Heating Up The Ice

Did you happen to catch last night’s Finals Game? 

Yes, there was a game last night. 

Wait, you mean you missed it?
Wow.

How could you miss the gutsy performance by the Pittsburgh Penguins as they took the Stanley Cup from the defending champion Detroit Red Wings? It was almost too perfect.

Hockey needed this series – something to remind fans this is a competitive and electrifying sport, something to solicit new fans and leave them wanting to see more. It was a fight to the very end.

Pittsburgh was literally against all odds Friday. They had not won a championship in 17 years. Detroit on the other hand, was looking for its fifth Cup since 1997, its 12th overall. Home teams had won 12 out of 14 times the Cup went to Game Seven. And prior to Friday’s loss, Detroit had only dropped one playoff game at home (11-1).

However, Pittsburgh is now able to boast some numbers of their own as they became the second team in NHL history to lose the first two games of a final (on the road) and still manage to win the Cup. This feat highlights Pittsburgh’s 18-3-4 run to close out the regular season. It also bolsters the fact Pittsburgh won all four of their best-of-seven playoff series on the road.

 

Pittsburgh was without captain Sidney Crosby for part of the second quarter and all of the third. Crosby left the ice after a crunching hit in the second, but did a mean impression of Tiny Tim when he raced back onto the ice to hoist the cup over his head. At 21, Sid the Kid Crosby became the youngest captain in NHL history to do so.

 

Crosby left at a critical point in the game, but Pittsburgh had already caused enough damage. The Penguins led 2-0, thanks to two great shots from Maxime Talbot. Talbot showed fans why he’s nicknamed “The Gamer”, a tribute to his performance in big games.

 

With two minutes to play, Pittsburgh held a 2-1 lead. Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall managed to get off a strong shot that brought Joe Louis Arena to its feet. The shot rattled off the crossbar and from then on out, it appeared Pittsburgh was meant to win this series.

 

Detroit never gave up. Nicklas Lidstrom was denied a last-second prayer when Pittsburgh goal-tender Marc-Andre Fleury dove to make a Pen-sational save. Fleury, who gave up five goals in Game Five, outplayed Detroit’s Chris Osgood and answered critics with a 23-save performance.

 

I met up with downtownster Editor Stan Lerner at Loft 7 (a private 16,000 foot penthouse) to catch the game. The L.A. Kings were hosting a viewing party right in downtown. When I say hosting, I mean food, spirits, Kings’ girls, and of course, legend Luc Robitaille. Robitaille, the Kings’ President of Business Operations, gave a few encouraging words for Kings fans. Robitaille was engaging, pleasant and appeared undistracted. This surprised me as Robitaille played for both teams during his career and won a Cup with Detroit in 2002. He serves as a positive spokes model for the organization.

 

Consul General of Canada, David Fransen, was also present and said a few words. Most of Fransen’s speech surrounded how impressed he was with the organization and the direction they were headed. The evening served as a reminder that there is more to professional sports than what we see on television or read in publications or on the Internet. There are real people behind the sport.

 

Loft 7 was incredible and the atmosphere reignited my enthusiasm for hockey. I’m looking forward to next season and some of the great things the local team has planned… including a playoff run.

 

Downtownster will provide coverage of the Los Angeles Kings next season, beginning with the organization’s FanFest 09’, August 28-30.

 

And the Other Finals?

 

In case you were wondering, I did catch Game Four of the NBA Finals. It was a gritty performance from both teams. Derek Fisher showcased why he has been in the league so long.

 

It will be interesting to see if Orlando bounces back in Game Five. Laker fans, this may even be a good thing for you. If Orlando wins, the series comes back home. It could be nice to see the boys hoist up another Larry O’Brien Trophy within the Staples Center.

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