"Champions keep playing until they get it right."
Billie Jean King
Some pundits have suggested that this year's play-offs are akin to "football on ice.” That, I believe, is too tame a description. At times, some games looked like Rugby scrums in front of the net. Dive and jump on someone, hoping to free the puck.
Whatever; no matter what happens hacking, with your stick, and don’t stop. Oh, and "here comes someone without the puck. Maybe I'll knee him.” We've gone from face-washes to nose rearrangements.
Coaching Instructions include, “If ya see a guy in a different coloured uniform standing by the boards, slightly bent over, don't let the number on his back disturb you from seeing ‘hit me hard’.” It’s headcheese on a platter. Does anyone want to play Australian Rules football?
Let's just forget about the zebras on ice. The refereeing has been atrocious some nights; most nights. Missed calls, slow whistles, fast whistles and much guess work. Apparently, you can even push a goalie, with the puck somewhere in his pads, into the net and call it a goal. Some might argue that both Tampa bay and San Jose had series-changing moments when the refs and the league office got it wrong or couldn't make it right. If anyone can explain 'goalie interference' in twenty-five words or less go to the head of the class, and sit a few seats in front of him.
Otherwise, if you don't mind the sight of blood, it's been exciting! All those late comebacks; never trust a two-goal lead; well, never trust a three-goal lead or a four-goal lead. All those OTs and all those hangovers, were they great or not.
Now kids, one thing every boy must learn upon reaching puberty, as well as every NHL coach, is how and when to "pull your goalie.” Patrick Roy set a new standard, a mostly a successful one, by yanking his 'little friend' about 2 minutes earlier than most coaches have done traditionally. The fad caught on.
Speaking of such things, there was lots of indirect and direct activity, physical and verbal, concerning the ole family jewels. Milan Lucic, of the Bruions, may have jangled the ole jewelry of an opposition player better than others. "Wakey! Wakey! Who's Your Daddy?"
Well, let's get serious and move on to the second round.
No refs and no goalies might be fun!
Montreal versus Boston
A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum, ah, the Bell Centre. After their loss to Detroit, in Game 1, at home, Bruins' poster boy for agitators on steroids, Brad Marchand, complained that the Red Wings were guilty of a lot of holding and hooking. Yuk Yuk. What a card. Boston had the flu in that first game; they got better and made Detroit look sick. Detroit's kids were just that, while the vets showed their age. "The Mule" was a complete ass.
Neither Boston nor Montreal faced much opposition. Montreal benefited from Tampa Bay not having Ben Bishop between the pipes. Still, the Habs, from top to bottom, played excellent hockey. Even old Sour Puss Therrien was smiling.
Another meeting of the mine fields, Boston versus Montreal. I can almost smell the blood. Four lines versus four lines; Price versus Rask; Chara and the kids versus Subban and the vets, it should be fun. Both teams claim a well-rested state, but maybe over rested is something to consider, too.
I’m thinking the long lay-off will benefit the Canadians, as the series will start on the road for them. Learning how to skate again under the bright lights of Montreal might not have the fans singing "Olay, Olay.” Lose one in Boston and no major damage done. Yes, Canada, this time I'm going to be a homer. After picking Tampa in the first round, I'm sucking up. Besides, I need my passport back. Ergo, I say Montreal in six.
New York Rangers versus Pittsburgh Penguins.
"You can win it.” "Nah, you can have it." "No, no. I insist. We want to play golf." "Golf! You took the words right out of my mouth! Nobody's gonna get horse-collared on a golf course." Have ya ever seen two teams that just kind of fell into the second round despite themselves?
The relatively unknown, lesser lights of Columbus took the highly touted Penguins to six games and several overtimes before getting the message: "You're not supposed to be here.” The Rangers had two chances to finish-off the Flyers and it took the last minutes of Game 7 for that fate to go down. The Flyers didn't run out of gas, just time.
What now, I wonder. I have no idea. Even checking the tealeaves and the I Ching, the gypsy woman downstairs, and the bartender at the Sylvia, I give no assurances to either team. Well, Malkin finally fell off the turnip truck and woke up in Game 7; he scored a hat trick. If Sid “The Kid,” obviously favouring an injury, can find his game, and Fleury stays in his net, the Pens, with home ice advantage, might prevail. Of course, the Rangers have their share of overpaid underachievers as well. “Richard the Rich,” Rick Nash, hasn't scored a goal in the play-offs since Prince John signed the Magna Carta. It took gritty, off-the-rails, head-case Danny Carcillo and Benoit "6 teams in 5 years!" Pouliot to put the Rangers over the hump. Here comes the coin flip! "Tails, Pittsburgh.” Hm! I like AV. Best two-out-of-three? Tails, Pittsburgh. Sorry AV. Ergo, I say Pittsburgh in seven.
Minnesota versus Chicago
In reference to Billie Jean's quote, above, there are a couple of teams left in the play-offs, out West, which never seem to rattle. Both of them are previous Champs. One of them is Chicago. Down 2-0 after the first two games in St. Louis and heading home with their second-best Defenceman in the suspension cage, ho hum, been there, done that, signed the autographs. Sweep. Bye bye Blues.
Meanwhile everyone was watching the Avs pull their goalie and win, at least at home, also taking a two game lead. Minnesota wouldn't quit. Strategy: Pull the goalie, before the game. Put in their third-stringer and hope. Series tied 2-2. Avs win Game 5; Minnie wins Game 6. Avs lead four times by a goal in Game 7 but the Wild keep tying it.. after, yep, changing their goalie! Back to Breezy (loser, in more ways than one, of Game 1) with a few minutes left. Wild score and then win it in OT. Bye Bye Avs. Well the Wild were a Wild Card team! Chicago will have home-ice advantage here. The Wild will give'em hell Harry but it ain't gonna happen. Hawks are too deep. Ho hum. Ergo, I say Chicago in six.
Los Angeles versus Anaheim
The other team that never gets rattled? The Kings. Please let's not talk abut the Sharks, again. Mercy, the lowest of their lows. The bums of the bum leagues.
Let's talk about Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar and Justin "Mr. April" Williams and their remarkable four game winning streak after being hammered in their first two games and losing the third in OT. No panic. Okay, maybe a few grimaces from coach Sutter. Stick to the program. Believe. Win four straight. No problemo. Goodbye Jumbo Joe.
As for Anaheim, they had more than they could handle in Dallas. Did ya see that series! That one was maybe the most vicious. It was also one of the more exciting series. Now is the winter of (y)our discontent Ducks fans. The L.A. gang survived a crash course in hitting from the Sharks. The L.A. gang watched some of the world's most skilled goal-scorers be stymied time and time again by Quick. As Justin Brown said about the comeback, they knew they're built for the play-offs. Get back to their game, all would be fine. So, it came to pass. It might be illegal to go Duck hunting in the Spring in California but the refs aren't following the rule book in any case. Ergo, I say LA Kings in six.
It’s getting warm and sunny on the coast. It must be time to fire the coach. Bye, bye, Torts. Here's to spearing the shishkabab and not your opponents wieners.
Bob Stark is a musician, poet, philosopher and couch potato. He spends his days, as did Jean-Paul Sarte and Albert Camus, pouring lattes and other adult beverages into a recycled mug, bearing a long and winding crack. He discusses, with much insight and passion, the existentialist and phenomenological ontology of the Vancouver 'Canucks,' a hockey team, "Archie" comic books and high school reunions. In other words, Bob Stark is a retired public servant living the good life on the wrong coast of Canada.
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