Following Alec Martinez’s double overtime goal that lifted the Los Angeles Kings to their second Stanley Cup in three years, one of the best ever NHL playoffs came to an unfortunate end. The past two months included hits, saves, goals and of course, games that may be remembered for generations to come.
As I watched CBC’s closing video montage, I started to realize just how special the playoffs have been to the players, the sport and most importantly, the fans. Kids and adults, men and women, die-hard and casual fans alike, watched in awe as the fastest game on Earth was being played at its finest right in front of their eyes.
Being from Montreal and a born and raised Canadiens fan, myself along with many other Montrealers got to experience something most Canadians didn’t experience this spring: their favorite team playing playoff hockey. It was incredible living in Montreal and feeling the energy from the population of three million for six weeks.
Once the Canadiens got past the first round with a sweep over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the whole country jumped onto the Habs’ bandwagon, as it has every year when a Canadian team goes deep into the playoffs (Calgary 2004, Edmonton 2006, Ottawa 2007 and Vancouver 2011). Through an epic second round between classic rivals in their 34th playoff meeting, the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, the country of red and white rode a passionate wave of blue-white-red.Unfortunately, Montreal failed in their pursuit of a record-increasing 25th Stanley Cup.
Some spectacular hockey was being played south of the border as well, which is great for the sport and the NHL, as rinks were sold out and every game after the first round was being nationally broadcast on NBCSports. Americans got to experience the heightened drama of the Stanley Cup Playoffs- the best annual tournament in North American pro sports. No other league NFL, NBA or MLB require as many wins for a championship as the NHL, with an even match-up in all 4 grueling rounds of pure physicality and emotion. Yes NBA requires 16 wins, but the Miami Heat have reached their 4th straight Finals, so it can’t be that hard when the talent pool isn’t as dispersed across the league?
In the first round, I was shocked at the crowds that turned up in Dallas and in Colombus. They rocked the roof off their buildings as their teams qualified for the spring dance for the first time since 2007 and 2009, respectively.
Depressed fans in Los Angeles got to see their team become just the 4th team ever to come back and win a series after being down 0-3 to the San Jose Sharks.
Traditional supporters had the chance to see an Original Six match-up of the Bruins and Detroit Red Wings, for the first time since 1957. Young adult fans in Minnesota had the chance to see a repeat of their childhood playoffs with the Wild once again upsetting the Colorado Avalanche in game seven overtime, like they did in 2003.
The drama continued in the next round, with the final eight teams left. In the aforementioned series of Boston-Montreal, hockey lovers saw P.K. Subban dominating through skill on the ice and class off of it, with racist tweets directed towards him. One of the most exciting Habs goals in the 21st century came off his stick in game three on a breakaway against Tuukka Rask. You’d have to live under a rock to have not seen the highlight of that goal, no description necessary.
Another all-Californian match-up between the Kings and Anaheim Ducks inspired California’s young boys and young girls to love and play hockey. Justin Williams and the Kings took a second straight series in seven games, with magic from all 20 players dressed in black and silver.
The Conference Finals featured half of the Original Six teams; the New York Rangers, who had just beaten Pittsburgh in seven after being down 1-3, the Montreal Canadiens and the Chicago Blackhawks.
Without all-star goalie Carey Price, the Eastern match-up became less interesting and soon the Rangers ran away with it, meanwhile the West stole the headlines for a third straight Conference Final series between the two participating teams.
With fast paced and physical hockey in arenas filled with Cup hungry fans (despite the fact that the past two Cup champs were facing off against each other), this series was the best ever between Chicago and LA, probably one of the most exciting post-lockout series ever.
The Stanley Cup Final was the best one I have ever seen. Simply mouth drooling hockey. Back and forth, save by Henrik Lundqvist then save by Jonathan Quick, hits left, center and right. Games one and two produced breathtaking overtimes won both by the LA Kings. Game four featured one of the best goalie performances in a playoff 3rd period by Lundqvist. Then game five is simply summarized as the best game I have personally seen. I have spoken to many people around my age, and they all said the same thing. It was a game of a generation.
I have the 1999 Stanley Cup Final epic game 6 overtime between the Dallas Stars and the Buffalo Sabres, which ended on a Brett Hull goal, taped on an old VHS that I watch about once a year but the game on Friday night is king-sized in the amount of excitement compared to that game 15 years ago.
Many fans around North America and the world will never forget some of the highlights from these 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs and fans for many years will be talking about the thrilling final. 2010 featured a golden goal in the Olympics and in the Stanley Cup Finals but 2014 will still go down in history as one of the most exciting seasons from start to finish, ever.
What will 2014-2015 bring us?
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