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Who Gets the First Cup Hand-Off?

Jun 10, 2009 – 3:30 PM
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Bruce Ciskie

Bruce Ciskie %BloggerTitle%

One of the great Stanley Cup traditions is its presentation. Yes, commissioner Gary Bettman -- after getting booed lustily -- takes a moment to congratulate the owners and general manager who helped put the team together. But the first person to touch the Stanley Cup after it is brought out to the ice surface is not an executive or a coach. It's the captain of the winning team.

Once the captain has his moment, he picks the second player to hoist the Cup. Since we know who gets it first, the only fun we can have is figuring out who will get it second.

Last year, Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom chose to hand it off to veteran Dallas Drake, who played 16 years in the league, had just won his first Cup, and was playing in his last game. Three years ago, it was Carolina's Rod BrindAmour giving the Cup to 18-year veteran Glen Wesley, who had just won his first.

You get the point.

This year, it isn't so obvious. Detroit doesn't have any last-leg veterans who have never won. Neither does Pittsburgh, though it's been a long time for forward Bill Guerin, who won a Cup with the Devils in 1995.

Among the Red Wings, you have to consider Henrik Zetterberg the favorite to get the Lidstrom handoff. After all, he has been Detroit's best defensive skater throughout the playoffs, and his play has been particularly strong in this series. Another solid candidate would be goalie Chris Osgood, who has been maligned throughout the season, only to turn in a Conn Smythe-worthy performance in the playoffs.

Detroit has plenty of old-guard players who could get the handoff, even though they've won before. Guys like Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper, and Brian Rafalski would be in this mix.

For Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, there are few candidates and one seemingly obvious answer. Yes, Crosby could hand the Cup to Guerin, who came to Pittsburgh in a deadline deal with the Islanders. He's brought a great amount of grit and determination to this Penguin team. I doubt anyone would begrudge Crosby for giving it to Evgeni Malkin. "Geno" has been great for most of these playoffs, and while his offensive game was rather silent in Game 6, his active stick created a couple of huge Detroit turnovers.

That said, it's clear who Crosby has to give the Cup to if the Penguins win. After years of struggling with the Washington Capitals pre-Ovechkin, Sergei Gonchar has been a Penguin since after the lockout ended. Gonchar turned 35 right before the playoffs started, and has never won the Stanley Cup.

Should Friday night be the night, Gonchar is a well-deserved recipient of Crosby's handoff.
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