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The Opening Faceoff: More hardware

by Shawn P. Roarke

The handshake
Seals the contract
From the contract
There's no turning back
The turning point
Of a career
In Korea, being insincere
The holiday
Was fun packed
The contract
Still intact
The grabbing hands
Grab all they can
All for themselves
After all
The grabbing hands
Grab all they can
All for themselves
After all
It's a competitive world
Everything counts in large amounts

Everything Counts, Depeche Mode

Who could’ve thought that Depeche Mode, an English New Wave group from the early ‘80s, would come up with a tune worthy of Stanley Cup theme song status? Perhaps, a soccer theme song, but not hockey, right?

Well, Everything Counts is not really about hockey – it is about corporate greed, particularly in the music industry. Yet look a little deeper and throw out the reference to Korea and you can see the foundations of a perfect Stanley Cup message.

The handshake (at the end of the respective conference finals) seals the Final for the respective winners and there is no turning back  For many of the people blessed to find themselves on the Stanley Cup Final stage, it will become the turning point – hopefully for the better – of their career.

The players are grabbing for the right to lift the Stanley Cup, the most-cherished trophy in all of sports. They grab all they can and take what they must to get the advantage – all for themselves. Because the Final is a competitive world, the most-competitive world hockey knows. And, as a result, everything does count in large amounts.

That, in fact, is the message the players from the Red Wings and the Penguins have to take away from their preparations for Saturday’s Game 1 in two days. Everything these players will do will fit into the equation that will determine who lifts the Stanley Cup triumphantly and who shuffles blindly through the handshake line and stumbles into an offseason – and perhaps a lifetime – of regrets that await the team that fails in its quest.

Every shot, every hit, every save, every word, every thought, every stride, simply every breath, counts and must be used to maximum advantage in what will be both a war of attrition and a battle of wills. Only the strongest will survive this showdown. Who has that strength? That’s what the next two weeks or so will determine. Enjoy the show and remember that everything, absolutely everything, including the passion you bring to the spectacle counts!

The Opening Faceoff

As has been the case after each of the first two rounds, CTN is ready to look at those players who have turned in trophy-worthy performances in the playoffs. As in the past, we’ll pick the best rookie (Calder), best defenseman (Norris), best goalie (Vezina) best defensive forward (Selke), best coach (Adams) and MVP (Conn Smythe). Remember, these are cumulative awards, not round-by-round winners. So, this edition’s winners have been the best through three rounds of the playoffs, not the best in the third round.

CTN would love to hear your thoughts on who should be earning accolades so far in the playoffs. Send your suggestions about the best players, in your opinion, for the above awards to CTN would love to hear what you have to think. The best entries will make their way into a future edition of the Penalty Box, but only if you remember to include your name and hometown.

Kris Letang has a rookie-best plus-7 rating in the postseason. Letang highlight video
Best Rookie – Wow, are the pickings slim for this award. There are only three rookies left in the playoff field that are making any kind of impact. Pittsburgh has Tyler Kennedy and Kris Letang and Detroit features energy forward Darren Helm. Forced to pick one, CTN has to go with Letang, who is playing more than 17 minutes a game and has a rookie-best plus-7 rating in the postseason, which puts him in the Top 10 for all playoff performers. He hasn’t delivered the offense Pittsburgh still expects from him down the road, but he has been surprisingly reliable in his own end.

Runners-up: Tyler Kennedy, Pittsburgh; Darren Helm, Detroit

Best defenseman – They say that slow and steady wins the race, and that appears to be the case with Nicklas Lidstrom. He has yet to be dominant or the game-breaking presence that he has been so often in the past. But with only 12 defenseman left in the tournament, it is hard to say that any of those remaining have been better than Lidstrom. Nobody plays more minutes per game, he is just two points off the scoring lead and his plus-9 rating is the best among all defensemen in the playoffs. Plus, he has the body of work to get the nod over Pittsburgh’s Sergei Gonchar, who has turned a solid two-way performance that few thought was a part of his arsenal.

Sergei Gonchar, Pittsburgh; Stephane Robidas, Dallas

Best goalie -- Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury did nothing in the third round to lose the lead in this race, which he held after the second round. He gave up just nine goals in the five games against the Flyers and really only had one bad period, a three-goal clunker in the first period of Game 4. He answered that misstep by shutting out a desperate Flyer team for the final five periods of its 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs existence. Chris Osgood has been good, but not that good.

Runners-up: Chris Osgood, Detroit; Marty Turco, Dallas

Best defensive forward -- Henrik Zetterberg just sneaks up on you with the understated brilliance of his game. Now, CTN knows how the players from the Predators, Avalanche and Stars must feel when they played against him in the playoffs. It’s not even his playoff-best plus-15 rating that has won over CTN in this category. Rather, it is his dogged determination to not only gain, but hold, possession when he is not in control of the puck. He is one of just four players to score more than one shorthanded goal in the postseason and he sees the third-most shorthanded time among Detroit forwards. His assist on Pavel Datsyuk’s back-breaking shorthanded goal in Game 3, in which he eluded the checking attempts of four defenders, should be played when he wins this award.

Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh; Kris Draper, Detroit

Best coach -- Mike Babcock’s playoff record is a stunning 39-22, including a 12-4 mark this time around. He was masterful in the Western Conference Finals, blunting the momentum that Dallas carried into the series after knocking off two favored teams. His ability to handle the Stars’ top line and outmaneuver Dallas coach Dave Tippett during line changes was one of the biggest differences in the series. His decision to remove Dom Hasek in the first round remains the signature move of this postseason.

Runners-up: Michel Therrien, Pittsburgh; John Stevens, Philadelphia

Most Valuable Player -- Forget for a minute that Zetterberg is tied for the tournament scoring lead with 21 points in 16 games and just think about the contributions he has made in every phase of Detroit’s game. He has registered at least one point in 12 of Detroit’s 16 games. He has goals in nine of 16 games. He has three game-winning goals. He has two shorthanded goals and three power-play goals. He has blocked 11 shots and forced 15 takeaways. Oh yeah, he has also won a mind-boggling 58 percent of his faceoffs. Anything else you want him to do? Just ask.

Runners-up: Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh; Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit 

The Opening Faceoff | The Breakaway | The Penalty Box


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