I've been watching the NHL playoffs religiously since 1969. Yes, since Bobby Orr launched himself past the St. Louis Blues and into Stanley Cup history.
Yet despite all that time watching Stanley Cup Playoffs I find there's always something new to learn or see every year. Sometimes those things are Sean Avery appalling, but more often than not they are Mario Lemieux amazing. These are the 10 new things I've seen or learned this playoff year.
Who knew? The only time in history it's ever happened before was 2004 and then they lost the Western Final to Calgary. Good for them! For the second time in 18 seasons they're on to the third round of the playoffs.
Again, who knew? Last time it happened, 1994, was their third year in the league.
For years now net-sized pads, the neutral zone trap, and allowing defenses to tackle attackers has resulted in a premium in the playoffs on defense and great goaltending. Teams without goaltenders used to go nowhere and a team with nothing but a great goalie could make it to the Stanley Cup finals. Think Hasek and Buffalo or Kolzig and Washington or even Roy and the Canadiens or Calgary and Kiprusof. This year there are a pile of teams succeeding in the playoffs despite mediocre or worse goaltending.
The UFC has banned fish-hooking for a reason. The NHL apparently needs to put the same rule in place for Carcillo or he's likely to get his fingers bit off.
The NHL regular season has always been a poor predictor at best of how a team will fair in the playoffs.
It seems worse than ever this year.
The league, which is driven economically by regular season ticket revenue, should be worried by the trivializing of their regular season. They happily claim whenever asked anything that just as Kevin Bacon told us in Animal House, "All is Well!"
This is despite the fact that everyone's dream playoff matchup, Washington vs Pittsburgh (or Crosby vs Ovechkin), was derailed this year. I wonder what they'll say if the seventh and eighth seeds end up in the Eastern Final?
Lip service was always paid in the past to the idea that the playoffs are a new season where anything can happen. This year it's true. League parity has apparently rendered all the teams in the league capable of beating or losing to each other.
The Bruins were the worst offensive team in hockey. In the regular season.
The Habs were the worst five-on-five team in the league. In the regular season.
Brian Boucher hasn't been a real NHL goalie in a decade. In the regular season.
But it's playoff time now and apparently anything can happen.
Despite insolvency and being administered by that crack team down at NHL headquarters, Dave Tippet et al managed to get the Coyotes into the playoffs. They even generated three home playoff dates for the organization.
However it does appear that the death knell is ready to be sounded and the whole sorry package is likely to be hustled back up over the Canadian border, probably in the dead of night.
What they managed as a hockey team despite all that is incredible though and deserves respect.
The Avalanche spent one year as the worst team in the west before getting back in the playoffs. They might have been better served long term by one more year with a lottery pick. Still, long suffering fans of the Maple Leafs and the Islanders should take note. It doesn't have to take this long.
This picture speaks for itself, but Satan, Boucher and Mark Recchi are all players who I felt had nothing left to contribute to NHL teams.
Wrong, Wrong, Wrong. I didn't see Joe Pavelski or Mikael Samuelsson leading their teams in scoring. Matt Cullen had eight points in six games for Ottawa? Maybe he is a useful UFA to pick up. The playoffs always surprise.
Despite 40 years of watching hockey playoffs, despite a level of cynicism about sports organizations in general and about my team in particular that's reaching epic proportions, despite my negative assessment of the Montreal Canadiens' virtues as a team and prospects for the future, it's still fun to watch your team go on a run deep into the playoffs. Especially when, like in 1971, you didn't think there was a chance they were going anywhere. It's still fun to watch them win.