The Stanley Cup Final begins tonight between the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts, who won the Cup last season, were strongly favored in the East and their appearance in their second Final in two years should surprise exactly no one. Sure, there’s the drama about how they worked the LTIR and salary cap to allow for Nikita Kucherov to play (despite what people like this person says, it’s totally legal - blame the NHL, not the Lightning). With or without Kucherov, they’re a damn good team.
In the “West,” we have the Montreal Canadiens. First off, there’s this photo, which just looks bizarre:
I cannot wait for the Habs winning the West to be a trivia question on .25 wing night somewhere in about five years.
More importantly, the Habs are the team that looked at everyone’s playoff brackets and laughed. No one expected them to beat the Leafs. No one figured they’d ever beat the Jets, especially not in a sweep. The Vegas Golden Knights were supposed to win in what, five games?
If you’re getting big 2019 St. Louis Blues energy from these guys, you are not alone.
Every year, it feels like the two teams going to the Cup Final are stocked with former Blues. Before the Blues’ Cup win, it was bittersweet. Sure, we were all happy when TJ Oshie lifted the Cup, but what about us? Brett Hull, Brendan Shanahan... it felt like success was only given once a player left St. Louis.
We know now that isn’t true and seeing former Blues, especially players from that Stanley Cup team, make the Final is something to celebrate. This year it will be the second Final in three years for Jake Allen and Joel Edmundson. Edmundson was traded to Carolina as part of the Justin Faulk package after the Cup win, and Allen was dealt to Montreal to clear some cap space after the playoff bubble last year. Allen is still (apparently) a divisive figure in the pantheon of Blues goaltenders; Edmundson’s size is missed on the blueline.
As far as the Lightning go, they have the Pride of Oakville. Pat Maroon has a chance for an incredible third Cup within three years, a first for the salary cap era of hockey. Chubby, yet effective, Maroon is a heart and soul player for any team that he plays on. Forever a hometown hero, Maroon was a key part of the Blues 2019 run and his locker room presence and on-ice trash talking have powered the Bolts to a Cup and another Final appearance.
Succeeding in the playoffs is a team effort, not a solo endeavor, but it’s tough not to argue that having a guy like Maroon makes the team effort a little more fun.
So, as you get ready to watch game one tonight, you’ve got a choice: Allen and Edmundson or Patty Maroon? Who are you rooting for - or are you just a neutral observer ready for the best hockey of the year?