Tuesday, May 29, 2012

2012 Stanley Cup Final notes/oddities

By Rick Morris
^ This series marks the ninth time that teams from the metro New York area and Los Angeles have met in major sports championships: there have been four NBA Finals matchups and four World Series clashes.  Metro New York and Los Angles stand tied at 4-4.  Interestingly, seven of the eight meetings came between 1970 and 1981, with the only other one in 1963.
^ Neither of the two franchises in this year’s Final made any kind of serious impact on the NHL before the mid-‘90s (although Wayne Gretzky’s acquisition by LA in 1988 set the stage for the league’s Sun Belt expansion).  But the breakthrough was fleeting for one and lasting for another.  Los Angeles won the Western Conference in 1993 and after a heartbreaking loss in the Final, never made another serious run until they captured their second conference flag this spring, 19 years later.  In 1995, the Devils won their first Stanley Cup behind young goalie ace Martin Brodeur and continued their string with Cup wins in 2000 and 2003 and another East pennant in 2001.
^ Speaking of the Sun Belt expansion, Los Angeles suffered the indignity of the Stanley Cup being paraded through SoCal because of a team that only existed because the Kings’ Gretzky-era success branded the market as viable – the 2007 championship season of the Anaheim Ducks.
^ Because Martin Brodeur is one of the great players of all time, he comes into this series as one half of an immense goalie clash even having faded a bit at age 40.  His showdown with Jonathan Quick, arguably the best goalie in the world right now, should be epic.  It marks the second consecutive year of big-time goalie matchups, coming after 2011’s Tim Thomas-Roberto Luongo throwdown.  Don’t get the idea that this represents a grand trend, however, because the last time we saw star power showdowns like this in consecutive years was 2000-01, when Patrick Roy and Ed Belfour squared off in back-to-back years with … Brodeur.
^ This next point is a bit arguable on the players for different years, but in terms of overall legacy, the player who needs a win the most this year is Ilya Kovalchuk.  Notwithstanding the top-level production he has put up during his career, he has lived with perceptions of underachievement and of not being an ideal teammate.  These raps could work against him in terms of being a slam-dunk, first-ballot Hall of Famer someday – unless he wins a Stanley Cup.  The bad news for Ilya is that the players who (again, arguably) needed a Cup the worst over the past decade came up short: Luongo in 2011 (needed to bolster his Hall of Fame credentials), Chris Osgood in 2009 (was only going to make the Hall of Fame by backstopping three Cup winners), Daniel Alfredsson in 2007 (should easily make the Hall of Fame, but needed a Cup win to validate him as a big-time winner) and Jarome Iginla in 2004 (see Alfie).  You’ve got to go back to 2002 to find players who needed the Cup win the most who got it – Dominik Hasek and Luc Robitaille.  Both of them were also like Alfredsson – their Hall credentials were secure, but their legacies were hugely enhanced by the outcome.  The bad news for Ilya in this rundown … where was Lucky Luc’s legend forged?  In LA.

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