"It wasn't an easy decision to make. I want to have a best chance to win the Stanley Cup. I feel like Detroit is the team." -- Marian Hossa, after signing a one-year free-agent contract with the Detroit Red Wings and leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Sure, there are other storylines, other stakes, other bits of sports theater that will captivate us in the Stanley Cup finals. But two plotlines stand out starkly because of their primal appeal: The potential revenge of the Pittsburgh Penguins over the team that defeated them for the championship last year; and the moment in which we learn whether Marian Hossa is a bad gambler or a brilliant assessor of talent.
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Here's the schedule for the Cup finals, as legions of fans ready to annihilate Gary Bettman and NBC for Super Bowl-like delays before the last round have to holster their weapons. The League gets it right, moving up the Finals by six days; and the League gets the series it wants:
Saturday, May 30 Pittsburgh at Detroit 8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS
Sunday, May 31 Pittsburgh at Detroit TBD evening NBC, CBC, RDS
Tuesday, June 2 Detroit at Pittsburgh 8 p.m. VERSUS, CBC, RDS
Thursday, June 4 Detroit at Pittsburgh 8 p.m. VERSUS, CBC, RDS
* Saturday, June 6 Pittsburgh at Detroit 8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS
* Tuesday, June 9 Detroit at Pittsburgh 8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS
* Friday, June 12 Pittsburgh at Detroit 8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS
(Oh, and make sure you load up on official playoff gear. Look the part, people.)
Patrick Kane's goal was immaculate. Cristobal Huet's valiant 46-save effort was image-salvaging. The Blackhawks played like a team attempting to defy the odds, which is how they should have played in the previous three losses.
But like we said before: The Blackhawks needed a split in the first two games to win this series. Going back to Detroit for an elimination Game 5 was the Kobayashi Maru of playoff scenarios, even with Detroit shorthanded. Maybe next postseason, having experienced this journey to the finals, Chicago isn't the team that looks inept on the power play in the second period when it should look determined. Ah well ... live and learn.
Finally ... Darren Helm. The kind of depth player that makes you bang your head against the wall about how damn talented the Wings are. The kid scores the game-winning goal in overtime for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Incredible. (Oh, and while the carom was wacky, the Wings still managed to have two players bookending Huet in his own crease. They earned the goal.)
Yes, Helm was incredible ... but not as incredible as he was on this shorthanded shift that, had it resulted in a goal, may have gone down as one of the best in recent postseason memory. As they said on the broadcast, you just don't hear that kind of ovation for a guy forechecking. (Thanks for Jefflered).
Hopefully, we see efforts like that from all the grunts from the Penguins and Red Wings. Because you know the stars are ready shine (assuming they're healthy enough for the Wings).
So, who ya got for the Cup?