How many of you folks out there want this stirring Stanley Cup Final to go a full seven games?
Certainly, Steven Stamkos does. The Lightning captain has been the most invisible star of the Stanley Cup Final since Patrick Kane.
The difference is that Kane’s Blackhawks won the pivotal Game 5 on Saturday night, 2-1, placing them one win away from another Windy City Stanley Cup.
While we await the fateful, potentially Cup-clincher on Monday night at Chicago, here are 24 points that you may consider onside, offside, off the ice or, off the wall.
1. The Blackhawks appeared to have dealt for a dud when they obtained Antoine Vermette from the Coyotes. Well, that erstwhile dud has turned into a playoff diamond. His big third-period winner compensated for another scoreless game by captain Jonathan Toews.
2. Ben Bishop and baseball’s Bill Buckner have one thing in common — blundering. Bishop had no business leaving his crease in the first period when his most reliable defender, Victor Hedman, was about to easily clear the puck. Bishop did not send an S.O.S., the two collided and Patrick Sharp scored the easiest open net goal of his life.
3. If, as it appears, the Lightning have blown this series, the Bishop faux pas will go down as one of hockey’s all-time asinine, Cup-costing moves.
4. The on-again-off-again Bishop Mystery could be turned into a mini-series, a la Boardwalk Empire or The Sopranos. Benny the Dip would be played by Steve Buscemi — on stilts.
5. One thing about the endless Bishop questions; they’ve made Jon Cooper the most creative answerer since John Tortorella. Cooper is funnier; Torts more tart. (I’m being nice.)
6. How about when a reporter suggested that the Bolts’ coach was trifling with the truth vis-a-vis Bishop’s health. Coop shot back: “What’s the point of lying? Truth is going to come out anyway, so you might as well tell it when you can.” (Which he did; saying nothing.)
7. If the Coyotes do have to move out of Arizona, the most geographically-satisfactory home for the potentially homeless ‘Yotes would be Kansas City.
8. Look at it Gary Bettman’s way; K.C. has a perfect-sized NHL arena and the city provides no NBA competition. Plus, it’s close enough to St.Louis,Dallas and Chicago for easy movement.
9. No existing club can move into either Las Vegas or Seattle or Quebec City for that matter. The Commish is saving those for expansion dough. If Vegas is voted into the NHL fraternity, it’ll cost $500 million. Ditto Seattle.
10. Whatever Bishop believes about his future in Tampa Bay, he’s got to be aware that Andrei Vasilevsky is looking over BB’s shoulder. Don’t laugh; could be that Bishop’s future just past.
11. Hockey has changed so dramatically; I remember in the 1940s when it was sinful to clear the puck out of danger by shooting it off the boards. You either stickhandled it to the safety of center ice or passed the rubber out of danger.
12. In his search for offense, Ray Shero likely is checking out UFA center Carl Soderberg, virtually a sure thing to be leaving Boston. The swift Swede is one of the more underrated soon-to-be available NHL forwards and a player the new Devils‘ GM might target.
13. New Bruins GM Don Sweeney to SportsNet’s Elliotte Friedman on being named Bruins hockey boss: “The seat is warm when you get the job and it only gets hotter.”
14. Harvard grad Alex Killorn — the first Crimson grad to score a goal in the Cup Final — was discovered while still playing high school hockey. Scout Jake Goertzen liked Killorn’s “hockey sense and knack for being at the right place at the right time.” Nothing has changed about Alex.
15. Wouldn’t it be something if Red Wings rookie coach Jeff Blashill proves to be a bigger winner in Detroit than megabucks Mike Babcock in Toronto? My roulette chips are on The Blasher.
16. All my friends know that I’m buddies with ex-Islander Travis Green. That said, let me tell you what HNIC’s Friedman says about the Utica (AHL) Comets bench boss and his chances of being an NHL coach: “He (Green) will be a candidate next season.” (Manchester beat Green’s Comets on Saturday night for the Calder Cup.)
17. My buddy-colleague, Brad Polk, figures Braydon Coburn has the best beard in the Cup Final. The bearded Maven prefers Victor Hedman’s facial rug.
18. If that anti-beard NBC exec got his way and beards were shorn to reveal the handsomest player in the Final, my choice would be Patrick Kane.
19. Dave Hakstol is working for Ron Hextall in Philadelphia; that sounds like a Groucho Marx joke.
20. The Who’s Better Debate, Part I — Steven Stamkos vs. Patrick Kane. Tie; both doing zilch.
21. Don’t forget the Blackhawks’ secret weapon. Scotty Bowman is there to counsel his son, Stan, and coach Joel Quenneville. Tampa is lacking Scotty, the most successful coach in hockey history who also was a general manager.
22. The Who’s Better Debate, Part II — Victor Hedman vs. Duncan Keith. Very close; but I’ll take the Bolts’ big guy.
23. Have you noticed that the man sharing Pierre McGuire’s “Behind the Glass” cubicle is none other than ex-Isle and Ranger goalie Glenn Healy?
24. Glenn told me that he was much funnier than teammate Patrick Flatley on SportsChannel’s long-forgotten “Heals and Flats” TV show. “Patrick,” said Healy “was my straight man.” (Flats could not be found for a rebuttal.)