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NHL 2001- And Now Four

Commercial Update

It's nice to see that the absurdities from the beer companies haven't let up any. Here's a sample of the latest trash included in the "what I'd do for the Cup" commercials:

"I'd get breast implants! Big ones!"

I think that guy has issues.

More clever, I think, are CBC's own commercials promoting the playoffs. I've seen three different ones so far:

- A guy watching breathes through an asthma mask. "It's so fast, it'll leave you breathless."
- This same guy is watching his set, and it bounces with every televised hit against the boards. "They hit the boards so hard, your TV will shake."
- The best one, though, is the one where the TV moves back and forth across his living room, and he's scrambling to keep up with it. A goal is scored, stopping the TV, which then moves back to the center of his room. Then it starts moving all over again. Ha ha.

But let's get onto the games, shall we? The playoffs are shaping up quite nicely this year.

The Semifinals


(7th) Toronto 3, (1st) New Jersey 4

Argh! They blew it! But let's not be too hasty to chastise the Leafs, for they got a lot further than most people expected. Myself, I was sort of hoping for an Ottawa - Pittsburgh conference final. (Is that even possible? Let's see... Carolina beats New Jersey, Philadelphia/Buffalo doesn't matter... then Ottawa beats Carolina and Pittsburgh beats Philadelphia or Buffalo... yeah, I guess it's possible.) Oh well.

I've heard some say that the botched comeback in Game Two was what turned things sour for our beloved Leafs, and that was probably a factor. In fact, these playoffs have not been kind to teams who successfully make up two-or-more goal deficits in the dying minutes - just look at Ottawa in their Game Three against Toronto, or the heroic Oilers in their Game Three against the Stars; they both lost in overtime. But what I think really buried the Leafs was their lack of drive during the last two games of the series. And to think that I had to watch the Leafs fall hopelessly behind and lose, and then watch the same thing happen to the Kings immediately afterwards - oh, the humanity!

Sundin was great; I hope they hang onto him. It's amazing enough that they actually let a European captain the Leafs (personally, I don't really care where people come from in regards to leading an NHL team; but some of these nationalistic morons to my west sure make a big fuss about it!), but it would be really nice if he got to etch his name on the Stanley Cup in that capacity, wouldn't it? Perhaps next year. All the Pat Quinn-isms aside, performing in the regular season is still vitally important. If your team can come in off a 100+ point season, you've got a major confidence boost first of all, and you'll probably also get home-ice advantage in the first round. (Like that has really meant anything this year, but I digress.)

I'd better say something about Tie Domi as well. If it were up to me, I would have given him five, maybe even ten games. But to kick him out of the playoffs - that's just brutal! I'm not excusing what he did, but he was being tormented for quite some time leading up to the Niedermayer incident. There's not much I can say on this that hasn't been said a thousand times, so I'll largely leave the issue alone. I have little opinion on the matter.

Now we're going to discuss, for a moment, the Leaf's worst enemy: The CBC. I can't believe some of the stuff they actually say on the air. They prime up the Leafs so much that hubris can't help but be a major factor! Oh wow, they're so great! They're amazing! They're the Leafs! Wow, Cujo is amazing! He let in five goals tonight, but he's still the best there is! Hahaha. Seriously, they need to get over their complete infatuation with an at-best mediocre team (at least this year). Sticking strictly with Canadian teams, I'd commend the accomplishments of Vancouver's and Edmonton's before moving onto any others. But that's only my opinion.

Give CBC some credit, though. After they lost Game Seven, one of the crack commentators did actually say "The better team won this game." It's a cliché, of course, and right up there with "The Stanley Cup Champs are the Stanley Cup Champs" (they said that, too!), but at least they had the decency to utter the words. But they went to The National pretty darn quickly, didn't they? =)

One final note: The Leafs really should have been able to put away Game Six early on without any difficulty. They got some real good 10-on-6 opportunities going there... what was that? five power-plays in a row? Come on! The refs were practically on their team that night! =)

Enough joking, though. They didn't do that badly; I just enjoy making fun of the Leafs. Any Toronto fans can, however, rest assured that I root for them following these two conditions:

1 - They're the last Canadian team in the playoffs.
2 - They're not playing Pittsburgh or San Jose.

Montreal, where are you?! Come back; it's just not the same! (New York - I'm talking to you, too.)

(6th) Pittsburgh 4, (5th) Buffalo 3

Boy, was this one ever a nail-biter. But hey, they came through. It looked as if history was going to repeat itself, as Pittsburgh won two in Buffalo, then Buffalo two in Pittsburgh... and then the next game in Buffalo (!!) - just like last year with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in the second round.

Oh, remember how I was talking about hubris in the last matchup? Um... (I have to thank CBC for this one) how about how Buffalo painted the 2001 Conference Finals / Stanley Cup Finals logo just off centre ice in time for Game Seven? I sort of feel sorry for the poor guys. Well, you can count on Scott Russel (from good 'ol PEI, no less) to point these things out for us. I think the man is under appreciated, to tell you the truth.

