Dear First-Time Stanley Cup Finals Viewer:
Congratulations on making the decision to turn away from MLB or the NBA and on to the NBC Sports Network for your first Stanley Cup Finals. You are making a wise choice, and I am here to tell you exactly why you should stay tuned in from Wednesday night until at least a week from now, and beyond.
So, the first thing you may notice is that the New Jersey Devils will represent the Eastern Conference, while the Los Angeles Kings will represent the Western Conference.
This isn’t like the ongoing NBA playoffs, where one of the top-seeded teams is pretty much guaranteed to be in the NBA Finals. The Devils were the sixth-ranked team in the East, and the Kings were the eighth seed. Hockey, more than any other sport, has unpredictability and the potential for upsets.
There are many reasons to care about both of these teams. For those of you who are patriotic, this is the first Cup finals with two American-born captains participating against each other (Zach Parise hails from Minnesota, and Dustin Brown is from New York).
In the past, other captains have represented Canada and Sweden, just to name two countries. While these international players are great talents, it’s always nice to have country pride when cheering for your favorite team.
This could also be the last time you see Martin Brodeur in a postseason run. Brodeur is arguably the greatest goaltender of this generation, and he recently turned 40. He has three Stanley Cups to his name and no doubt wants to add a fourth before he retires. How can you not cheer for one of the league’s most elite active players to go out on top?
Also to note if you’re cheering for the Devils: Ilya Kovalchuk is looking to win his first career Stanley Cup, as is Captain Parise. Parise also wants to win the trophy for the first time as a Devils captain. He’s a nice enough guy that he’s easy to root for, and he’s been committed to the team since he was elected their leader.
Is this your first time watching the Cup finals?
If you’re into underdog stories, though, the Kings can offer you that. They were out of playoff contention at times during the season and even fired their coach.
However, they got hot towards the end of the regular season and clinched the West’s final postseason spot. Once the playoffs got underway, they eliminated the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks, then swept the St. Louis Blues and easily handled the Phoenix Coyotes.
Los Angeles also has Jon Quick, one of the NHL’s upcoming top goaltenders. This guy is a beast and the biggest reason why the Kings are where they are. He is tops in every major category for postseason goalies (wins, save percentage and goals-against average).
It goes without saying that the action will be fast-paced, and it will be enjoyable to watch whichever team gets behind in this series try to save itself.
This isn’t the NFL, where you are done if you lose one playoff game. You have as many as seven games to try to get the coveted Stanley Cup. Not even a 3-0 or 3-1 series lead is safe for the team holding it. Sure, the odds are against the team trying to come back, but it does happen.
Before the puck drops on Wednesday night, I want to give you a couple of quick things to watch out for:
Pierre McGuire is mildly annoying. So is Mike Milbury. But we all continue to watch NBC Sports because there just isn’t any other option. If you think something one of them is saying sounds ridiculous, it’s probably true. Consult anyone you know who has been watching this crew for a long time.
Do not look to the LA media for your hockey coverage. Well, unless you think you would never be looking for Brad Doughty when you should be looking for Drew Doughty, the Kings’ best defenseman.
Who do you have?
But do read the Kings' Twitter feed. It’s a lot more entertaining than reading the straight-laced feeds of other teams.
If there’s any overtime happening, do not go to bed. It’s kind of a big deal to stay up for as long as overtime takes, then brag the next day about how you didn’t sleep.
Lastly, there is an often-overlooked benefit to the action. You can watch it inside in the air conditioning and imagine keeping cool by sitting in a hockey rink where the temperature has to be as such. You won’t get that luxury sitting in an open baseball stadium with the sun blazing down on you. And if you’re like me and can’t stand heat and humidity, you will appreciate one last taste of winter.
I hope that your first viewing of the Stanley Cup Finals is a good one. It would be even better if you came out of it a newly devoted hockey fan, but even if you don’t, at least you got a glance at one of the greatest sports in the USA (even if the TV ratings don’t agree).
A hockey addict and veteran Stanley Cup Finals viewer