It’s over, another Stanley Cup Final has come and gone. Photographs were taken, the Cup was hoisted, and I can honestly say, for so many different reasons, that this year was one of the best Stanley Cup Finals I’ve ever seen, and I like to think I’ve seen a fair few. There was the classic “disappearing puck” shot in by Patrick Kane in Game Six of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, the 8-1 Boston victory in the 2011 Final, the two goals in seventeen seconds by Chicago in the 2013 Final, and now, this year. Pittsburgh stands atop the league once again.
The 2017 Stanley Cup Final will be remembered for many things, perhaps it’s the abundance of catfish that people decided to forcibly relocate to the ice throughout the Cup Final including one Nashville fan who was almost brought up on charges because of it, or maybe it’s the fact that a city long considered a “small market” decided to step into the yard with the big boys, maybe it’s the disallowed goal in Game 6. Whatever you may remember about this year, one thing’s for certain, that this year’s Final will be remembered.
Nashville came into this year’s playoffs as an afterthought, many fans and pundits alike thought they wouldn’t last five games with the titans from the Windy City. Nashville proved them all wrong.
“Well, they got past Chicago, but they won’t get past St. Louis. St. Louis caught fire coming into the playoffs!”
Nope, wrong again.
“Alright, alright, surely this is the year the Anaheim Ducks break through and go back to the Final?”
“Wait, they don’t actually have a shot against the Pittsburgh Penguins, do they?”
The Predators gave Pittsburgh all they wanted. I hate to use a cliché, but this was the Rocky vs. Apollo Creed of hockey. Nashville took Pittsburgh to deep water without two of their best players, including their top-line center, along with a whole slew of other injuries.
Pittsburgh went up 2-0 going back to Nashville and everyone, including me, thought this was going to five-game series at most. Nashville proved everyone wrong again, outscoring Pittsburgh by a combined score of 9-2 in the Games 3 and 4 at Bridgestone Arena.
Then, the series shifted back to PPG Paints Arena for Game 5, and it was ugly. Pittsburgh hung six goals on Nashville, and the Predators were at their lowest point heading to the penultimate Game 6. It started off well enough, and in the second period, Nashville thought they had a breakthrough.
Colton Sissons poked the puck into an open net in the midst of a scrum of bodies, only for the goal to be disallowed due to the often-controversial “intent to blow the whistle” ruling. The ref blew his whistle as he thought that Penguins goaltender Matt Murray had covered it, only for the puck to squirt free and to be poked in by Sissons.
The ref did as he was taught, blow the whistle when you lose sight of the puck. But the whistle was, depending on who you ask, quite quick. So what should have been a 1-0 game was now 0-0 again.
The rest of the game was a pitched battle, until the final two minutes. Pittsburgh’s Patric Hornqvist gathered in a rebound and banked it off Pekka Rinne to break the deadlock with mere minutes remaining.
Despite pulling Rinne for the extra man, the Predators couldn’t equalize and Pittsburgh netted an empty net goal to rub salt in the wound. A bench full of white, black, and gold sweaters erupted in pure elation, and the other bench of gold and blue slumped in pure dejection. Lord Stanley’s Cup was hoisted as it always has been, players put their children in the Cup for a photo op that you can never get anywhere else, then they carried it back to the locker room, where various types of drinks, mostly alcoholic, filled the concave bowl at the top.
Now, all the rinks from Vancouver to Florida will go quiet, the ice will melt, the lights will dim, and the league will rest for a mere 6 days, when Pandora’s Box will open for the Expansion Draft for a new team, the Vegas Golden Knights.
But for now, there is an offseason to enjoy.