As the glee from the Red Wings nail biting victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins starts to wear off, it's time for another annual rite—the playoff analysis. I'm not going to break down each round, game by game, but I do have a couple things to say about the early exit of some marquis teams.
Let's start with the champions. Did the best team win? Absolutely. Did the Red Wings play better than anyone else all year long? Of course they did. Was it everything the NHL wanted it to be? No, not really.
Maybe it's just my cynicism, but I couldn't shake the feeling all throughout the playoffs that the NHL was setting it up so that the Penguins (and the new face of the game...you know, the guy with the non-beard) would take the Cup home.
I mean, the officiating in the Stanley Cup Finals was mediocre at best, and at times abysmal. I think that the absolute worst call of the series had to be Andreas Lilja's interference of Sidney Crosby in game four. The picture clearly shows Crosby not only jumping, but pushing Lilja's head down as well. I don't care how the ref saw it; there is no excuse for garbage like that in the NHL.
If the league wanted the Red Wings to win, there would have been something said about the lopsided officiating, and perhaps something might have even been done about it.
Were the Penguins good enough to win? In a word, no. They were mediocre for the first two games in the final, and had a relatively easy time throughout the first three rounds. They went more or less untested, and I think that lack of true grit hurt them in the long run.
Not only that, but wunderkind Evgeni Malkin was not so impressive in games one through five. In fact, I'm pretty sure I didn't even see him in game four. I don't think that the Penguins were grossly overmatched, but I do genuinely believe they were outcoached and outplayed in all six games of the Stanley Cup Finals.
I think that overall the NHL should be pleased with the effort put forth by both teams in the Finals. Each game was well-played, and the last game provided more excitement than many in recent history.
That said, there were a couple surprises in the earlier rounds, namely the early exit of the San Jose Sharks at the hands of the Dallas Stars. I was mostly surprised because the Sharks should have had the skill to overpower the Stars, but they came out very very flat in the first three games. Maybe next year guys.
The summer is short, and the hockey season is long. Hopefully next year things will be as exciting as this year.