Down goes Frazier
Apr 17, 2012 / 5:00 am
With a nod to the late, great, incomparable Howard Cosell when Smokin’ Joe hit the canvas in the first round against George Foreman, the NHL playoffs have begun and Stanley’s favorites are getting pounded into the ice and off the scoreboard like Frazier on that fateful day in 1973 in Kingston, Jamaica. TSN has been actively searching for new in-studio analysts to explain why the old analysts’ consensus Finals picks – Vancouver and Pittsburgh – are both down 3-0 and facing early elimination and while both have shown flashes of the kind of hockey that had the bobble-heads cooing, neither seems to be mentally prepared for attempting a 4-game comeback – a feat achieved but thrice in NHL history. Well TSN... as country legend Randy Travis once crooned forlornly… “since my phone still ain’t ringing, I assume it still ain’t you”… so I’ll offer my soon-to-be-defunct two pennies here on the comfort of our Castanet couch.
Let’s start in the East where the Pittsburgh Penguins, despite being the #4 Seed, were largely regarded as the heir to the Bruins’ crown and the team that would break the Canucks hearts in the Finals on the backs of He Of The Golden Goal and his sidekick Evgeni Malkin. It was a valid thought process. They are only a #4 Seed in the Modern Bettman Math that logically finds ways to prove that 102 > 108 and in the case of the Florida Panthers 94 > 108. Of course, the U.S. had a 2-term President based on some hanging chads and a Floridian application of just such mathematics, but that is for another time and place.
Meanwhile, back in Pennsylania, the 1970’s called and they would like their version of the game of hockey back. Everybody knew this was going to be a brutally tough and physical series but when commentators start throwing out Dave “The Hammer” Schultz quotes and taking Eddie Van Impe’s name in vain, you can safely imagine that Brendan Shanahan has taken the phone off the hook in Toronto and set up shop temporarily in The City Of Brotherly Hate. Sunday’s 8-4 Philly victory featured…wait for it… 158 penalty minutes and 6 ejections and Pittsburgh’s James Neal and Arron Asham will enjoy some light conversation with the NHL’s Disciplinary Commissar. Claude Giroux completed the rare Gordie Howe post-season hat-trick with a scrap with Sid the Kid and somehow, while the Penguins were losing the plot, left, right and centre, Matt Cooke was able to prove the notion of parallel universes by sitting quietly on the bench, uninvolved. Of course, in that universe Marc-Andre Fleury would be more useful in net than say… a poster of Tom Barraso… and rival tender Ilya Bryzgalov might read the team memo regarding game time starts so he could actually show up in the first period.
Until that momentous moment, why not amuse yourselves with picking a side of the fence to jump off – a) respect Crosby for trying to lead by example and not being scared to drop the gloves when warranted or, b) he’s too valuable to his team and has a concussion history so should back off and let others handle it. Truth is, there might be a (c) in there, where you have to stop acting like the founding member/chairman of the Brad Marchand Fan Club because I know for a fact that Dan Bylsma doesn’t see your role as Pittsburgh’s “Little Ball of Hate.” When Scott Hartnell’s beloved mullet got pulled yesterday, all that’s left now are the eye gauge, the fish hook, the face scratch and of course a good old fashioned chomp to complete Pittsburgh’s total and utter collapse – yeah, I know, I can’t wait for Game 4 either – Olympic hockey purists be damned!
Speaking of biting, let’s check in on the Canucks. A torrid finish to the regular season snatched the President’s Trophy from the New York Rangers but left Vancouver short one Sedin and with the ever-present, never-gets-old goalie controversy and the unfortunate task of having to face a team that has essentially been playing playoff hockey since the early days of March. The thing about twins is this – all those no-look, one-touch, how-in-the-hell passes that make defenders and goalies’ heads spin are just giveaways and that soccer staple – ‘passes into open space,’ when one of them has the misfortune of being on the shelf due to the Chicago “People’s Elbow.” When Henrik became the victim of captain-on-captain violence in Game 3, albeit legally, the answer from the Canucks was unfortunately predictably absent, unless one counts Kevin Bieksa’s textbook tackle of Dustin Brown. The grit and toughness that Deadline Day moves were supposed to address have given way to the old standards of cowardly LaPierre chirping and Triple Lindy-esque Kesler belly flopping, which are only serving to irritate and embarrass the men in stripes. Kudos to Henrik for coming back on the ice – that is leading by example and learning from past mistakes on how to proudly wear the C.
Thankfully, the goalie issue has truly been a non-factor for the Canucks after all is said and done. In Game 3, Cory Schneider showed the kind of talent which will one day get him a contract as ridiculous as Luongo’s but the Kings have a serious Vezina candidate of their own whose pun-worthiness and positioning have been near perfect and may very well make a 4-Game sweep “Quick and painless!” Ugh…sorry…I have obviously not fully developed my complete immunity to the iocane powder of nhl.com-style headlines. If the 2012 playoffs are showing us anything, it is that the second season is a lot different than the first and I defy anyone to prove that there is a tougher, more brutal, more physical Championship to win annually than Lord Stanley. Whether we want or allow our kids to watch this version of the game is a discussion for another day but in the meantime, buckle up and strap in, this is going to get uglier before it gets prettier. “I’m just telling it like it is.” Thanks Howard.
Read more A Sports Fan Speaks articles
- There comes a time... Mar 5
- The envelope please... Feb 26
- Bullet in the Chamber Feb 19
- A superb Super Bowl...honestly Feb 5
- Playoffs? Are you kidding me? Jan 29
- And we're back... Jan 22
- Looking ahead...and a bit behind Jan 15
- Collective disregard Jan 8
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