Its time for the 2013 NHL Playoffs and that means whenever anybody asks me a question my automatic response is, “because its the cup”. The Florida Panthers unfortunately did not qualify, a fact I was crushed to learn yesterday when I was using this thing called the internet and happened upon a round one playoffs schedule that curiously had no mention of the Panthers. I called Gary Bettman and asked for an explanation and he replied, “teams that finish last in the NHL don’t usually make the playoffs.” His answer seemed sufficient but led to my next question which was, “oh, but since we finished last, we get the first pick in the draft right?…right?” Thats when Gary hung up on me.
With Florida not participating, I am a free agent looking for a bandwagon to jump on. I was driving the Blue Jackets bandwagon but the Beezy J’s missed the big dance and I was unceremoniously fired. (I don’t know why but they mentioned my referring to the team as the “Beezy J’s” may have had something to do with it.)
So there I was on day one of the playoffs without a team to root for. I am hesitant to pick a team before the playoffs start because if there is one thing I have learned about jumping on bandwagons is, once you start watching the games your heart may disagree with your brain. There have been too many times that I have decided on a team to root for prior to the game only to find myself going the opposite way once the game has begun. For now I am just doing some window shopping, I’m on the market waiting to be wowed.
Minnesota against Chicago kicked things off last night and that meant I had to rapidly brush up on my Western Conference hockey. As the Panthers only played Eastern Conference teams due to the lockout I have watched very little Western Conference hockey during the regular season. Also the west coast games tend to start late and by the time the puck drops I am either asleep or in no state to be watching hockey, so there’s that. Also also the TV I was watching was a dinosaur and after being spoiled by watching hockey in crisp HD this year I had to struggle just to make out the numbers on the backs of jerseys.
The injury to Niklas Backstrom during warmups got things going and Josh Harding was forced to make a surprise start in net for the wild. It was quite an interesting story to kick off the playoffs. Harding only made three starts during the regular season as he was diagnosed with MS in the fall. He didn’t however let the spotlight or the short notice faze him as he stopped 35 of Chicago’s 37 shots.
Quick unrelated side note, I learned last night that rice topped with balsamic vinaigrette, in an upset befitting of an 8 seed v 1 seed matchup, tops the rice-buffalo sauce-ranch combo which in turn tops rice and chili sauce. (I had rice last night if you hadn’t guessed.)
With about four minutes left in the third period I found myself developing a rooting interest in the game, except I wasn’t rooting for the Hawks or Wild, I was rooting for overtime. I also should add that if last night’s third period is how regular season third periods would look if the NHL got rid of the “loser’s point” then “the losers points” should have been done away with yesterday. Maybe I was used to watching teams pack it in as the third period comes to a close but man, the end of the third period last night was exciting as hell. You had both teams trying to push offensively and even though the Blackhawks were dominating the possession battles, it wasn’t like the Wild were just playing Bunker Puck. Simply put, it was exciting and open and action packed and I want to see that in the regular season!
Finally, there was a brilliant illustration of hockey players’ toughness in the third period when Johnny Oduya was whistled for hi-sticking Jason Zucker. There has been a precedent set (although it is not an actual written rule) that a four minute double minor is assessed if blood is drawn. When Oduya got called for the penalty you could see Zucker hopefully checking his face for blood and I got the sense that if hockey players would gladly shed a little of the red stuff if it meant their team gets and extra two minute on the power play. Thats playoff hockey!
Why do fans with out a team root for overtime? Why do players pray for blood after taking a stick to the face? Because its the Cup!!