Thursday, April 12, 2007

Revenge is a dish best served during the playoffs...

OK, here’s a hockey quiz. Your leading goal-scorer and defending Rocket Richard Trophy winner gets kneed and elbowed at the same time. He’s knocked out for the duration of the playoffs with a blown knee and a missing chiclet. How many periods do you wait before slamming Paul Kariya’s fluid-filled skull into the sideboards and sending him into the Troy Aikman/Steve Young Broadcasting School for the Permanently Impaired?

a. One, retribution must be swift and severe
b. Two, you don’t want to make it TOO obvious
c. Wait till you get a big lead or a big deficit
d. Wait till you get home ice and can dictate the matchup
e. Disable his airbags and slam into the front of his car

The Stanley Cup Playoffs started with a vengeance last night (and this morning) with three of the four games decided by one goal, and two going into multiple overtimes. The NHL playoffs are the best professional postseason tournament in the world. The intensity level is ratcheted up eleven notches, the overtimes are exhausting for the players and fans, the goaltending is spectacular, everything you could possibly enjoy about hockey is magnified… minus the fights.

Scott Hartnell’s cheap shot on Jonathan Cheechoo will probably sideline Cheechoo for the remainder of the playoffs, and Hartnell will likely be suspended at least one game. But the most intriguing aspect of the hit will be the payback. Most hockey fans know that Paul Kariya is Nashville’s leading playmaking threat. They also know that Kariya has had multiple concussions throughout his career. The quiz above might seem facetious, but I guarantee that if Cheechoo is done for the playoffs, the Sharks are contemplating answers a, b, c, and d. If the Sharks suit up seven defensemen for the next game and one of them is Rob Davison, Kariya better have his head on a swivel, or he’ll be helped from the ice, just like Cheechoo.

Interestingly, the solution won’t be a fight, which would’ve been the answer in the regular season. Teams are reluctant to risk an instigator penalty in the playoffs, where every power play is crucial. Instead, they’ll lie in wait for a chance to blow up Kariya or maybe Legwand against the boards or with their heads down in open ice. Of course, you’ll have to dig around your cable company or satellite provider to find Versus network, but Friday’s game should be worth it.


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