Participating in Battle of the Blades was an amazing experience. Read my latest post about the exciting journey...
Eighty-two games is a long season and can be a grind at times. The hard work that you and your teammates put in throughout the regular season is all worth it, however, to be able to play for a chance at winning hockey's holy grail. When you reach the cup finals you can never take that experience and opportunity for granted. Dozens of former players look back at the one or two opportunities they had to play at this time of year and wish they had just one more chance. As a player I never stopped appreciating each chance I received to play in the finals. As an avid fan today, I am reminded of the excitement and flurry of emotions of playing for the league title. Here are the top 5 reasons I can't wait to watch the entire Stanley Cup Finals series...
You hope that at this time of the year the finals matches up the best and most deserving team in each conference. I can say without qualification that this holds true of the finals match up this time around. Not surprisingly, Detroit remained a Western Conference powerhouse this season, and continued to dominant in this year's playoffs. Pittsburgh rode a more volatile roller coaster on route to the postseason. Credit Dan Bylsma for bringing the team together towards the end of the year.
Regardless of their regular season performances, both teams are at the top of their games right now, which is exactly what fans of competitive ice hockey want to see. Hockey fans can also appreciate the opportunity to see the two most talented teams in the NHL competing for the Stanley Cup. The Stanley Cup Finals should be played between the most talented and hottest teams, which is exactly what we have in the Red Wings vs. Penguins series.
My NYR ring from '94 carries the engraved expression
They say that memories last a lifetime. That is absolutely true. But what last perhaps even longer are the keepsakes. When you win the cup there are two different mementos that you receive: A Stanley Cup Ring, and a Miniature Stanley Cup Trophy. As you can imagine, those are two of the most prized possessions that any professional player can own.
I have seven miniature trophies. Six of my trophies are mini-cups, and one is a mini Clarence Campbell trophy for playing in the 1992-1993 conference finals with the Maple Leafs. The great thing about the replicas is that they are specific to your team. Engraved on them are the names of every member of the organization. These awards are not only a proof of your accomplishments, but a proof of your teammates and those who battled with you.
The player ring is the memento that people know best. Here's something that you may not have known. When we were in Edmonton we started a trend that the players designed the rings. Gretz, Messier, and Lowe were the artists behind the designs of the Oilers rings. My ring from the Rangers has "1940", representing the last time New York had won the cup until our win in 1994. The Rangers ring also has the line "Heave-Ho" engraved on it. Eddie Olcyzk headed up the stretch before every game and would yell that expression at the end of the stretches.
The NHL did a good job tightening the delay between series.
The NHL had planned to play Game 1 of the finals on June 5, but after two very quick conference finals, the league decided not to delay the next round. Kudos to the league for making this prudent decision. Consider that these players have already extended their seasons by nearly 2 months. They are banged up, tired, and sore. They want to win the cup, celebrate, and go home! Keeping the Stanley Cup Finals so close to the conference finals keeps the players in their postseason rhythm. It's this rhythm [as well as a little inspiration] that's keeping them going strong right now...
This series showcases many talented players, but perhaps none more talented and CONSISTENT than Henrik Zetterberg and Sidney Crosby. Like they did in the first two games of this series, the two centre-men will go head to head in every on-ice battle. Whoever gets the best of this matchup will give his team a much better opportunity to win. You may ask, "What about Evgeni Malkin?" Geno is a terrific talent. But he is not as consistent right now as Crosby. Malkin is the X factor. When he shows up to play the Penguins have a much better chance.
Sidney Crosby has a chance that may never come again.
Many have taken note that this finals marks the first time since the 1984 Stanley Cup that two teams have had a rematch of the previous year's series. The New York Islanders swept our Edmonton team in '82-'83. Billy Smith was named playoff MVP that year. I won't forget Game 1 of our rematch one year later. The game was memorable because it was so competitive and close. Kevin McClelland scored our only goal, and we beat the Islanders 1-0. We went on to win the series 4-1, and many would say that was the start of the Oilers "dynasty."
That Oilers team reminds me of the Penguins team today. Just as we had Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier down middle, the Pens have Crosby and Malkin. We were a bunch of 23 year old kids at the time (The "Magnificent 7" they called us.) Now Crosby, Malkin, and Fleury are all around the same age. These young players have a chance to win this year, and that opportunity can't be taken for granted. Could this be the start of the Pittsburgh dynasty? Time will tell, as will the rest of the series...
You can read more of my columns at HockeyBarn.com
Bruce Broke Down Just Like San Jose
Like Spielberg, San Jose had a great script. Too bad nobody read it. When it comes to the player disasters, some are quick to point out Joe Thornton. Alas, none of his supporting cast decided to pick up the slack. Nobody stepped up. Not the Captain - Patrick Marleau, Jeremy Roenick, or even Rob Blake (who has already hoisted the Cup).
