NHL playoffs benefit from both Cinderella teams and 'dynasties'

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Thumbnail image for yzerman.jpgWhen people talk about sports, they love to talk about two types of teams: dynasties and Cinderella teams. Sure, there’s something to be said for those New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers juggernauts in the ’80s and the Montreal Canadiens in the ’70s, but who doesn’t love those teams who caught lightning in a bottle? That ’94 Rangers team didn’t exactly have a long run of dominance, did they?

The genius of the NHL playoffs is that they provide a hybrid; on one hand the Detroit Red Wings check in for their annual playoff run while each playoff tournament seems to produce a Halak-Habs, Giguere-Ducks or various iterations of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Ryan Kennedy wrote an interesting article on the very real possibility of the Red Wings’ second round dissolution and how badly sports leagues need dominant teams, something that I disagree with on a few accounts. Here’s a snippet.

As for the riff on parity, I don’t see the logic. Dynasties are what draw people to a sport, not parity. The NFL is the exception because gambling plays a big role in its popularity, but what would baseball be without the Yankees and Red Sox? Can you imagine the NBA ever giving the cold shoulder to the Lakers or Celtics? Even most European soccer leagues revolve around two or three teams each (Chelsea, Barcelona, etc.).

And think about your hockey history: There’s a treasure trove of memories built up around the early-1980s Islanders, the mid-’80s Oilers and the Canadiens of the 1970s. No one ever waxes rhapsodic about ‘that amazing stretch when Detroit, Dallas, New Jersey, then Colorado won Cups.’ No disrespect to any of those teams, but it’s tough to build much mythology out of that. And it won’t bring in the casual fan.

I couldn’t disagree more with a couple of those points. Let me break them down for you after the jump.


yankeeswin.jpgMLB, NBA = way too predictable

I can’t see how the enormous payroll difference between the Yankees, Red Sox, a few other teams and everyone else is a great thing for baseball. Sure, it’s great if the Red Sox and Yankees meet in the playoffs, but most years only one of those teams make a real run. 

And come on, aside from the most wildly devoted fans, who ever thinks that the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates have even an acid dream’s chance of making the playoffs? No professional sport has more hopeless fan bases than baseball and it must hurt the sport.

The NBA is in a slightly better spot, but I find myself bored to tears by the first two rounds of its playoffs, if not more. You can count the big upsets of the last 20 years on your two hands. Every year it’s the same handful of teams gunning for the title. Ho hum.

“No one waxes rhapsodic about the stretch when Detroit, Dallas, New Jersey then Colorado won Cups”

Ummm … what? No one looks back to the Detroit Red Wings-Colorado Avalanche rivalry? Ask Brandon and other Stars fans how they feel about that 5-or-so year stretch when their team was one of the big boys in the league. If anything, people don’t “wax rhapsodic” about those years because the Dead Puck Era often generated some of the most boring hockey in decades.

As usual, the answer is somewhere in between. It’s good for brand loyalty that the Penguins and Red Wings are fixtures while other teams like the Sharks are Capitals are lingering around the top. That being said, the unpredictability of hockey gives almost any hockey fan reason to dream about a deep Cup run. When every fan base has reason to believe, but there’s still a cream of the crop, then your sport is in great shape.

It’s part of why the Stanley Cup Playoffs are my favorite tournament in all of sports.

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.