One of my teams is competing for a championship. Again. Don’t worry, by “one of my teams,” I mean teams in various leagues. I’ll get into how I feel about this in good time. Let’s look at the matchup first.
I’ve seen people calling this a great matchup. In fact, the Twitterverse was not in fact overwhelmingly behind Ottawa even though it was a heavy underdog against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The notion was that the blandness of Ottawa would have made for a bad series but that the matchup between the Penguins and Predators is awesome! I’m not so sure. Has there ever been a championship contest between teams this banged-up. The Pens have key defensemen out of action, Sidney Crosby playing hurt, and until recently, no Matt Murray. But thanks to some absolutely fantastic goaltending by backup Marc-Andre Fleury, that have crushed the Blue Jackets and pulled out a narrow victory over the Caps before Murray took over to do the same to the Sens.
As for my Preds, losing rising star Kevin Fiala was bad enough, but now Ryan Johansen is in the same shape, though at least Mike Fisher will return at some point in these finals. I was worried we might lose to the Ducks with our top two centers out, but the next men up have been up to this so far.
So these are definitely not going to be the best Stanley Cup Finals, I’m sorry to say. Both teams are missing pieces.
But the show must go on! This is still championship hockey between two fantastic teams! While the injuries have hurt the Pens’ ability to get the puck and thus score, they still have the goaltending to keep them in this series. The majority of pundits who incorrectly picked the Caps to beat them defended themselves by saying that the Pens were outplayed but were lucky. Not at all. the Caps couldn’t get anything by Fleury. That was the key.
As for us, the gradual excitement this team has been building for years has exploded with this playoff run. Anyone who’s been watching our games will tell you that this was not the Pekka Rinne they were expecting. While he’s generally been hit-miss in the playoffs, he’s stepped up to consistently break the hearts of opposing fans while at same time, making us exhale in relief! While our offense can be inconsistent at times, fast and mobile forwards like Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, and James Neal have scored plenty. And of course, we have possibly the best defensemen in the league! P.K. Subban has become our public face in advertisements because of his strong play and Roman Josi and Yannick Weber are no slouches either.
This is probably going to come down to goaltending. Neither Rinne nor Murray seem likely to break, but whoever bends more will likely lose the Cup for his team. So here’s hoping Rinne keeps up his brick wall impersonation.
As indicated, this is the third time in half a year that a team I cheer for is in the big one. Three disappointments would be hard to take. Welcome to Smashville!