This Week in Sports: Stanley Cup Showdowns

By Ruslan Shchetinin

It’s May 29, and not one team has been locked in for the Stanley Cup Finals.

These final four teams are duking it out until the very end, as both the west and the east are going to need to go the distance before anyone books their ticket to the finals.

Both Anaheim and Tampa Bay failed to finish off their opponents after getting 3–2 series leads, and are now facing a huge task going into the weekend with the series tied 3–3 apiece.

On Friday, we have the President’s Trophy-winning New York Rangers, 7–0 in their last seven Game 7s, hosting the young Tampa Bay Lightning. New York fans rest in the fact that “King Henrik,” as they call their star netminder, is virtually unbeatable in Game 7 situations—posting a save percentage of .966 in his last seven Game 7 situations. Forward Rick Nash, who I called out to step up last week, has steadily racked up points—he registered a goal and three assists in elimination Game 6—and is now second on the Rangers with 14 points.

Defenseman Keith Yandle is making General Manger Glen Sather look like a genius for acquiring him at the deadline this year; the 28 year old has two goals and five assist in his last four games. “It’s a totally different situation from when I was with the Coyotes. Every game we were just happy to win. Here, we’re expected to win,” Yandle says. “There’s no quit in this group.” Fresh off a 7–3 win, there’s a lot to look forward to if you’re the home team, but Tampa Bay is eager to come in to Madison Square Garden with an upset in mind. We might not have any Alex-Ovechkin-like “we will win” guarantees, but Tampa young-gun Alex Killorn, looking at the Rangers’s 7–0 record, wasn’t afraid to say, “Guess that means they’re due to lose one, right?”

On Saturday, we’ll have Chicago trying to snatch a road victory in Anaheim. The Chicago Blackhawks scored three goals in a 3:45 span during the second period of Wednesday’s elimination Game 6, and that’s all they needed to muster out a 5–2 win and keep their season alive. Duncan Keith is leading the way, delivering yet another monstrous performance, clocking in 28 minutes on Wednesday on the way to three assists and a last-second save of a puck.  If Keith had not saved that puck at the goal line, the Ducks would have tied it up in the third. Instead, Chicago’s now in the Western Conference Final Game 7 for the second time in as many years. Last time, they didn’t make it past the eventual cup-winning L.A. Kings. The Blackhawks have been here before, know what it’s like to lose, and with their upcoming roster-breaking cap-crunch, they certainly don’t want to lose again.

We’re in for a great weekend. While these four teams prepare for win-or-go-home showdowns, you can sit back and enjoy back-to-back Game 7s.