Stanley Cup playoff MVP Henrik Zetterberg hugs Sidney Crosby after Game 6 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
OK, it’s a little early to be talking about Stanley Cup final matchups, but all the talk of Christmas and wish lists has inspired a wish list of a different sort: five Stanley Cup finals I’d like to see (and they’re pretty realistic, too).
Without further ado:
A 2009 rematch of the 2008 final tops the list. And maybe it’s the Penguins’ turn this time. The kids are older, more experienced and more mature physically. (Don’t forget Evgeni Malkin, 22, Sidney Crosby, 21, and Jordan Staal, 20, still wouldn’t qualify for an old-age pension even after adding their ages together.) Marc-Andre Fleury, 24, is getting better; Chris Osgood, 36, is not. Pens defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney should both be well-rested after missing most of the season nursing injuries. And then there’s the whole Marian Hossa situation – the sniper spurned the Pens to sign with the Wings, saying he thought Detroit was his best chance to win the Cup. That’s not the kind of thing that gets you invited to Sidney’s house, Marian.
Odds of Detroit-Pittsburgh final: 8-1
2. San Jose-Boston
The Sharks, as usual, are cruising through the regular season, winning almost at will. The big surprise is, so are the Bruins. Claude Julien has his B’s hitting on all cylinders. Tim Thomas is unorthodox and unbeatable in net; Zdeno Chara leads the defense; and Marc Savard and Phil Kessel are driving a surprisingly potent offense. And, oh yeah, Milan Lucic will pop you on the nose if you get out of line. Of course, what makes this matchup so alluring is the prospect of pitting Joe Thornton up against his old Bruins team. With Dan Boyle and Rob Blake on the blueline, San Jose appears ready to take the next step in the post-season. Really, we’re serious this time.
Odds of San Jose-Boston final: 20-1
The centennial-celebrating Canadiens against the team with the longest Cup drought: How’s that for an Original Six throwback final? The Habs are 100 years old this season, while the Hawks haven’t won the Cup since 1961. This final is all about the league’s history and tradition, but presented with 21st-century flair. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on one side, Carey Price on the other. There’s a lot of young skill in this matchup, especially on Chicago’s roster. (In fact, if you think the Hawks are too young to give it a go this season, insert Detroit for Chicago to retain the Original Six connection. Better odds, too.)
Odds of Montreal-Chicago final: 35-1
Twenty years ago, Flyers-Oilers finals were all the rage. Edmonton faced off with Philly for the championship in ’85 and ’87, winning both times. Ron Hextall at least made it interesting in ’87, pushing the Oilers to seven games. The Flyers have made it to the final five times since last winning the Stanley Cup in 1975, losing all five times. Edmonton made it back in 2006 for the first time since the Oilers’ last Cup in 1990. This would be a fast and chippy series, kind of the way they played it in the early ’80s.
Odds of Philadelphia-Edmonton final: 40-1
5. Vancouver-New York Rangers
Here’s another nod to a past Cup final. The Rangers outlasted the Canucks in seven games in 1994, ending New York’s 54-year Cup slump and making Mark Messier a Broadway legend up there with Liza Minnelli and Mel Brooks. This time, the common thread is long-time Canucks captain Markus Naslund, skating his first season in Rangers blue.
Odds of Vancouver-NY Rangers final: 50-1
Sam McCaig’s From The Point column appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Have a point to make with Sam McCaig? You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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