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First Day Upsets Prove the Stanley Cup Is Truly Up for Grabs

On Wednesday night the NHL playoffs got underway (I hope you’ve got your playoff beard started). It’s always exciting to see playoff hockey action and it’s even more exciting when the upsets start and the underdogs begin winning games. Ah yes, the toothless grins were shining bright last night, ladies and gentlemen, and don’t expect that to stop anytime soon.

Let’s start with the biggest upset of the evening — the eighth seeded Colorado Avalanche knocking off the top-seeded San Jose Sharks. It appeared that these two teams were heading for overtime when a shot by Chris Stewart of Colorado bounced off the skates of Sharks captain Rob Blake and into the goal to give the the Avalanche a 2-1 victory. Next, the reigning champs and Eastern Conference’s four seed, the Pittsburgh Penguins, were looking to prove that they could repeat as champs, starting off by beating the five seed Ottawa Senators. Well, it didn’t quite happen that way as the Penguins feel to the Sens 5-4.

I don’t mean to recap the nights events for you — if you want to know all the scores knock yourself out. My point is that the Avalanche and Senators were not favored to go very far in this postseason but all it takes is one upset to build momentum.  There are a lot of great teams in the playoffs this year and as of right now, it’s hard to say who will be hoisting that cup in a few weeks. If pressed for a prediction, I’ll go with the Blackhawks not just because I’m from Chicago, but because they were the underdogs last year and I don’t think they will let it get away again this year. This is a young team that’s hungry to bring the cup back to Chicago.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Underway Tonight

Yes, there are too many teams and too many games in the NHL and NBA Playoffs.  These NHL playoffs aren’t nearly as exciting as the NFL’s one-and-done system, nor MLB’s four teams from each league setup.  But maybe we don’t appreciate hockey as much as the other major sports in America.  Heck, I know some genuine sports fans who can’t name half the teams that made the postseason.  Whatever the case, it can’t hurt to try and get involved.  Growing a playoff beard is a great way to start getting in the spirit of things.  Another thing to keep in mind is that from a player’s standpoint, these games matter a whole heck of a lot more than the 82 games before them did.  That means the plays get more spectacular and, most importantly, the hits get harder.  So let’s do the best we can to get in the playoff hockey spirit.  After all, most of us don’t want to see another lockout. Here are some of the highlights from the regular season to get you warmed up for the postseason:

Video Source: YouTube

Recommended Playoff Beard Etiquette

The NHL playoffs begin Wednesday and the NBA playoffs start a few days after that. What does that mean? It’s time to start thinking about playoff beards! You know those hairy, unshaven neck beards that develop this time of year in hopes that your team will make it all the way? So gentlemen (and hormonally unbalanced females) let’s talk about what to do with your face fuzz.

1. Get started now. The playoffs will be here before you know it and if your team has made it, it’s time to start that beard. This is your chance as a fan to share something in common with your favorite players; you will both be sporting a grizzly mess on your face as a sign of your dedication to winning.

2. Throw away your razors. Don’t let that silver temptress get to you. You need to stick to your guns on this one, mister. As itchy and unattractive as your face and neck get, don’t you dare shave that thing. As much as your wife/girlfriend, co-workers and others close to you complain about how you are beginning to resemble a mountain man, you must sport that thing with pride.

3. Buy a beard guard. Part of the joy of sporting the playoff beard is the way that it gets to run wild on your face. Don’t you dare wash your manly mane. In doing so, you may just wash away the magic that has nestled itself inside of your facial hair. So go out and invest in a beard guard because I’m not telling you not to shower, but how badly would you feel if you ruined your team’ss chances of advancing in the postseason because your chin felt a little gross?

So that’s it fellas.  Fans and players unite in growing those lovely, grizzly, itchy playoff beards that we all love so much. And feel free to send me a picture of your progress. Larry has even tracked his playoff beard progress in the past, why not join the tradition?

