2010 Playoffs: The Good and Bad of Media Hype
Media attention throughout the NHL regular season and playoffs can be a blessing or a curse, depending on what's being said and what's being produced. Some stars thrive on the media attention, while others quietly produce behind the scenes.
This year's playoffs are no different, as the hyped up teams and players are watched closely by the media who thrives off of their every move. But, as with everything in life, sometimes too much of something can highlight negativity more than greatness, and the adage "less is more" can come widely into play.
Here are some examples of the good and the bad performances highlighted from the media hype during this year's playoffs:
Disclaimer: Please understand, also, I know that who the media chooses to follow is not up to the player or team itself most of the time.
Bad: Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals, favored by many to make it far into the NHL Playoffs, were knocked out in the first round against the #8 seed Montreal Canadiens. Now, of course, the media speculated on Washington's lack of success in the playoffs in the Alex Ovechkin era, but many believed this year may have been their year because of the offensive machine they'd put together throughout the regular season, along with their uncontested wins-loses record and points total.
But, as we all know, the playoffs are a different story. While many media outlets found Washington to be the heavy favorites going into the series, we watched them fall, pick themselves up, then fall again. Ovechkin, Washington's most popular player, was held point-less in the first game of the series, and didn't show too much more throughout the rest of the series either. This was, and should have been, credited to the Montreal defense, but, of course, the media also finds a way to JUST highlight Ovechkin's failings without giving much thought to the lack of defense that the rest of the Washington team put forth. Yes, Ovechkin does wear the 'C', so he should do most of the talking about who to blame for losing, but it's obviously a team effort, and the Washington team that was talked about heavily throughout the regular season, failed to show up during the playoffs.
Good: Patrick Marleau (and the San Jose Sharks)
Patrick Marleau, and, let's face it, the whole San Jose Sharks team, faced a lot of negative media attention for their lack of production when playoff time came around the past few years. Last year, the team, as a #1 seed, lost out quickly to the Anaheim Ducks, and, along with loses in the Semi-Finals years before, many of the media outlets believed this year would be another flop. They criticized numerous players for not showing up when they were needed, but one who was singled out many times was Patrick Marleau. His scoring ability on top offensive-minded lines, typically halted production when scoring was needed in past San Jose playoff runs. Obviously, the media did not help this equation as voices resounded with facts about the absence of Marleau, as well.
Well, this year, the media's voices have, so far, been silenced with criticisms of Marleau and San Jose, as they have found themselves in a fight for the top of the Western Conference. Marleau's production was rebuilt in the series against Detroit, as he even scored the series clinching goal in Game 5. Not too bad for a team pointed out for their invisibility in years past.
Bad: Detroit Red Wings
Now, I know the Detroit Red Wings were not the most over-hyped team in the playoffs this year, as they have been many times before, but let's be honest: they're still Detroit. A few months before the end of the season they blew up from fighting for the #8 seed in the West, to the #5 seed overall, and the media thrived on that intensity. Of course, since they did made it to the Stanley Cup in the previous two seasons, their market is one that much of the media salivates thinking about, one NBC for example. Mostly deserving of the overall media attention, yes, but there's one thing the media misses while looking at Detroit: their name doesn't always mean they're going to do something great every time.
This year's playoffs were definite proof of this. When Detroit inched their way past Phoenix, so many people I saw on sports shows had a Detroit/Pittsburgh Stanley Cup Final once again. Sadly, they were mistaken as Detroit lost their handle against San Jose (a team who everyone had as a playoff bust because of reputation), and lost the series 3-1. As previously mentioned, this is proof that just because a team is on top of the media ladder, doesn't mean they can't fall off every once in a while.
Good: Dustin Byfuglien
Dustin Byfuglien may have been a known name throughout NHL before this year's playoffs, but, it was most likely overshadowed with the likings of names such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Byfuglien, known for his big body planted right in front of the goalie, has quietly made a name for himself throughout the playoffs, making his way to the top line of an offensive powerhouse in the Chicago Blackhawks.
