There’s a reason they call it the most wonderful time of year that isn’t called Christmas. Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs has 16 teams playing in eight series, which means up to four games a night. All you need is a PBR 12-pack and a couple of Depends, and there’s no reason to leave the couch.
That said, this year’s Round 1 has also had plenty of story threads to get angry about. Also, yes, the Washington Capitals seem to be shitting in bed once again.
Here are five of them. Wow caps!!
It’s a song the NHL has been singing since it vowed to finally do something about grabbing, grabbing and holding that made Mario Lemieux wonder why he even bothered playing hockey. You know, the one where they send a pre-playoff message to players, coaches, fans, and hospital patients and people on lockdown who can’t make it to the game. The promise goes something like this: Instead of swallowing their whistles as teams pummel each other in the playoffs, umpires will call games like they do in the regular season.
And it doesn’t happen every year. Which, as maddening as it can be to watch players slash, punch, slash, and punch each other with impunity, makes for some great fucking hockey.
At best, the playoffs are all about Sean Connery’s eternal date in The Untouchables:: “They take out a knife, you take out a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.” And nothing raises the temperature of a game to boiling point like seeing obvious penalties completely ignored in the interests of game management. Hello, original Battle of Alberta.
in a the athletic Last week, Pierre LeBrun noted that 99 penalties had been called in the first 17 games of the 2021 playoffs and 133 in the first 16 this year. So the message has been clear: Unlike previous years, you will be punished for playing postseason hockey the way postseason hockey has always been played.
No more Battle of Alberta rules. No more watching Eric Cairns beat up Shayne Corson. No more watching Nazem Kadri do something stupid because that’s what he always does. And there’s no reckoning once a team takes a three-goal lead with 10 minutes remaining in the third.
For the first time since, well, ever, the first round of the playoffs looks remarkably civil, with scrums almost nonexistent, games within the game virtually absent, and suspensions (real or deserved) almost completely absent from the game. conversation. Which is to say, Round 1 looks like the Montreal Canadiens vs. the Russian Red Army on New Year’s Eve in 1979. As your grandparents will tell you, that game was one of the most famous and beautiful hockey exhibitions ever seen. But it was not a war. And when it comes to the playoffs, especially Round 1, those are the wars we all remember.
There is an old saying that everyone deserves a second chance. Or in the case of Evander Kane, nine lifetimes of second chances. Ask yourself this: who is famous for compiling a rap sheet that includes high-profile accusations of infidelity and gambling? Who fakes a COVID-19 test while playing in one of the world’s top professional sports leagues. Who has a history of pissing off his teammates, to the point where Dustin Byfuglien dumped Evander Kane’s clothes in the shower after he showed up on the track in a tracksuit instead of a suit?
Hockey is a sport that rewards humility and respect for the game. After being shown the door by the San Jose Sharks for his COVID-19 antics, the stakes were high that Kane was done in the NHL. Next stop is Europe and don’t forget to say hello to Jake Virtanen.
Instead, he is now tied for fifth in Round 1 scoring with Sidney Crosby, and proving to be an invaluable piece of an Edmonton Oilers team famous for shining in years past.
Somehow, even more offensively, he has focused on swagger and display in this Round 1, as he showed off his seven fingers to Los Angeles fans yesterday after the Oilers forced a Game 7.
Seriously, you’ve been given another chance. Again. Do you have to remind us all that you don’t deserve it? And where is Dustin Byfuglien when you need him?
the toronto maple leaves
If the first round of this year’s 2022 playoffs wasn’t crap, the Toronto Maple Leafs would already be holding their exit interviews after being rebounded in four straight games. One of the most damned and obnoxiously titled franchises in the NHL hasn’t won a first-round series since 2004, and all of Canada is breathlessly waiting for history to repeat itself this year.
Nothing brings this country together like seeing the Maple Laffs and their idiotic fans get eliminated in Round 1. Honestly, it could easily be a national holiday.
Remember game seven in 2013 when Toronto led the Boston Bruins 4-1 with 10 minutes left in the game? And when Boston then rallied with three goals, two in 31 seconds as the clock ticked down, before delivering the elimination knockout blow at 6:05 overtime. That, hockey fans, is a golden hockey memory with Paul Henderson beating the Russians in ’72.
