Yesterday, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup by defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in 6 games. This year’s playoffs showcased many upsets, previously unheralded players, and many unexpected twists. Here are a few things we learned from this year’s playoffs:
We learned that this league is based upon parity. In the Eastern Conference, the two lowest seeds (7 and 8), advanced to the Eastern Conference Final, and the Flyers advanced to the Stanley Cup Final. Upsets were as prevalent as wins by the higher seeded team, and the regular season and seeding meant absolutely nothing in this year’s playoffs.
We learned that a big name, quality goaltender isn’t necessary. Arguably the two best goalies in the world right now, Ryan Miller and Martin Brodeur, were eliminated in the first round by lower seeded teams.
However, we learned (and already knew) that consistent goaltending is the key. Other than Evgeni Nabokov of San Jose, the three goaltenders participating in the Conference Finals (Antti Niemi, Chicago; Michael Leighton, Philadelphia; and Jaroslav Halak, Montreal) were either relatively or completely inexperienced at the playoff level. However, even though these goaltenders are unheralded and haven’t performed consistently over the course of their careers (albeit many of them have been short to this point), they played very well in this postseason, and were keys to their teams’ successes.
We learned that the physical, tough-nosed style hasn’t completely been replaced by the quicker, more athletic style of play. After the lockout in the middle of the decade, many rules were changed to benefit the smaller, quicker, more athletic teams. However, teams such as Philadelphia and Montreal advanced far in the playoffs by beating quicker, more athletic teams by playing a tough, physical, and sometimes ugly style of hockey (Philly fans refer to the style as the “Broad Street Bully” style, hailing from the Flyer teams of the 1970s). That style isn’t dead yet, but instead is still alive and kicking (no pun intended).
We learned that it doesn’t matter how one scores the final goal of the Stanley Cup Finals, it is still a thrill. No red lights or horns need to go off, no music needs to start playing, no one else even needs to know that the puck went in the net. When Patrick Kane shot the puck that was lodged in the side of the net, he knew it crossed the line. He began skating down the other end of the ice, and his teammates, not quite knowing what happened, blindly followed in celebration. The play was reviewed, and the goal stood. The Blackhawks were Stanley Cup Champions.
Finally, we learned that redemption does happen, and that it is sweet for those who achieve it. Marian Hossa lost the Stanley Cup Finals with Pittsburgh in 2008 and then turned down a large contract the next season with Pittsburgh for a 1 year deal with Detroit in an effort to win the Stanley Cup. He then lost in the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals, to who else but Pittsburgh. This season, he signed with Chicago, and looked to erase the “Hossa Curse.” When the Blackhawks made the Stanley Cup Finals, some questioned whether Hossa would lose in three consecutive Stanley Cup Finals. However, Hossa finally achieved the ultimate goal, and proved that good things come to those who wait.