<table width=80% align=center border=0><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/henderson_headshot.jpg align=left hspace=4>It sounds like a joke - how many Newfies does it take to hoist the Stanley Cup? Apparently, just one, but you have to imagine that the hands of every citizen of Newfoundland were stretching out across the kilometers last night, to help local lad Dan Cleary lift that most precious of sports trophies.
And frankly, you have to believe that when sun-rays crown thy pine-clad hills and summer spreads her hand, and Danny boy gets to spend his day with the Cup, there is going to be one heck of a celebration party in that great province - a “Rock”ing good time for sure, eh?!
<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/06/060508_cleary_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4>I love it whenever tried and true Don Cherry myths bite the dust. Apparently, there IS such a creature as a gritty Swede. You CAN win Stanley with a quiet Swedish captain. When everything is said and done, you can litter your entire team with those much maligned “chicken” Europeans and still leave the opposing Canadian captain in tears. Amazing!
Of course, as I always say, captains don’t win championships, teams win championships. If you don’t have the team to go the distance, it won’t matter who is wearing the C. Still, I hope my own favourite little lightweight Swedish captain is enjoying all this.
I would say that the way the two teams lined up (or rather, failed to line up) is another giant shout out to NHL top brass to make sure that future schedules feature a lot more inter-Conference play. Teams ended up playing the same opponents so often in the course of the year that they began to tailor their play for those teams alone. Are we surprised Pittsburgh couldn’t adjust quickly enough when they met a foe from the other conference – especially a foe that won the President’s Trophy?
<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/12/dec0807_canuckvspenguin02_t.jpg border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4>Pittsburgh had some trouble scoring on their Northwest Division swing this season. They were held to the outside during games and were not given their usual time and space up the middle. During their first two games against Detroit, they looked completely stymied by this tactic – seemed surprised when the puck was plucked from their sticks so frequently.
Personally, I would like the West to pick up a little of the East’s free-wheeling spirit but I would also like the East to adopt a little more of our grinding style against their superstar scorers, as I am often shocked at the amount of open ice in front of Eastern Conference goalies. The Red Wings seem to have found a pretty good balance between the two worlds.
Being an old gal myself, I love to see old guys raise the Cup for the first time. The utter joy on the face of Dallas Drake was heartwarming. I was, though, a little surprised at all the baby-boy-bashing going on across the sports message boards.
<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/06/060508_malkin_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4>Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were branded overhyped crybabies and divers, losers who disappear in crucial games. Yeeesh – call me crazy but they look pretty talented to me. It is worth remembering that these boys (for they are boys) are only 21 years old. This was a big old learning experience for them. They are still developing the hockey smarts and the physicality required to win.
Back home, Russian superstar forwards are obviously not taught nor expected to spend a great deal of time back/forechecking. If Malkin had been drafted by Minnesota, he might have a different set of skills by now, but until this final, I don’t think anyone was telling Evgeni that he might have to play differently to succeed. So, now he knows. And Sid – well - Sid can’t help it if he has for years been anointed the Next Great One. I thought he made some real strides forward and showed flashes of the no doubt great captain that he will become.
And I, for one, am more interested in celebrating a guy who will be called upon to play for Canada numerous times in his career than bashing him.</td></tr></table>