Sources:
The great unwashed [Canada.com]

One-Punch Evander Kane Gives Matt Cooke Some Karma

Finally, somebody gave Matt Cooke what he had coming. In case you haven’t heard of Cooke, he’s one of, if not the most, notoriously dirty players in the NHL. To make matters worse, he’s got the reputation of a guy who will do everything he can to avoid dropping the gloves and squaring off face-to-face with someone. His most recent cheap shot victim, Bruins’ forward Marc Savard, is still experiencing headaches from the concussion Cooke gave him last month on a dirty hit. On Saturday night, karma caught up to Cooke in the form of Thrashers center Evander Kane. Here’s a video of the Evander Kane/Matt Cooke fight:

The irony of this whole situation is that we just learned the exact reason why Cooke doesn’t fight. I’ve seen plenty of hockey fights that end with a clear-cut winner, but I can’t remember the last time I saw someone get knocked out cold from one punch. The best part is Kane’s only 18-years-old and Cooke clearly went after him, instigating the fight, only to get laid out. Seems like every time the stretcher comes out on the ice in a Penguins game Cooke’s on the embarrassing end of things. You never want to see it, but at least for a change he was the player lying on his back when it happened. I don’t know how many fans Kane had before but he definitely has a ton more now.

Toledo’s Walleye > Detroit’s Octopus

The Toledo Walleye are in their first year of existence as a minor league hockey team in the ECHL. They’re affiliated with the Blackhawks and Red Wings of the NHL and apparently their fans have taken a cue from one of their parent franchises. Instead of chucking octopuses on the ice like the fans of Detroit have done, the fans of the Toledo Walleye actually toss a Walleye (catfish looking fish) onto the ice after goals. Here’s a news package on the matter from FOX Toledo and keep your eye out for one of LBS’ most famous commenters towards the end:

I dunno Spin, I kind of like the guy who rocks the air guitar with the walleye but kissing it isn’t bad. In case you’re wondering about the history of throwing an octopus on the ice, we’ve explored that topic in the past.

AHL Hockey Coach Jim Playfair Has Epic Meltdown, Breaks a Stick!

I’ve seen some pretty classic coach’s meltdowns in my day with Braves minor league manager Phillip Wellman and Joe Mikulik coming to mind. Usually the meltdowns happen in the minors because the coaches figure they’re lower profile and there aren’t as many cameras around. That’s true, but these days anything worth seeing (and plenty more not worth a look) winds up on YouTube. And that’s exactly where this awesome meltdown by AHL Abbotsford Heat coach Jim Playfair wound up. Check out the video:

The best parts are when Playfair rips off his shirt as if he’s about to challenge the refs to a fight like he’s Ed Orgeron and the player to his left who has to cover up his mouth with his glove because he’s trying to hide his laughter. In case you were wondering, Playfair’s team lost 4-0. Not that you cared.

NHL Wised Up with New Headshots Rule

Thursday, NHL owners voted unanimously to implement a new “head shot” rule which will remain in effect for the remainder of regular season games and for post season play. The NHL Player’s Association gave their blessing for the rule as they believe it will help keep players safe.  The NHLPA supported the new rule in their statement:

“We are encouraged by the league’s recent willingness to explore on-ice rule changes as a means of reducing player injuries and have no doubt that by working together, a safer working environment can be established for all NHLPA members.”

The new rule states that “lateral, back-pressure or blindside hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact” are not allowed. This new rule is a response from the NHL to the hit Boston Bruin’s Marc Savard took from Pittsburgh Penguin Matt Cooke that went unpunished but ended Savard’s season (pictured above). The hits have been getting more violent as the playoffs near, so this couldn’t have come at a better time.

I’m happy to see this happen. I’m happy to see the NHL taking action to protect players against possible brain damage or other career ending injuries. I’m happy that this is just the beginning and that they are working on a permanent rule for next season.  Even though hockey has and hopefully always will be an aggressive and pretty violent sport, I’m sure that these guys are happy that their chances of ending their career with most of their brain intact have improved.

Sources:
NHLPA supports new NHL initiative on head hits [Sports Network]