By The Nerdling
Much like The Collective’s C. Diva, I am a hockey nut. Also, like C. Diva, I have a few side teams I root for. But my loyalties are completely with the Dallas Stars.
Taking place tonight is one of my favorite things to happen in sports, a game seven in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Washington Capitals will be taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning. The winner goes to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the final round. The loser goes home and pouts until October when a new season starts.
There are several reasons why the years finals are going to be incredibly exciting and deserve your attention, but I’m going to concentrate on one here:
Vegas Golden Knights
In May of 2017, this team didn’t even have players. In the expansion team’s inaugural year, they are going to be competing for the oldest and most prestigious trophy in professional sports. That is no small thing.
For those who are not so familiar with the ins and outs of the NHL, expansion teams are put together using a draft where the new team gets to pick one player from each team. All of the existing franchises are giving a certain number of players they can protect on their roster from the being drafted, meaning the new team can’t take any player they choose. To protect as many players as they can outside of the handful on the list, existing teams also negotiate salaries and contracts making a player less desirable to take.
If that explanation made no sense, don’t worry. What it all means is the players reasonably available for an expansion team to draft are the misfits and the undesirables. The players who are not contributing to team they are currently playing for, the ones who are causing trouble, or the ones who are not fitting in.
The Golden Knights did fairly decent in their draft. Most of their picks had been in the NHL for a few years and were mostly third and fourth line guys (good enough to be in the big leagues, but not good enough for lots of time playing in a game). Vegas made off a couple of top tier players in Marc André-Fleury (whom everyone expected to be taken) and James Neal (whom no one expected to be available). They were predicted not be good in their first couple of years as most expansion teams are.
But Knights defeated my beloved Stars to start off the season and it has been a wild ride for the new team on the ice ever since. Not counting NHL’s all-expansion division in the 1967-68 season which guaranteed one new team was going to be top of the newly created division, Vegas is the first expansion team in all four major sports to win its division in its first season. And they are now considered the heavy favorite to win the cup.
This is exciting sports history we are witnessing!
While I may not be rooting for the Knights to win the cup (I’m hoping the Capitals advance tonight and win it all) that doesn’t make these finals any less exciting to watch. A part of me would love to see this group of misfits take the cup. Especially Fleury (or Flower if you are an NHL fan).
Flower has won the Stanley Cup multiple times with the Pittsburg Penguins, but the last couple of years he had been replaced as their number one goaltender when a concussion took him out of a great season. The Penguins won the cup these last two seasons. Fleury contributed to those wins, but the man who replaced him was the goalie in net for the finals and got a great deal of the glory.
Flower’s time with the Knights has proven he is still the top goalie in the league and the Penguins made a mistake keeping him on the bench in favor of another excellent, but not as high-quality net minder. If the Knights win it all, it will be because of Fleury who is one of the nicest guys in the sport and also did this during a recent game:
Which really makes you love the guy even more.
Whether you’re a hockey fan or not, this year’s Stanley Cup Finals are going to be a thrilling and possibly history making event. I hope all of you tune in to watch if only to witness the spectacle of how Vegas starts their games (seriously, it is full on production) or to see how crazy these fans dress up in support of their team. It is hard not to get swept up when it is this much fun.
(P.S. The Dallas Stars are going to win it all next year, just you see)
The Nerdling was born in the majestic land known as Texas and currently resides there after several years of journeying through Middle Earth in a failed attempt to steal the one Ring from that annoying hobbit, serving the Galactic Empire for a time, and then a short stint as a crew member on the Serenity. Since moving back to her homeland, Nerdling flirted with a hero reputation. Saving children from the dangers of adoring domineering, sparkly vampires (champions with souls are the only vampires worth loving) and teaching normals the value of nerdom, all while rooting for her beloved Dallas Stars. Then came the Sokovia Accords and her short spell of saving others came to an end. With Darth Vader’s reputation rightfully returning to badass status, Nerdling is making her way back to the Empire. They do have cookies, you know. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.