As for this year, Toronto is still seemingly in the driver’s seat of the home ice in its series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, which is tied 3-3 and returned to Scotiabank Arena at the center of the universe. It can be argued that there is no God of hockey; if it existed, the NHL wouldn’t have completely screwed over long-suffering Vancouver Canucks fans in 2011 with a suspension that helped turn the Finals series against Boston.
But don’t let that stop you from praying. Because really, can you conceive of anything sweeter than Toronto beating Tampa Bay 4-1 with 10 minutes left in the third, only to shit the bed with a minute left and then lose at 6:05 of overtime? Of course you can’t. Get ready to celebrate Canada.
Toronto Maple Leafs (again)/Calgary Flames/Edmonton Oilers
It’s bad enough that all three of those teams made the playoffs this year, and even worse that everyone is still playing instead of wondering what went wrong. Again. Which, if previous years are any indication, they’ll be doing this time next week.
At some point someone had the stupid idea that because you live in Canada, you’re expected to vote for Canadian teams in the playoffs.
Do you know who in Canada wanted Vancouver to win the Stanley Cup in 2011? That would be the people of Vancouver. Everyone else in the rest of the country was busy letting their fellow Twitter users know how much they hated Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows. Who, at the time, had long perfected the art of playoff trash talk.
If you want to root for the Canadians in Round 1, you’d better invest in a St. Louis Blues jersey.
The Blues had a league-leading 17 players born in the Great White North on their roster at the start of the season. The Flames had 10 and the Edmonton Oilers had 15. As for the Leafs, really, who gives a shit about Toronto, apart from the people of Toronto, which is to say, every other person who lives in Vancouver.
We see them making fools of themselves in the stands every time the Maple Leafs play Vancouver at Rogers Arena. In that sense, for some reason, we’re supposed to go along with 4:30 puck drops in the Pacific to make those still stuck in Toronto happy. So fuck the Maple Leafs, not to mention Dallas and Los Angeles. And go to St. Louis, the true Canadian capital of the NHL.
Why can’t anyone kill him? Not to literally kill him, no one wants that on his conscience, and Brad Marchand probably has someone who loves him back home. Or at least he tolerates it. But more kill him the same way the Charlestown Chiefs coach yells “Kill ’em!! Kill the bastard!!!” the first time the Hanson brothers jump onto the ice in shot hit.
As much as it pains me to write this, I’ve actually come to, on some level, respect the NHL’s most maddening rabble-rouser. Not long enough to make amends with his speedy Daniel Sedin in the 2011 Cup Finals as Clueless Kelly Sutherland looked on. Or the low jumper of Sami Salo in a rematch in Boston the following January. Or face-licking, scrum-jabbing, and flaming dinkdom in general.
On the other hand, number 63 off the ice is a guy who regularly plays street hockey with the sons of Jimmy Hayes, a former teammate who died of a drug overdose last year. Who thinks of thoughtful Christmas gifts for his teammates? And who, earlier this year, not only sent an autographed jersey to a Cape Breton First Nations teenager who had been subjected to racial slurs during a game, but also translated a message for the young player into Mi’kmaw .
If we can extrapolate anything from such actions, it is that Marchand is not only playing a character on the ice, but that character is wearing a black hat. Either you get the joke, or you don’t.
As for how Marchand has been doing his part to ensure the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs blows up, coming into the series against the Carolina Hurricanes he had one goal in 13 games, the only one with an empty net. As of this morning, he was second to score behind only Connor McDavid, including a five-point outing in Game 4. In yesterday’s game, where Boston while facing elimination opened the scoring, he got the top assist in the second goal and then capped the night with a four-minute harpoon penalty.
Yeah, that’s right, harpooning, which is the dumbest thing you can do in a game this side of low bridges, spinning feet, or licking someone’s face. Why can’t anyone kill him? Which means not to literally kill him, but to do something like this…
….while the trainer yells “Kill them. He kills the bastard” from the sidelines. Or, better yet, this…