If you're Gary Roberts or Joe Sakic, I'm sure there's plenty of incentive to score a game-winning goal in the playoffs. No one that age wants to drag his ancient ass through five overtimes in Game 1; he wants to go to bed before Leno and greet the new day with his usual mix of poached eggs and "Matlock" reruns with the added bonus of postseason glory. But Marty Brodeur? He just looked old and confused, in that "Mommy, Grandpa's trying to work the TV remote again" kind of way.
It was a typical Devils/Rangers game in Newark last night: Physical, tightly played in the zones, and practically scoreless in front of a crowd that was two-thirds Devils fans but sounded like 99 percent Rangers fans. At least it was like that for two periods, before the Devils shit the bed in the third, starting with Brodeur's brain fart on the power play. He saved Ryan Callahan's shot from the right side, and then saw the puck trickle across the crease. Rather than cover it, Brodeur decided to...I don't know, ogle it? Try to control it with his mind? Wonder what it would taste like with bacon and cheese? Whatever the case, he allowed Callahan to sneak around and score a shorty that derailed the Devils. Said Marty: "I didn't know he was around." No shit. It's a good thing Brodeur has traditionally shaken off horrific postseason blunders...because I have tickets to Game 2.
Sean Avery — oh cruel mistress of hockey, why do you punish the good people of New Jersey so? — scored about 10 minutes later to ice the game, with Devils-killer Nigel Dawes capping it for a 4-1 win. When Brodeur wakes up in a cold sweat at 3 a.m., this is what he sees:
Joe Gone Wild. Players like Messier and Claude Lemieux always start the conversation when the topic of postseason heroes comes up. Why Joe Sakic doesn't is a mystery, as he extended an NHL record with his eighth postseason overtime goal in Colorado's fugly 3-2 win in Minnesota last night. It was a right place, right time sort of deal: Knocking home a rebound from a point shot, on what was his only recorded shot of the night. To that end, Dave Krieger of the Rocky Mountain News really nailed the hidden narrative for the Avs' victory, which was that the grunts saved the day while Jacques Lemaire suffocated the stars.
The third period of this one might have been the best of any game last night. Minnesota cranked up the offense and erased a two-goal deficit thanks to Mikko Koivu and Todd Fedoruk, who's got about 60 pounds on Jose Theodore and looked like the Cloverfield monster standing in front of Nelly Furtato while screening him. The Avs nearly won the game twice in regulation: David Jones kicked in a loose puck, which I understand is frowned upon by the officials; and Ryan Smyth was given a penalty shot with 2:27 left — against Niklas Backstrom, the worst goalie in the history of the NHL (statistically) in the overtime skills competition. And yet Backstrom stoned him. Unbelievable. I'm with you, Section 216: Seven games of this may, in fact, cause the most wide-spread cases of cardiac arrest in Minnesota since Jesse Ventura won the governorship.
Tanked. Calgary's 3-2 win in San Jose last night is what happens when one team works 10 times harder than another team that's too busy buying its own hype. Stephane Yelle's game-winner in the second was a microcosm of that: Brian Campbell played sloppy with the puck at the blue line, and Iginla stole it and eventually Yelle cashed in off the rush. The Flames were focused and disciplined; the Sharks made bad decisions and looked overwhelmed. That the Flames are now 6-1 lifetime in postseason play at the Shark Tank may seem like a useless stat, but maybe there's something to it. That's funny...San Jose usually waits until the second round before choking...
Aces, Gary. So Gary Roberts is old enough to be the father of many of the Ottawa players. But the more important point here is that he is, without question, the Senators' daddy.
Roberts used to make life a living hell for Ottawa with the Leafs, and continued that hobby in last night's 4-0 blowout for the Penguins in Game 1. The Sweater Ted rightly wonders if Roberts's game-winner just 68 seconds into the first period might set the tone for the entire series. There really isn't much to say about this one — it was a fairly complete ass-kicking by the Penguins, and Marty Gerber kept it from being a laugher. The Senators are too injured (defenseman Anton Volchenkov took a puck to the face in a nasty scene last night) and don't exactly strike you as having the ferocity to compete in this series. Or as He Score, He Shoot put it: "Coincidentally, this marks the 11th time in 11 playoff years that Ottawa has iced a team of gutless, lazy assholes, so, there's that."
During the game on Versus I was reminded why it's difficult for many hockey fans to see a successful team in Pittsburgh: The media's insatiable need to verbally fellate the Penguins at every turn. It was ritualistic during the Mario years, and it's started again. We're talking Madden-on-Favre-like joygasms, and Pens fans buy right into it. "This is a fresh modern feel led by a young Penguins team that the whole country is behind." Bloody hell...
* Kevin Lowe promises not to go after big-name free agents like he did last season. No, I don't know if his fingers were crossed. [Lowetide]
* If you're still on the fence on this whole Hillary/Obama thing, perhaps the fact that he looks so much cooler holding a hockey stick will help with Decision '08. Japers Rink]
* Kevin Smith blogging for the NHL? Snoochie Boochies. L.C. from "The Hills" blogging for the NHL? Obviously, Heidi was too busy working for the McCain campaign. [The FanHouse]
* Rob Shick and Mick McGeough coaching young referees in the playoffs is like Matthew McConaughey and the kid who played Bud Bundy taking over at the Actor's Studio. [Two for Elbowing]
* Finally, if you haven't discovered The 2 Man Advantage yet, allow me to be your older brother letting you borrow my Cure and Smiths cassette tapes. The boys do interviews with hockey people like no one else does...like their latest effort in which they interview Patrick Rissmiller of the San Jose Sharks from the bathtub. Enjoy...