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Stanley Cup final has speed, scoring

Associated Press

This Stanley Cup final arrived like a Lightning bolt from the blue, a you-got-to-be-kidding me Calgary vs. Tampa Bay matchup that might see the winner retain the cup for far longer than the normal one year.

If this indeed is the last time hockey’s most precious prize is hoisted in celebration for a few years — and the NHL’s pending labor talks will decide that — at least the league picked a good way to go out.

Compared to last year’s Anaheim-New Jersey seven-game snoozefest, where traps reigned supreme and the first goal sometimes was the only one needed to win, this final should have speed, scoring, end-to-end rushes, exciting transitional play and a minimum of dumping and chasing.

There are big stars, too, even if they aren’t yet big names outside of hockey’s hard-core fan base.

Jarome Iginla, Calgary’s captain courageous, might be his generation’s Mark Messier, a scorer and unparalleled leader, and the Lightning’s small but Indy car-fast Martin St. Louis is the likely league MVP.

The subplots aren’t bad, either.

There’s Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk’s quest for his first Cup in 22 NHL seasons at age 40, St. Louis going against the team that let him go and the league’s No. 3 offense (Tampa Bay) against its No. 3 defense (Calgary).

Now, the question is whether anyone will be watching a final that seems certain to be — Dare the NHL say it? — entertaining.

Game 1 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday in Tampa Bay (5 p.m. ESPN).

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