As a Sharks fan, I really don’t want to see the Los Angeles Kings make it so that two of the three California teams, and three of the five in the pacific division have hoisted the Stanley Cup in the last decade or so. I really don’t want to see it presented to Dustin Brown, a guy whose game I appreciate but who I spent a season (and a playoff series last spring) wishing all the worst for. I don’t want to see Jonathan Quick, who has the distinction of being my favorite type of NHLer, one who went to prep school, and who I had the opportunity to be in the rink with before people knew the name, named the Conn Smyth winner as the Stanley Cup Playoffs’ most valuable player.
I really don’t want to see any of those things, what with the Kings being a franchise that I have nothing but dislike for, but at this point I am more or less resigned to the fact that no matter how little I am going to enjoy it, sometime in the not too distant future, I am likely to see the black and silver parading hockey’s holy grail around either the Prudential Center or the Staples Center ice surface. That is probably going to happen, and that’s fine. Well, not fine but…whatever. I have one wish, though. Please, can we at least make it close?
Now, the 4-0 drubbing that took place in game 3, and the 3-0 series lead held by Los Angeles could be said to be misleading as to the nature of the series. After all, games one and two required an extra frame, and with only a few bounces (Ilya Kovalchuk’s crossbar in the waning moments of game 2 comes to mind), they could have been headed west with a 2-0 series lead, rather than finding themselves in the 2-0 hole.
The problem is, they didn’t, and in game three they looked more like a team that was down 2-0 and was beginning to accept defeat than a team that could easily have been in control of the affair. The Devils showed no fight in game 3, and it made the series, which had felt close up until that moment, feel every bit as lopsided as the 3-0 standing that is, of course, the end all be all of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. So that is my plea, be it to the Devils or the hockey gods or whoever (the refs? Gary Betteman?): Don’t end the year with a series that feels lopsided. Because the fact is, as disappointing as it will be to see the Kings take home the Cup, for the finals to be as forgettable as they will be if game 4 looks like game 3 did would be even worse.
Looking back, you could make the case that we have been a little bit (or a lot, I guess) spoiled the last few years. We had 7 games last year, and a series that seemed likely to end in a murder or a full scale riot (oh right, it did), a competitive 6 game series with the Pronger-Byfugdlein war and an overtime Stanley Cup winning goal the year before that, a 7 game Wings-Pens series the year before, and a 6 game series with a 3 overtime war and 4 1 goal games in 2008. Really, we haven’t had a Stanley Cup Finals that hasn’t been dramatic since the last one which the outcome of which pissed me off like this one will, when the Ducks took care of the Senators in a tidy 4-1 fashion.
The late 90s saw four straight sweeps (95,96,97 and 98), but in the 11 finals (over 12 years) since then, we have had it great. We haven’t had a sweep, only 2 have been settled in 5, and there has been a winner-take-all game 7 6 times. Taking all of that into account, maybe we are due for a series that doesn’t quite live up to the drama that we build for the Stanley Cup Finals.
Even if we are due, though, it won’t feel right. I mean it is the Stanley Cup Finals. The ultimate for hockey players. Guys are supposed to be dying to block shots with their faces, to commit felonies for inches of ice and to do whateverthefuckittakes to get the win each night. It goes without saying that if we get the last two teams standing, that the teams are pretty damn close in terms of skill level. And if that’s the case, shouldn’t that sort of herculean effort mean that we are going to see at least some back and forth?
The logical answer is that it isn’t guaranteed. A die is as likely to roll a ‘6’ ten times in a row as it is to have any other combination, meaning that even in a scenario of randomness, all the bounces can still go one way. In a series that saw the first two games decided by OT winners, that appears to be what’s going on right now, but this goes way beyond probability.
This matchup has every potential of being as competitive as any that we have seen lately, and for two games it was. In fact, prior to game 3 I told a Kings fan friend of mine (I hate the preceding clause, by the way) that no matter what this was going to feel like a close series, even if it was going to be over in 4 close contests. Obviously, the exact opposite happened in game 3, but the point is that these teams still match up that way.
Game 3 got away from the Devils and while I’ll stop short of saying that they quit on it, they did a pretty thorough job of letting it get away from them. I just hope that doesn’t become the story of the series, because as much as it will suck if I have to watch the Kings hoist the Cup, a forgettable finals would be even worse.