In Game Seven, we certainly saw a bright decision by coach Helinka. Put Jagr on the second line! Hey, he got three assists. That was an amazing idea, but I don't know if he'll keep that up. This guy is also a master at stalling for time - we've seen him stall waiting for a call from upstairs (ie: the refs can decide not to review a goal (in this case, off a high-stick) themselves, so you can gamble and see if they're reviewing it upstairs on their own. If they are, they'll call down.), and of course use the classic tactic of swapping goaltenders to give your front line a moment's rest.

Game Seven itself could have went to Buffalo if they decided to aim for the net, but Pittsburgh fortunately picked up the pace as soon as the overtime began. And Kasparaitis - well, he was just in the right place in the right time. Good for him. I just wish he'd stop seeing what he can get away with.

In other news: No quintuple overtime this year (and little double overtime anywhere, for that matter)! (After losing two and a half games for the price of one, I don't think a team can help but lose the series.)

Just before I go, though, I'd like to say a few words commending my fellow Penguins fans stateside. They really do a great job of travelling around during the playoffs, don't they? You could definitely hear "mmmooooooooosssssssseee" every time Hedberg made a great save in Game Seven - in Buffalo.

Also, in the back of my mind, I never quite thought that I'd be getting to write about Pittsburgh getting to the Eastern Conference Finals. Amazing. Four of sixteen... and Pittsburgh is the only "little guy" left. Now the question is (again, thank you, CBC, for bringing this super-cool fact to my attention): Will Lemieux get his first-ever playoff overtime point this year? Yes, you heard me right. Other members of the No-goals-in-playoff-overtime Club include Gordie Howe and Mark Messier - the former being "Mr. Hockey," second on the all-time points list, and the latter a super-vetran who will likely finish his career third on the all-time points list. Not a bad club! I'm not sure that he'd want to leave it!


(7th) Los Angeles 3, (1st) Colorado 4

Roy: More Stanley Cup rings? He'll be running out of orifices with which to plug them into soon enough (this is a reference to his old joke: "I can't hear him; I've got two Stanley Cup Rings plugging my ears."). Perhaps.

Los Angeles, you've got to hand it to them. I have to say, though, I was a trifle worried when I heard about the gag flight announcement on their plane to Game Seven that went, "Welcome aboard flight xxx headed to Saint Louis after a brief stopover in Denver." Yeah, hubris again. I think stunts like that should be saved for the Finals. At any rate, they came to the Pepsi Center and - wooosh! the game was totally taken away from them. My biggest gripe: Quit worrying so much about the matchup! You're changing "on the fly" virtually every time you clear the puck! This is insane! I'm in the school of thought that says substituting players while play is in progress is utterly stupid - but unfortunately, that is the reality of the modern game, and it would be equal folly to never change "on the fly."

Now I would be remiss not to close out this discussion without at least mentioning poor Peter Forseberg's spleen rupture. Actually, to be injured during the Stanley Cup Playoffs is kind of a good thing if you think about it (Detroit: "This one's for Vladamir!") - the stress when you're still in it must be immeasurable, so being put out of commission is sort of a relief. Actually, I'm full of bullshit: getting injured during the playoffs sucks - wouldn't it be better to be a functioning part of the team when you get your name engraved on the Cup? But it sure beats being suspended (like Tie Domi). My prediction: They'll rally behind the adversity and do just fine without him (caution: "just fine" not necessarily meaning they beat Saint Louis).

(4th) St. Louis 4, (3rd) Dallas 0

See you. I think I was wrong about Saint Louis - not only are they really performing now, but they just seem to have that drive to win, you know? But I could never make a prediction about whether or not they'll manage to eliminate Colorado. It will certainly be a big event, whoever wins.

Dallas shouldn't give up so easily, though. Their players are too old? Nonsense! They certainly can't convince me with that logic, especially considering that Edmonton has some of the youngest and brightest players in the league. It's not like players are retiring younger than they used to, right? I mean, you don't want an NHL team full of geriatrics, but I would suggest keeping those who want to stay while bringing in younger players through draft picks, trades, and affiliates.

Predictions (for what they're worth):

Pittsburgh: Wins Stanley Cup. If they can make it past New Jersey, then it's all theirs as far as I'm concerned.
New Jersey: Honestly, I like Pittsburgh too much to give them the credit they really deserve.
Saint Louis: Beats Colorado.
Colorado: Beats Saint Louis.

Now those of you who are paying attention will quickly realize that I'm not saying much of anything (which pretty much sums up this whole series of articles). Honestly, I hope you're reading this to sample my wit and not for any real hockey information. =)

The field is narrowing. I'll see you again in a couple of weeks.

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