Talk about a letdown.
Both the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference Finals failed to live up to their billings, producing a sweep in the East and a 5-game series in the West. Sure, there were a few double overtime games that provided some drama, but you really don’t have drama unless both of the teams in a series can prove they are capable of winning a damn game. Neither the Los Angeles Kings nor the Pittsburgh Penguins could do much, if anything, in the “winning” category, so now we are down to two: the Boston Bruins in the East, and the Chicago Blackhawks in the West. Our writers here at Sabre Noise will look ahead to the Stanley Cup Finals match-up in a bit, but first we present a few lessons that we learned from the Conference Finals.
It’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle, much less do it twice.
Last year, the Los Angeles Kings barely made it into the playoffs, only to become the only number 8 seed in North American professional sports to win a championship. The Kings of last year rode the amazing play of Jonathan Quick, a healthy offensive attack and a bruising style of play to go 10-1 on their opponents’ arenas, turning what was a weakness (never enjoying home ice advantage) into a strength. It was quite the amazing run . . . and now that the Kings have had their chance to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions extinguished, we hockey fans can truly appreciate it. See, sometimes in the world of sports, a team is so good that watching them win a championship is anticlimactic; it’s as exciting as putting a period at the end of the sentence, but it’s what had to happen. Other times, though, we witness an aligning of the stars that is near miraculous to behold. The Western Conference Finals proved to us that LA was a good team that captured lightning in a bottle last year, and while they fought hard and used their experience to make things interesting, all that talk about the Kings becoming a dynasty was clearly misplaced.
There’s regular season players . . . and then there are postseason players.
I’m not trying to discount the regular season; after all, without a successful regular season, a team would not qualify for the playoffs, so there is obviously
something to be said for a player who can carry his team through the qualifying round. Still, once the playoffs begin, half of the fun is trying to figure out which players can live up to the expectations that the regular season produced, and which ones will kick it into a higher gear and surprise the hell out of us. David Krejci fits into the “surprise the hell out of us” category, as the Pittsburgh Penguins found out the hard way. Meanwhile, Jonathan Toews is sitting on one goal through 17 playoff games. Fortunately, the Chicago Blackhawks are getting surprising playoff production from Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell, as well as predictably strong efforts from the likes of Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Duncan Keith. Chicago fans should be a bit concerned as the Blackhawks move on to face the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals: Pittsburgh’s superstars (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, and so on) failed to show up for the Eastern Conference Finals, and those results were disastrous. If Toews continues to play like this, Boston’s job is going to be that much easier.