When I say it has been a bizarre playoff, I might actually mean "random" feeling. Never in a million years did anyone think that the North Division representative would make it to the cup final - Montreal especially! People assumed that Montreal would get smoked by Toronto and they didn't. Then everyone thought Montreal would get smoked by Winnipeg and they didn't. And of course once it got to the final 4, everyone thought that Vegas was going to smoke Montreal....and they didn't. Montreal is basically everything I love and preach with the NHL playoffs - just get in and win the games however necessary. That's exactly what they did, but it still feels so bizarre that they even made it here.
As for Tampa Bay - it's hard to say they weren't a favorite, especially considering that they are spending nearly $18 million over the salary cap due to some creative salary cap magic with LTIR for their star players. I'm not happy about that either like a lot of the hockey world, but what they did is *technically* legal. I think the Penguins would have been in GREAT shape if they were allowed to spend $18 milli over the cap. Maybe we can work on that for next year. Anyway, Tampa getting in over the Islanders is probably better for everyone. They have star players, they are fresh off of a cup victory in the bubble last year, and the last games of the season don't have to be played in that dump of an arena on Long Island where the fans throw full beer cans and garbage on the ice after their team wins a big game.
My question is whether or not people will be interested in the Stanley Cup Final. Obviously the die hard hockey fans will be locked in - but is there excitement in the matchup? Do you have a rooting interest? Does that matter? The way I see it, no matter who wins I am going to see something I didn't like. If Montreal wins, that means a Canadian team captures the cup for the first time in a long time. I kinda liked the fact that so many US teams were taking over in recent decades. But if Montreal wins we also see Carey Price finally win a Stanley Cup. He has been the backbone of that team for years and is easily the best technical goalie of our generation, so I would'nt be upset for him to finally get rewarded. If Tampa wins, they upstage the Penguins as the most recent team to go back-to back. It's not the biggest deal but it's certainly something we hang out hat on.
Whatever the outcome of the Final is - July is about to be BONKERS if you are attached to an NHL team. The Expansion Draft, the Regular Entry Draft, Free Agency and Off Season Trades all mixed into a few short weeks. Gonna be WILD and I am totally here for it.