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The Final Four

It has come down to this.

One original six , two post – post expansions , one expansion and a partridge in a pear tree …

Okay , forget the pear tree. That is of course if Zdeno Chara is not toting fruits in his enormous wing span as he waves his arms as if to say ” What the f**k guys …?”

After a grueling eighty – two game schedule , two rounds of revenue generating / highly entertaining playoff rounds and a few non- suspensions ; we are down to four teams. A hockey foursome . A quartet that is making hockey fans sing a happy song as they line the route to the holy grail. The Stanley Cup.

In the East we have the number three seeded Boston Bruins taking on the Habs of the South , the fifth seed – Tampa Bay Lightning. Although the east cannot boast the top two seeds as the west does with the Vancouver Canucks (1) pitted against The Sharks of San Jose (2) , the East does offer the best of both worlds .

In Gary Bettman’s perfect orb  – the east would have given the fans the number one seeded Washington Capitals against the second seed Philadelphia Flyers. Alas , as the man in charge of discipline , Colin Campbell ,  has proved time and again – this is not a perfect world. The Caps demonstrated for the second straight year  ‘choking’ is the weapon of choice in their suicidal ways while the Flyers provided a clinic on either bad goaltending or management – take your pick .

Which leaves the fans with a pleasant surprise ...

The Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning  Bolts

If the powers that run the hockey universe had provided Philly and Washington in the eastern final , what the fan would have witnessed was a feeling of deja – vu all over again. And again …

Face it.

East is east and west is west and the average fan never forgets.

Did lightning strike Ronald Corey ?

The west is free wheeling , all out hockey with bumps and bruises thrown into the mix. Hard hits an afterthought to the way that Mormons would have the game played. The east, on the other glove , is the polar opposite. ‘Bang’ ,’ crash’ and ‘pow ‘ are the speech bubbles first with a little hockey tossed onto the ice for good measure. ” I went to a Justin Bieber concert and Megadeth broke out ” is the terminology that describes the eastern conference .

Except in the case of Tampa Bay

The Montreal Canadiens ‘ fans were used to watching the ‘ flyin’ frenchmen’ for many Stanley Cup winning seasons in La Belle Province. That was until the frenchmen ceased not only flyin’ on Montreal ice – for the most part , ceased becoming high drafted players. The ones who were , decided that high taxes and media scrutiny was not for them. They avoided Montreal for many seasons and Montreal fans , void of excitement and Guy Lafleur ,  decided to move south to Florida in lieu of witnessing the ‘cement skaters ‘ and ten dollar hot dogs that greeted their two hundred dollar handshake. Well , guess what ?

The flyin’ frenchmen of the skating kind and those that enjoy teaching the high flyin’ game , have joined the speedo – wearing francophone fans in Tampa . Boy is it fun … !

The Lightning are a breath of fast air in a division that glorifies mustiness. It is as if the Tampa squad opened a window into an eastern attic that had been sealed for many years. Sure there have been cracks. Holes by the names of Crosby, Malkin , Ovechkin and Lemieux have let a welcome draft of speed and talent into the too – close – for – comfort room once in a while. Yet , even when New Jersey was winning the sporting world ‘ s best trophy award – it wasn’t pretty in the dark world of the east.

The Big Bad WolfBruins

Finesse - Boston Style

Les Bruins de Boston or Les ‘ Maudits Tabernacs Esti Colis ‘ as they are affectionately known in Montreal , have pounded there way into the eastern finals the old fashioned way.

They have hit , they have fought and they have gooned it up. In the words of Jim Carr – the Charleston Chiefs’ play-by-play man in the movie Slapshot ;

” The fans are standing up to them! The peanut vendor is standing up to them! And by gosh if I were down there, I’d be standing up to them!

This is what makes the east final so much fun ! Tampa Bay with their creative , high – flyin’ style , do not have to stand up to the Bruins . Not with their fists anyways …

The series is Gretzky against Probert. Lafleur battling Stan Jonathan. The Rocket against himself ! It is speed against braun. Sticks against shots. Finesse matched against the thuggery that has symbolized the Bruins for almost a century. After winning a flimsy five Stanley Cups in their long history , it puzzles the most ardent cross-word solver why the Bruins continue their losing ways.

Flyers – An Example

Boston should look into the history mirror and reflect on the case of the 1975 – 76 Philadelphia Flyers. That team had won two Stanley Cups and made Boston’s cruel and unusual punishment seem lady-like in the process.

We ain’ t hockey players we’ re clowns, goons, we’ re freaks in a side show, we should be in jail.

– coach Dunlop  Shero

They were vying for their third straight championship and came upon the highly skilled Montreal Canadiens. Four straight photos representing the Stanley Cup winning Canadiens ensued and after all these years – the Bruins have still not received their copies in the mail.( Rumor has it that Don Cherry did accept them but filed them away under ‘S’ for stupid ).

This season , as every season since 1971 – 72 , the Bruins have a mixture of talent with thugs. This season , as every season since 1971-72 , the Bruins best scorers become the thugs when push comes to Bobby Orr. Cam Neely and Raymond Bourque. Two of the best hockey players to play the game have the same thing in common with Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic – two of the best players that are currently playing the game. They cannot stand to lose and when they do – it ain’t pretty !

Doh ! We' re in the finals !

Tampa Bay is coached by a young Francophone by the name of Guy Boucher. He has been schooled in psychology. It does not take a psychologist to teach a team to ‘ skate ‘ away from the school bullies. If his team – the Bolts of Tampa listen , the eastern division final will be over faster than a Lightning cheerleader can spell out  ‘ Lecavalier , St. Louis and Stamkos.’ If they listen – the players in Tampa will be laughing all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.

Once there – the skaters can ask Don Cherry to send the Stanley Cup photos to Can Neely as he is left sitting in the press box. Yes . It has come down to this …

Tampa Bay in six !

Reggie: We all know how to play the game–just go out and play it smart!
Hanson #1: That’s right, get out there and stick ‘im!
Hanson #2: Fuckin’ Christ, pop ‘em!
Hanson #3: That’s what we’re here for guys, to WIN!

Then again – what do I know …

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