to be lucky on some nights and, every now and then, win a game that you have no business winning. Well, Tim Thomas and the Bruins did just that on Monday as they stole a 3-1 victory in Game 5 from the Lightning.
RLD 3 Stars of the Night: 1. Tim Thomas, BOS (33 Saves)… Thomas was spectacular in net for the B’s, making big save after big save, as his team was outshot 34-20. 2. Patrice Bergeron, BOS (1 Assist)… Once again, Bergeron was one of the best Bruins on the ice. He made a great pass to set-up Brad Marchand’s game-winner. 3. Dennis Seidenberg, BOS… Zdeno Chara’s defense partner logged over 29 minutes of ice-time, recorded a +2 rating and was great in his defensive zone.
Just when you thought Tim Thomas couldn't make a better save in these playoffs, he dazzled once again in tonight's Game 5 with this ridiculous stick save to preserve Boston's 2-1 lead in the third period...
The Red Wings’ off-season just took an interesting twist before it even started.
According to various reports, defenseman Brian Rafalski is set to announce his retirement on Wednesday. Rafalski will be walking away from his contract with one year and $6 million remaining. Even though the 37-year-old had a great NHL career and will be missed, the cap-strapped Wings will now have some breathing room to make some moves this summer.
More than halfway through Round 3, here’s an updated look at the top five candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
1. Ryan Kesler, VAN
Stats: 17 GP, 6 G, 11 A, 17 Pts, +5
Despite not having the same success in Round 3 as he did against Nashville, production-wise, Kesler has proven to still be effective without contributing offensively. He has been kept in check with only two points in four games, but is still playing great defense. This postseason, Kesler has been on another level on both sides of the puck. With that said, he has seen his Conn Smythe stock dip a bit here in the conference finals.
Through four games of the third round, the Vancouver Canucks have resembled the team we all expected to see in these playoffs – more so than the first two rounds. As they head home for Game 5 with a 3-1 series lead on San Jose, now would be the perfect time for Alain Vigneault’s bunch to display a killer instinct.
RLD 3 Stars of the Night: 1. Henrik Sedin, VAN (4 Assists)… Henrik had arguably his best game of the playoffs, tallying four assists (three primary). 2. Sami Salo, VAN (2 Goals, 1 Assist)… Salo scored a pair of power play goals in the second, including the eventual game-winner. 3. Daniel Sedin, VAN (3 Assists)… Daniel didn’t have as good of a game as his brother, but contributed to the win with three helpers.
Special teams have been the story of these Western Conference Finals. Today, it was no different. Three goals in a span of 1:55 made all the difference for Vancouver. All came on the power play, which catapulted the Canucks to a 4-2 win and 3-1 series stranglehold on the San Jose Sharks.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.