Anze Kopitar scored in overtime Wednesday to lift the Los Angeles Kings to a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, a series that most expect to be a close one. While there’s no natural rivalry to build on, there are plenty of interesting players and story lines that could add up to a memorable final few weeks before the long offseason.
So what type of series can we expect? It’s tough to say, but history tells us that the choices are limited. That’s because there are only 10 basic types of Stanley Cup finals, and the NHL seems to choose one randomly each season.
Here’s a look at all 10, along with examples from the past 20 years, tips on how to determine which one you’re watching, and what you can do about it.
I started bringing my daughter to Kings games last November, after I bought season tickets behind one of their goals for the season. She knew nothing about hockey, started learning on the fly, and ended up liking the sport about 100 times more than I ever expected. One of her first questions: “Why are the fans so mad at Penner?”
My answer was simple: Kings fans believed Penner made too much money and didn’t try hard enough. In the Salary Cap Era, you can’t pay a hockey player $4.25 million for piddling results. My daughter never accepted that, nor did she understand it. She thought Penner was trying. She thought the fans were being too mean. She didn’t care how much money he made. Anytime someone derisively screamed that Penner sucked, she'd whirl around with a wounded look on her face. She didn’t understand the concept of “motivating someone by being relentlessly mean to them.”
We had some questions about the NHL playoffs, and because we only have like three friends who are actually watching every game of said playoffs (and they are probably pretty sick of our e-mails by now), we turned to Grantland's resident hockey fan, Katie Baker. Please take it away, Katie:
The Canucks and the Penguins could be eliminated with losses Wednesday. Which collapse do you find more surprising?
The Penguins. It's not that I necessarily assumed they would win — I thought it would be a back-and-forth slog of a series and Philly definitely had a chance — but I was NOT expecting them to just completely unravel. Evgeni Malkin, who scored 50 goals this season, has been almost invisible. Marc-Andre Fleury has melted down — the best stat I read was from TSN's Scott Cullen, who said if Fleury had even a .900 save percentage (which isn't even good by playoff standards) it would have been good for nine fewer goals against Pittsburgh in three games. It's just gotten so ugly so fast, and I don't think anyone saw it coming.