The series was a blockbuster, and San Jose pretty much copied Jaws scene for scene. Similar to Bruce, the Sharks only ate its opponents sporadically - then blew up in the end.
Great Foundation, Faulty Wires
You can't place all blame on Calgary's new members. But it is worth highlighting the injuries that Chicago exploited. When two key defenseman, such as Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr aren't healthy, it's the young and speedy guys such as Jonathan Towes and Patrick Kane who fueled the fire.
Then there is Dustin Byfuglien, an emerging playoff standout, who stood in front of Mikka Kiprusoff and created even more havoc. All in all, the Blackhawks used their wings to fan the Flames, until they crumbled.
This week we tackle the Ultimate Line. What a tough decision. There are many talented players who show up this time of year. These men have grit and the ability to play as part of the team.
Now I realize that two of my forwards are left wingers, but this is the ultimate list! Why wouldn't I send them over the boards if I needed the big play to be made?
So let's send 'em in...
Niklas Lidstrom - D
You need to shut down the opposing team's superstar? Send this guy out. You need someone to quarterback your power play? Nik's the man. How about some leadership? He's more than lived up to that task after Steve Yzerman retired.
He's also won four Stanley Cup titles, including a Conn Smythe performance to boot. The Wings #5 knows what it takes to win.
Zdeno Chara - D
Imagine the chemistry between one of the league's best passers, and the man with a cannon that doubles as a slap shot. This blue line pairing is a match made by the hockey gods.
The Slovakian uses every inch of his 6'9" frame to his advantage to out-muscle the forwards he faces. Just try going into the corners with him. See if you come out with the puck in your possession.
Getzlaf and Grit Go Together
In his brief NHL career, he has already won a Stanley Cup. That accomplishment is a character builder. Now add his size, strength, and lack of fear to get in there and you have a serious combination.
You want ultimate? The word is defined if Getzlaf were ever out on the ice along with the following two unknowns.
Alexander Ovechkin - LW
His release is virtually unparalleled. His intensity is so high, it goes unmatched by any chart. His power play performance is such a threat, it can't be ignored by the opposition. And that's just during the regular season.
Take everything you have seen from the Great 8, and multiply that by about 10 for this year's playoffs.
Henrik Zetterberg - *RW
This was a tough call to make. It's hard to choose between him and his teammate, Pavel Datsyuk, but 'Hank' comes out tops.
Not only does he have some of the finest hands in the league, but he also has some keen defensive abilities. Whether it's on the power play or the penalty kill he's out there. His calm and cool nature is a great balance for his line mates too.
*I know Zetterberg is a left winger, but he shoots left, so shooting on his off-wing creates another weapon for this talented line. Plus this is my dream team, and I get to choose whomever I want, remember.
Another tough choice. Roberto Luongo is very skilled, but he doesn't have the playoff experience of Marty. That puts the Devils' net minder over the top.
Also, having played against him, I know how tough he is to beat.
Marty's trophy case is quite full, and his name litters the record books now. (Depending on how the rest of these playoffs go, the Conn Smythe trophy may finally be added to his collection.)
Jarome Iginla... The 6th Man
If Brodeur needs to be pulled, Jarome gets the tap on the shoulder.
He's a tremendous player and a great leader. Captains don't always have to say much to motivate the guys in the dressing room, but if something needed to be said, 'Iggy' would know what to say.
So there it is. My ultimate line up. It was no easy task, but neither is the run for the Cup.
This week we saw the two biggest names in hockey nab a hat trick. This is already becoming quite the entertaining series, but it may be a short one if Pittsburgh doesn't capitalize more on the power play.
Continue reading "Playoffs 360: Series Commentary"
I was fortunate to have experienced and lived the full playoff spectrum and the ride is better than any roller coaster in the world and lasts a lot longer! I am also a huge fan of the sport and naturally this is my favorite time of any hockey season.
For my first "Blogdown"...
#10 The Beard
It's nice to see the tradition of "The Beard" make a comeback. It shows the focus and grit of the game. Paul Mara's looking pretty mean and I'm not sure how Chris Mason even gets his mask on!
I hope Mike Commodore has a chance to grow his out so he can raise money for charity as he's always done in the past.
Looking at some of the St. Louis players as well as Jonathan Towes and Patrick Kane of Chicago they look so young that they may want to grow "The Beard", but might not have the ability....yet!
Fans are also following the tradition. People have told me that their bosses aren't too happy but they reply: "It's the Playoffs!"
#9 The Weather
Playoffs indicate warmer weather!! It's always been kind of nice to walk around in shorts, go for a blade, drive a convertible and don the shades before stepping into a cold arena.
