The Stanley Cup is the greatest trophy in all of sports, and if you disagree, you’re wrong. It’s just a fact, you’re not allowed to have an opinion on this.
Part of what creates this aura around the Cup is that when you win it, you don’t keep it. You borrow it for awhile, and if you want to hang on to it, you have to win it again. As a player, you only get one day to hang out on your own with the Cup, so you better make it worth it.
One day doesn’t seem like a ton of time, because it isn’t. But I started thinking about this after the Blackhawks won the other night (third Cup in six years, dynasty, etc. etc. etc.). There are like, seven guys on that roster who have been around for all three. How do they keep coming up with things to do with the Cup? There is only so much you can do with a 35-pound trophy, only so many things you can eat out of the bowl on top, does it ever get boring? (The answer is obviously no, winning the Stanley Cup is never boring, it is always the most awesome thing to ever happen, STUPID question).
Elsa / Getty Images
You cannot win if you do not score. In any sport, under any circumstances, that is how it goes. You can have the greatest defensive scheme with the most possession ever, and the best you would ever manage without scoring is a draw. The New York Rangers will not be returning to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second consecutive year. Their All-Star, all-world, all-universe, all-Jill Pellegrini goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, will again go into the offseason without a Cup to his name, or more appropriately without his name on the Cup, the one honor that eludes him and the one which allows anyone else into the conversation of best goalie of this generation. No, the Tampa Bay Lightning make their return to the Finals, over a decade since they won their only Cup, to face the Chicago Blackhawks, and not a tear is to be shed for New York. Sympathy is the devil there.
Since I have no truly vested interest in the 2014-15 NHL playoffs (yes, the Bruins will be golfing this year), as the quarterfinals started I made my bracket. But not just any bracket, no: I made the Stanley Cup of Hotness Bracket, which is based entirely on which of these sixteen NHL teams has the hottest captain (it’s right over here, if you’d like to read a poorly-formatted blog where I wax poetic about Prince Charming, a.k.a. Jonathan Toews). Upon learning of my bracket, TwH’s own Rory Masterson, a noted Rangers fan, insisted I make another bracket based on goalies, knowing there’s no way Henrik Lundqvist could lose in a bracket based on attractiveness.
I’ll indulge you, Rory, but you have to let me talk about this shit on the blog.
History is not kind to losers. History will not remember the 2013-’14 New York Rangers. The names of the Los Angeles Kings will be etched into the Stanley Cup ring, and eventually that ring, and those players’ names, will find their way into an eternal resting spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame. These Rangers will not have that luxury. There might arise a Wikipedia page detailing their abysmal start, the mid-season trade of a beloved captain and their improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals, but that’s the best anyone can hope for now. Poetic justice means nothing on the ice, and even if these Rangers deserved to win the Stanley Cup, or at least to suffer a slower death than the five games they got against the Kings, they found themselves in this reality, in this dimension, with nothing but a stream of black-and-white ticker tape and the memories of a wild season to welcome them to obsolescence.
The 2013 Stanley Cup Finals will be remembered for a variety of reasons: it was the first final in twenty years to feature at least three overtime games, it was the first final since 1979 to feature two of the Original Six franchises and it included perhaps the most improbable Stanley Cup-winning comeback in NHL history, a 17-second burst of offense that began with the Blackhawks pulling their immovable force of a goalie, Corey Crawford, and ended with a rebounded shot from Dave Bolland.
Really, it was an alignment of all the things that make postseason hockey a seemingly different sport from regular season hockey, one which people are more willing to ingest as a result of the excitement and fervor with which each team plays its games. No one leaves anything on the ice during the playoffs, or at least that is what fans are led to believe, and when a team has already played a legendary first-round series, with a legendary game 7, it is hard to continue putting out the effort to defeat team after team in route to a championship.