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In praise of Game 7/The Red Line

April 26, 2012
By BRANDON VEALE - DMG Sports Editor (bveale@mininggazette.com) , The Daily Mining Gazette

You might remember my column from January about the 'one-round rule.' I try to avoid the playoffs for at least a round after my favorite team is eliminated as sort of a cooling-off period.

I have repeatedly and openly violated the one-round rule for more than a week.

Unfortunately, the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs are simply too good to ignore. There have been close games nearly every night, if not overtime thrillers.

And that was games one through six.

Wednesday featured the first of what are hopefully several Game 7's this spring, and it was another doozy.

Consider the following: The defending champions were eliminated on a sudden death goal at home by Joel Ward, a Barbadian-Canadian on the Washington Capitals' fourth line who played four years at the University of Prince Edward Island and didn't even make the NHL until he was 27.

On the other end of the ice, a rookie goaltender (the first since current Michigan Tech goaltending coach Steve Shields) defeats the defending champs in Game 7.

It is a level of drama that is not writeable in any of the other pro sports.

Only 10 of 30 Major League baseball teams make the postseason (and it was just eight until MLB added a slightly-contrived Wild Card showdown back in March).

The NFL has 12 playoff teams but no series, of course. The game might come down to the last play, but no offensive lineman has ever scored a touchdown as big as Joel Ward's goal. More often than not, it comes down to a field goal, which has almost nothing to do with the other plays in the course of the game. It's like calling time-out with 5 seconds left for some guy to play chuck-a-puck for the win.

The NBA has 16 teams, but has managed to capture all of the tedium and none of the drama. There will be as many Game 7's in the NHL this week as there have been in the last two years of the NBA Playoffs combined (there was only one last season and it was between Oklahoma City and Memphis). There have been three overtimes in Game 7 in the NBA in the last 20 years (the last one was in 2006), and the last overtime Game 7 to be decided by three points or less was in 1993.

People are watching. Game 6 of the Bruins-Capitals series was watched by more people than any playoff game outside the Stanley Cup Finals in 14 years. Ostensibly there were some fans not observing the one-round rule out there.

And why shouldn't they be watching? This season's playoffs have been a particularly good vintage. The only series that didn't have at least one overtime game? Detroit-Nashville. The first four games of the Phoenix-Chicago series went to overtime, the first time such a thing happened since the 1950s. Every game in the Washington-Boston series was decided by a single goal.

It seems like I'm playing the "Bucci Overtime Challenge" on Twitter every night - a deceptively simple parlor game from ESPN anchor John Buccigross in which I pick one overtime goalscorer for each team and two contestants picked from the right answers get T-shirts. I've only gotten one right in 15 overtime games this season (Jarret Stoll of the L.A. Kings on Sunday night), proving my prognostication skills are just as good as they were during football season.

Tonight, your options are Ottawa at New York (7 p.m.) and New Jersey at Florida (8:30) - enjoy them, even if like me, you couldn't name more than three current members of the Florida Panthers before the series started.

There'll be a lot of fresh faces in round two: Not only are the Western Conference semifinals Phoenix-Nashville and St. Louis-Los Angeles, none of the remaining teams has won the Stanley Cup since the Devils swept the Red Wings in 1995.

So, I'll probably be out there violating the one-round rule again. I'm not even all that mad about the Red Wings, who peaked in January and were way out of gas by mid-March. They'll throw their cash around in the summer and be back at it next year.

For now, there's Game 7 drama to enjoy. If Rangers/Sens goes to OT tonight, I've got Jason Spezza and Michael Del Zotto.

Brandon Veale can be reached at bveale@mininggazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/redveale.

 
 

 

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