It's even better to have the Stanley Cup Parade in the warm June weather....The Canyon Of Heroes ticker-tape is one great example of just that!! I remember the slow motion of the ticker tape in 80 degree weather and then getting the key to NYC at City Hall from then Mayor Guiliani.
The warmer weather used to put a smile on Grant Fuhr's face. He is a scratch golfer and nothing relaxed him more than a round (or two) of golf on game day. Goalies...they sure have their own unique ways of getting into the zone.
Sure it seems like a cliche, but you have got to play through pain. If you can skate, you can play. You take a puck to the face, get stitched up, and get back on the ice. Your team needs you out there and you do whatever it takes.
For example I got hit in the face by Sergio Momesso in the second period of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 1994. There was a possible concussion. When the blood finally stopped, I received several stitches. I stared at two black eyes and faced my fourteenth broken nose, but I still hit the ice for my next shift and finished the game that ended the Rangers 54-year Cup drought.
Hoisting the Cup is worth every ounce of pain.
You learn from your mistakes. In the case of the playoffs, that means tasting what it is like to lose before winning. When you lose, you don't want to lose the lesson.
As part of Team Canada in the 1980 Olympics, I tasted defeat at the international level. That was when Team USA won the Gold Medal: The Miracle on Ice.
The Edmonton Oilers didn't win right away either. We lost to the NY Islanders in '81 and '83, and in '82 to the LA Kings. We learned from each lesson. That pain is so deeply etched into your gut that you never want to have that feeling again. I hate losing more than I love winning and I really love to win!
#6 The Ride
The best of the best thrive under pressure and rise to the occasion. As a team you ride the emotional roller coaster and the highs and lows can be extreme.
The ride is only over when you are hold the Cup over your head!
#5 Your Eyes ARE Your Ears
You must watch with 360 degree vision. Feel and anticipate everything happening in complete synchronization, from the second the puck is dropped to the final buzzer.
The volume level in the buildings makes it impossible to yell to your teammates. At the same time the vibe and energy rocking the house are fuel that add to the adrenaline rush.
Your 7th Man in the Flesh
The support of the fans who sport their teams' colors and wear their favorite players' jerseys, while chanting until they have no voices left, is just an example of how far they will go to rock their teams' BARN.
The fans are the seventh player - when they are your fans - but they can also get under the skin of some players. For instance, when they taunt a goalie it can be unnerving.
# 3 The Keeper
The Netminder... the Goalie... your best penalty killer. He is THE single player who has the capability of winning a game and a series.
The media have been riding Osgood saying he's average. But, like Billy Smith or even me, we took it to another level in the playoffs. Some call it a "clutch" or "money player". I just called it the best part of my job and loved overtime even more!
It's What We All Play For.
No matter what gets printed in the papers... No matter what the announcers may say... No matter how much the fans may get down on you at times... Nothing matters more to the team than the brotherhood. We learn as brothers how to eliminate all that "outside noise."
Nothing and no one can penetrate our band of brothers as we rely upon each other to do our jobs, be in position, know the assignment, and as the saying goes..."All for One and One for ALL".
We always had eachother's backs. The minute we put on our sweaters, we are gladiators prepared for battle. We bleed for the crest on our chest. In the run for the Cup, you cannot explain the close link between every guy in the locker room, and every guy with whom you step out on the ice, and even every guy behind the scenes.
The Stanley Cup means more than anything. It is the Holy Grail. You get to walk the walk of life forever with your teammates. Your brothers are always going to be your brothers!
No one can ever take that away. All the names etched on the Cup will live on as part of the greatest trophy in professional sport. That feeling is unmatched.
I AM PROUD to say that to get there I battled alongside with the guys I still refer to as MY BROTHERS.
"The wild roller coaster ride of the playoffs is in the first turn. It's fantastic to see the teams rebound and fight through the adversities.
Momentum is key. If it is lost, the best players and coaches know how to get it back. Before momentum can be retrieved however, its loss must be felt. Having the right personnel on the ice is crucial. They can feel the shift in everything from emotion to demeanor, and in every moment determine who the best players are, using them in the most appropriate situations...."
To read the full 360 head over to HockeyBarn.com!
Glenn Anderson has teamed up with the newly-launched HockeyBarn.com as a featured contributor to their online community. Glenn's column will will give behind-the-scenes insights into all the fantastic goings-on in his personal and professional life.
We hope all of Glenn's fans and friends will support this new community and enjoy the never-before-heard stories of how he became a Hall-of-Famer, family-man, and earned his moniker Captain Fun!
#9 just posted his first column entry, so visit soon and you won't miss a single moment of the action.
"It is a privilege to be able to write blogs for HockeyBarn.com and this is my first installment. For this issue, I'd like to share with all you hockey fans out there what it was like when I first found out that I was being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame!
First off, no one ever dreams or rehearses the enormous elevation of emotions that had me reliving my life and evaluating each angle of it... " read more