Much of the media may have assumed the stars of the Vancouver/Chicago series would have been along the lines of Kane, Toews, or Keith, and though they did play a great part in the series win, Byfuglien was the name finding it's way onto TVs and the internet throughout North America for his presence in the area of Roberto Luongo, and his timely goal scoring (along with a hat-trick, as well). Obviously, at least for the moment, the only names highlighted in Chicago are not just big-names or Olympic stars anymore.
Bad: Roberto Luongo
The words "Canadian Olympic Hero" have been resounded like the U.S. National Anthem throughout this year's playoffs. Not only about one Sidney Crosby, but also about Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo. Luongo, along with other star players such as Ryan Kesler and the Sedin twins, were heavy favorites this year in the West, if Luongo was true to form as he was this past February. But, the words "Olympic Hero" really don't sound too great coming out of TV sets when you see a goalie posting an .895 save percentage throughout the playoffs. Granite, an offensive powerhouse like Chicago can pose a big threat, but this is the time of the year where stars are made, and Luongo didn't shine very bright this year.
Yes, the media may still want to see the Luongo who played a part in some of the highest Olympic Hockey ratings ever, but repeating this to exhaustion would not suffice in getting him to play 100% these playoffs when many media outlets expected him to because of his popular name and Olympic status.
Good: Jaroslav Halak
Jaroslav Halak came into this year's playoffs under the radar, just as the rest of the Montreal Canadiens did as well (which will be touched on later.). Starting Halak in goal was questioned by many in the media, as young goalie Carey Price was lurking in the distance as Montreal's supposed standout goalie. Has Halak proved them all wrong, or what? He has, sometimes alone, carried his team to the Eastern Conference Finals making 40-50 saves numerous times throughout the playoffs.
Though Halak was seen with Slovakia in the 2010 Olympics, his name was not associated with favored teams such as Canada, Russia, or the U.S., therefore he was not noticed as much throughout the Olympic run. Halak back in Montreal, sometimes hidden behind the name Carey Price, has come out as a superstar throughout the end of the regular season and in the playoffs, and has made himself known throughout the world in his own underrated way.
Bad: Evgeni Malkin
From a Conn Smythe winner to virtually M.I.A., Evgeni Malkin was noticeably absent from this year's playoffs (along with his counterpart Sidney Crosby in the Montreal series, but focusing on Malkin because he was last year's playoff M.V.P.). Receiving an award that highlights you as the best player in the playoffs previously undoubtedly gives you a reputation as a clutch player when needed. The media looks for you every time you appear on the ice, assuming you'll score at least more than a few times, right? Of course, that does not always happen, and this year it did not for Evgeni Malkin. Following his every move this year throughout Pittsburgh's playoff run was not really helpful for the media as he did not do much when the camera WAS following him on the ice. Obviously a large turn around from one year ago.
Good: Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens are the prime example so far of why going under the radar can be a blessing in disguise. Entering the playoffs as the #8 seed doesn't come with many frills, as most, except the Montreal faithful, believed they would be ousted in the 1st round if Washington was able to shake their previous playoff woes and play as they did in the regular season.
Obviously, this was not the case. Facing a 3-1 deficit, most had written Montreal off, except for Montreal themselves. They quietly fought back and won the series against Washington, while gaining some attention, but losing it quickly once it was revealed their next opponent would be the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Montreal fought hard in this series as well, finding ways to win with vigor, outstanding goal tending, and a little bit of good luck. I don't know anyone who had Montreal ousting Pittsburgh, but that is just what happened. While the media was tracking Pittsburgh's run, Montreal was finding their own way to put their mark on this series.
No, they have not hoisted the Stanley Cup yet, but, the Montreal Canadiens have found a way to quietly become the Davids in an Eastern Conference full of Goliaths.