Screengrab via Newestra.com.
Screengrab via Newestra.com.
Chris Collision: I come to you, my man, to help me celebrate one of my favorite things, perhaps my favorite time of year, easily my favorite time of the sports year: the first round of the hockey playoffs. Everything that's rad about sports is compressed into this short stretch.
Keith Spillett: So many storylines it is ridiculous. For me, the biggest one is 57-year-old Raymond Borque leading the Nashville Predators to a fourth seed. He had two goals in Game One and, quite honestly, is playing like he's in his twenties. I know hockey players have a history of playing well into their later years, after all, Gordie Howe played until he was 96, but to see a guy his age this productive boggles the mind.
Chris: Christ, I'm only 37, and just about all I can do, athletically speaking, is ride my bike while listening to grindcore albums. That doesn't sound all that impressive, but bear in mind that an octopus attack rendered me armless.
Keith: Pretty sure that's what happened to the Penguins.
Chris: The Canucks and I will accept that diagnosis with the kind of quiet dignity we have long exemplified. (And by that I mean that I'll BRB: got to find some cop cars to flip over, set aflame and then pee on, etc.)
Keith: By all means. But don't let your Penguin-freude make you forget about the Rangers. The other day a friend left a message on my answering machine screaming "Here come the Blueshirts!" This was our "cops are coming, hide the black market prosthetics" code, and I hid underneath my sink for 25 minutes until I remembered the Rangers were in the playoffs and actually had a ton of talent.
Chris: I get all my Rangers info from a guy for whom the glass isn't half-full, it's full of viper venom and fiberglass, and it's falling off the table. Also the table is on fire. Also the L.A. Kings are taunting your dog and the dog has kind of a worrisome cough going. So it's tough for me to tell if they're actually good.
Keith: No, they're for real, even though the last time they were the number-one seed O.J. was still thought of as a good-hearted running back prone to running through airports for no particular reason. Gaborik, Richards, Callahan, Lundqvist: this team is righteous.
Chris: Don't forget the greatest coach in all of professional sports, by which I mean the only coach in professional sports I know of who came to work with his hand bandaged because he'd broken up a dogfight.
Keith: Definitely adds up to a team with a chance to return Ranger lovers to their rightful place as the most insufferable fans in all of major American sports. They have all the charm of bread-hungry Romans cheering for Emperor Caligula to go thumbs down on a group of cowering six-year-olds.
Chris: Oh, come now: there's way worse fans out there.
Chris: I think. I am not coming up with any right now, but I mean the odds would seem to dictate…
Keith: Whatever, dude. Talking to a Devils fan here.
Chris: Good segue/sequitur, because speaking of Devils, I am loving how the Elder Gods are organizing these games: the only principles I can see are Excess—Flyers drop an 8-spot two games in a row, Sharks/Blues decide to have an unpleasant little war—and Lurching Unpredictablilty, where everything feels like it's a tied series or a sweep the way the smart money wasn't betting.
Keith: The old Rodney Dangerfield bit about going to a fight and having a hockey game break out certainly applies this year. But, the worst beating I've seen in the playoffs was the one taken by Marc Andre-Fleury's self-esteem. He looked like he had flippers for hands, and not in the way that having flippers for hands could conceivably help you as a goalie. The opposite of that. The other side of that coin is how, with very little fanfare, Martin Brodeur continues to add to his resume as the best post-season goalie of this or any era.
Chris: Erm. Ken Dryden's standing behind me right now. And Patrick Roy's standing behind him.
Keith: Call me if they kill you, but I want to talk to about Brodeur some more. Since he hasn't gone HAM on anyone with his stick or married a Kardashian, his achievements doesn't rate as all that important in the modern news cycle, but it is something to behold.
Chris: That's the first round for you, though: infinite glories to behold. Amazing feats, like Crosby scoring 15 seconds into a game, or the ancient Patrick Elias dangling unmolested next to the goal for yawning eternities, finally settling the matter with a gorgeous goal from a Mad Geometer's angle...
Keith: Endless schadenfreude, too. Fired coaches. Upset wins. Shoddy nightmares of incompetence...
Chris: Fleury again? Or just the entire Pens roster?
Keith: Too early to call. Maybe by the second round we'll know.
Chris: Man, I look forward to finding out. There is nothing about this I don't adore and crave. I note for the record that Vancouver and Pittsburgh have endured hellspout conflagrations like so many Bob Rock projects and are now working on their offseason remodels. Best-in-the-East Rangers were down 3-2 in their series against an Ottawa squad that would, on paper, whelm few. We at least got a game seven out of it, and I got to watch it with a Rangers fan whose vocabulary consisted mainly of THAAA YOU GO, BABY, THAAAA YOU FUCKING GO! Which was a hoot.
Chris: Wait, did I just say hoot?
Keith: Even Bob Rock's most terrible St. Anger excesses wouldn’t’ve matched the horrors of New York Sports Radio if the Rangers had gagged that series against the Senators. Imagine listening to a Sunn O))) record after drinking five bottles of Nyquil—
Chris: I kind of already was? Imagining that?
Keith: Then you can start to understand the pure liquid speaker-bile you would have heard. If ever there seemed a mortal lock, it was Ottawa going home to
that awful wasteland of a city our lovely neighbor's fair capital (Eds note: We like Canada.) with yet another inglorious playoff exit.
But, the hockey playoffs are a yearly month-long reminder of the random and brutal nature of human existence. You have a great season, you're having a great time, and all of a sudden you're in the Emergency Room with a fishhook in your tongue and a steel curtain rod through your right eye trying to figure out what happened. You've been Ottawaed, fella, and life ain't never going to be the same.
I gotta admit, watching Atlanta Falcons coach, former Suffocation drummer, and goalie extrordinaire Mike Smith stonewall the Black Hawks' vaunted offense in Game Six was a thing to behold. He had 39 saves, but looked like he could have had 89 if he needed to. The guy is a pure, full-blooded warlock.
Chris: That explains a LOT, actually.
Keith: Unless the Coyotes allow a gorilla to play wing for them or Nashville makes all of their players wear Tammy Wynette masks, no one on the planet is going to be watching that second-round series, but it should be great hockey.
Chris: The trap is all the way back! That said, both teams are excruciatingly good, and the impossibility of coming back against either of them makes the prospect of scoring almost unendurable. Slow games, but incredibly high-tension. You were saying something about Sunn O)))?
Keith: It's nice to see the Los Angeles Kings getting back into the relevant column after years of being relevant only when the Lakers and the Clippers had off nights. I'm happy for them. They have an excellent little hockey team and they didn't have to pillage the decaying, bloated corpse of Edmonton to get it.
Chris: This time. (This time it was the decaying, bloated corpse of the Columbus Blue Jackets, but.)
Keith: Good for them! They beat the Canucks like a red-headed mule. Granted, that creepy Sedin twin seemed like he was a step shy of the glue factory for most of the series but, even that considered, Vancouver seemed to have all the pieces to make a serious run...
Chris: They, as they say, "been Ottawa'd". And now the GM of the Canucks is apparently of the opinion that: his team never recovered from a mid-season...win; his team's strengths are goaltending and coaching. His reality distortion field must be the potentest.
Keith: Heckuva job, Gilly.