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Stanley Cup Preview

The Stanley Cup finals start tonight in Chicago, as the Blackhawks face off against the Philadelphia Flyers. A year ago, I wrote about the Blackhawks series against the Detroit Red Wings and my pleasure at seeing two of the original six National Hockey League teams playing each other. I was hoping for another classic match-up this year, if only the Canadiens were able to continue their magical run by defeating the Flyers, but that didn’t come to pass. I will content myself with the presence of the Blackhawks, for whom I’ll be rooting, while Joel roots for the Flyers. I could never bring myself to support the Flyers, not since they beat the more-talented Boston Bruins in 1974 for the cup. (That was, of course, the first time an NHL team from outside the original six won the cup. I’m ignoring the pre-NHL history of the cup, through 1926, during which time all sorts of teams won, most notably the 1916-1917 Seattle Metropolitans. They played for the cup again two years later, but that series was ended in mid-stream because of the flu epidemic.)

As for the preview promised by this post’s title, I send you to Kent Russell’s excellent on-line piece at the literary journal n+1. Here is his description of Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews:

The team itself is led by 22-year-old Jonathan Toews (pronounced “Tayves”). Toews long ago began whittling his legend: two World Junior championships for Canada, a World Championship, a gold medal, and the third-youngest captaincy in NHL history. Toews’ game is hard to describe. Like Steve Yzerman or Joe Sakic, Toews does every single thing—skate, shoot, pass, defend—with such consistent skill and poise that he seems unremarkable. He now holds a team record for scoring a point in 13-straight playoff games, one of them an assist coming on a penalty kill when he stepped in front of a Dan Boyle slapshot, blocked it, and kicked the puck to a streaking teammate while being bodychecked. To celebrate, Toews allowed himself to flare his nostrils. When he’s still before a faceoff, it’s easy to imagine steam curling out of his nose, hinting at what roils in him, like an electric teapot.

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