I think we can assume who most Canadians, especially Toronto Maple Leafs fans, will be cheering for in this year’s Stanley Cup final. I’ll give you a guess.
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The Blues are on full kill mode. They are peeking at the exact right time and look as if they have enough gas to go another two rounds if needed. They basically swallowed the Sharks, imagine if Jaden Shwartz had hit the empty net in game four, this series would have ended on the weekend. With all that, it was still great hockey that turned ugly for the Sharks at the end of the series because of the physical body checking by the Blues.
Now swap in those Boston Bruins, imagine along with me here, a relentless attack, the Boston defence is pounded again and again. I smile a big one cheek to cheek, at the thought of McAvoy, Krug and the rest of them lying belly up in their corner, getting up slowly, and then protesting to the referees for a penalty. Coach Cassidy paces back and fourth finding something to whine about. The Blues throw heavy shots at a mentally frail Tuuka Rask who gets pulled from the game! He breaks his stick on the crossbar before he skates of the ice, he doesn’t stay on the bench, he goes right down the hallway and you can hear a pin drop in TD Garden.
Brad Marchand tries his antics, but wait, there’s no Willy Nylander on the Blues, no Sedin twins like in 2011 to push around. He’s looking at Brayden Schenn or Bortuzzo or Blais or… never mind, he won’t be doing any of that stuff against these guys. Even the European players on the Blues are tough – Sundqvist hits like a truck and Tarasenko likes to throw a quick punch (ask Timo Meier). Can you tell I’m excited?
In the dying moments of game the Sharks, Blues series, it was sad to see Joe Thornton staring into the abyss of retirement, as the reality of no Stanley Cup to cap an incredible career crept on his face. “Jumbo” Joe has had an extraordinary career and Hockey is the definition of a team sport. How one creates a winning team is one of the biggest mysteries for reasons we can’t possibly fathom. One year a certain style works, and one year it doesn’t, that is one of the reasons why we watch the game. A team on paper who looks the part of a champion can be stunned by an unknown commodity. Teamwork, grit, skill and a little luck from the goalie is the best way I can try to explain the recipe. I won’t weep for Joe though, look at his accomplishments with team Canada: World Junior gold, World Cup champion and Olympic gold.
Joe, you have no reason to be ashamed of not winning the toughest trophy in sports. You have served Canada proudly with the golden standard. The Olympics in Vancouver was one of the most pressure packed tournaments an athlete could face. If Canada had lost that one it would have been a tragedy, but we didn’t, and it will go down as one the greatest sporting moments in our country’s history.