How about those facing a Game 7?
Well try this on for size. "It's two months of pent-up pressure." … "It's two months of playing under the gun." … "It's one of the most rewarding experiences in your life … but fun … NO!"
That's the way Hall of Famer Larry Murphy described the playoffs to me the other night on the set of "On the Fly." It wasn't that the four-time Stanley Cup winner didn't enjoy the postseason. It's just that under that microscope, he knows no one is playing the game strictly for fun. You're playing to win. Don't forget it's a job. It's as simple as that.
Bill Berg, who experienced three Game 7 situations in the 1993 playoffs with the Maple Leafs, told me it's like a roller coaster. The highs are too high and the lows are too low and both can come in a flash. It's not like the regular season. The tough part about the playoffs is staying on an even keel. It's even tougher coming into a Game 7. He says the danger is letting your emotions run too high. "You feel like bouncing off the walls, but you have to be careful because you'll get into the game and cost your team because you've cross-checked some guy in the face because you're too hyped up," Berg said.
Bad plays are amplified in the post season. See Dan Boyle. Ask Brad Stuart. His simple giveaway on the Detroit power play in Game 6 gave the Phoenix Coyotes early life and they've stretched the series to its limit. The Coyotes now have a chance to reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the franchise was in Winnipeg in 1987. For all the playoff experience the Wings bring to the table -- the current roster has 54 Game 7's under its collective belt -- it's just the fifth time in franchise history the Wings will be on the road trying to win the all important game. Their goalie, rookie Jimmy Howard, never has played in a Game 7 at this level, but there's a first time for everything. Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has played in one Game 7 in his career (a win). The Coyotes' roster, by the way, has 29 games of Game 7 experience.
Maybe everyone should take a moment for a good laugh to release the tension. There's plenty of playoff video for a chuckle or two. Anyone found a puck retrieval system for Anti Niemi yet? If it wasn't for Jonathan Toews, we still could be waiting to finish Game 5 of the Blackhawks-Predators series.
"It's two months of pent-up pressure. It's two months of playing under the gun. It's one of the most rewarding experiences in your life … but fun … NO!"
-- Hall of Famer Larry Murphy describing the playoffs
Who can forget the look on Anze Kopitar's face when his stick became wedged in Henrik Sedin's visor in Vancouver in Game 1 of that series? Now this could have been a scary situation, but it turned out Sedin was fine. I've never seen that one before. Kopitar couldn't figure out what to do. He wanted to extricate his stick but he quickly came to the realization that the composite jammed between Henrik's nose and mask was going to require a delicate operation to remove. Kopitar finally decided to skate off sans stick. Henrik made it to the bench unharmed and was left to wonder why a high-sticking penalty wasn't called. After all, he had the evidence right in front of his nose.
Later in that same game Roberto Luongo jammed his own stick into the straps of his pads. He had to plead for a whistle when his efforts to wriggle out of his predicament failed. There finally was a stop in play, allowing him to slide the stick out of its temporary home, but until then he looked like a salmon flopping on the deck of a fishing trawler.
Evgeni Nabokov looked like he was trying to "bend it like Beckham" when Darcy Tucker left his stick wedged in Nabokov's skate in Game 6. Maybe bigger pads would have kept the stick from getting lodged in there? Oh, I didn't say that, did I?
Even the simple dump-in has created its moments of humor (depending on which side of the score sheet you sit on). The Predators' Pekka Rinne is the latest goaltender this playoff season to miscalculate the path of the puck on a shoot-in. He was well on his way to the corner when Brent Seabrook's center-ice dump-in ricocheted off Patrick Kane's skate laces and into the net. Funny stuff, if you're a Hawks fan.
Heh, someone has to have fun.