When the Stanley Cup Finals kick off tonight, some Red Wings fans will have a hard time rooting for either team to win. Do you want the Lannisters of Pittsburgh, always close to the top of the power struggle, whose best days seemed to be behind them, who are led by a child? Or do you want the Wildlings of San Jose, large mountain men with amazing beards, long feared but never living up to their hype, who seem to have finally found their way through the wall?
I'm not a fan of either team, but I'm hoping for San Jose to win just to see if Brent Burns can hide the Conn Smythe trophy in his beard.
Neither team has many impending UFA's, but each has one defenseman who is at least worth a closer look. During the course of the Finals, I'm going to be doing that, compiling statistics and observations for a follow-up article after the series. Neither will be a top target, but both are playing a regular shift for a Stanley Cup finalist, so they have to be doing something right.
Here's a quick preview of each.
Ben Lovejoy is 32 and makes 1.1m this year. He's 6'1", 206, and a right handed shot. So far in this year's playoffs, he has a goal and three assists, is +3, and plays about 18 minutes a game. He is paired with Olli Maatta as the Pens second pairing.
Roman Polak is 30, making 2.75m. He's 6'0", 237, and also a right handed shot. He has no points and a -2 plus/minus in the playoffs so far. He's on the Sharks third pair with Brenden Dillon.
Matchups are key to a team's success, as we often see when experienced coaches give their teams an edge by utilizing last change, and both Lovejoy and Polak will have to keep some top offensive players off the board if their team is going to win the series. Since Kessel, Crosby, and Malkin are playing on separate lines, Polak will have to play against one of them.
On the other side, Lovejoy looks likely to match up against the line of Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, and Joonas Donskoi, no easy task either.
Now, I know some of you will say (and have possible already said this in the comments before getting to this part of the article) that we have too many defensemen as it is and that neither would make a difference. You may be right on both counts, but if some of the trades proposed in the comment section happen, we might be down to two defensemen and 3 draft picks. It's always good to explore all options.