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Only in the playoffs is watching hockey more fun than at Christmastime.
First, you are full.
Second, your children are occupied.
Third, your significant other is either engaged with their significant mother or reading the next installment of the book club.
All that, my friends, leaves us free to watch Alexander Ovechkin and ponder how someone so homely can be so good.
I mean, to the bone ugly, with the tooth in or out.
Pre Game - 7:21 p.m.
Mike Gartner was perhaps the most polite man ever to wear the Maple Leafs blue.
And yet he got one of the toughest breaks.
It was he that was traded from the New York Rangers so the Blueshirts could snap up Anderson who gave them just the right degree of mean. Gartner never won that Cup and joined the list of players including Darryl Sittler and Borje Salming and Gil Perreault.
The Gartner ceremony also reminds you of the tradition of playing in Toronto. There are 16 numbers hanging in the rafters in Toronto, four, including Gartner, in Washington.
Want to get back to the Christmas thing.
Got the kids a Wii, meaning my physical advantage of size and strength, like all the others, no longer applies.
Many nice gifts of chocolates and books and belts. Also got underwear that are, I believe, the very same ones Superman wore outside his tights.
We don’t study the demos on gender in blogs like this one but as a boy, I often assume I am writing to bother males. Men, you know exactly the underwear of which I speak.
This does not mean that women are not welcome in the big top of this blog. For one thing, there is no way of keeping them out, even if I wanted to, which I don’t.
It’s like what Lyndon Johnson (read the history books, kids) said when they asked him why he didn’t fire the dress-wearing, paranoid J. Edgar Hoover as director of the FBI.
“Because,” he said, “I’d rather have him in the tent peeing out than outside the tent peeing in.”
Men, it is of utmost importance that the women in your life understand the need to watch and play hockey regularly. This takes management in all other areas of life, from in-law control and management to the number of kids you acquiesce to father.
Let’s always keep this in mind. Night like tonight, spent in the basement or alone and blissfully undisturbed, is why we live.
Hagman scores. 1-0, Leafs.
The Leafs entered tonight’s game 25th in the league, eight points ahead of the Islanders who sit in dead last.
This, of course, is the wick that ignites the dominant debate of the season.
Everyone wants a season in the playoffs. Not everyone wants it right now, especially after considering the dividends that came with drafting Luke Schenn fifth overall.
This thing will sort itself out nicely but there are two things worth remembering.
First, professionals do not lose on purpose. The might accept a losing situation, but they do not create them. I worked for the Toronto Sun for years but never accepted the argument from critics inside and outside the business that because the Leafs were a profitable endeavour, there was no motivation to win.
My answer was always the same: try telling that to Pat Quinn, or Ken Dryden, or John Ferguson or Richard Peddie. Winning is good business. A professional hockey person or a man who prides himself in marketing can’t embrace losing any more than they can breathe through water.
Now, here is point number two. The kind of ineptitude you want is not what you want.
I point, of course, to the Detroit Lions, who lost their 16th and final game, Sunday. They have had one playoff game in 47 years. They used their first rounder to draft a wide receiver for three straight years. They are incorrigible.
So when you think you want bad, think it through. It’s not as great as you think.
Still 1-0. Fine game.
End of Second Period - 8:56 p.m.
Alexander Ovechkin may be my favorite player.
I remember talking to him when he was a rookie.
Through broken English, he was talking about feeling trapped.
He held up his hands, fingers spread, one hand facing up, another to the side.
He was trying to tell me the word prison.
I thought to myself, how limitless is this kid’s imagination, that he would consider the word prison and then push his hands together to make me understand.
Hockey people love his enthusiasm, love his willingness to hit and be hit, love his speed and his shot and his unwillingness to ever give up on a shot on goal.
But what I really like is how stone-cold ugly he is.
Alexander Ovechkin is an exotic with a missing tooth and bangs not seen since Caesar.
He is the NHL’s reigning sex-symbol, a crossover star who graces video games and magazine covers.
You couldn’t invent this guy.
Two hits to create a scoring chance, hits the post and then finally puts it through Toskala with eight seconds left. Caps 2, Leafs 1.
In the second period, Chris Clark of the Capitals absolutely cold-cocked Jonas Frogren with a gloved fist. I mean right on the buzzer.
Frogren just looked at him. Maybe there was a smile too. Clark figured he might as well try it again and eventually Frogren and he skated away for a two-minute siesta in the penalty box.
Jonas Frogren is one tough hombre.
They say the key to hitting is timing. It follows that the key to pitching is destroying timing.
I think that’s what Jonas Frogren will be able to do, destroy timing with the kind of presence that hasn’t been seen in a Leafs defenceman since Dmitry Yushkevich.
Game Over - 9:47 p.m.
Brooks Laich picks up his own rebound after Tomas Kaberle’s timid pass from behind his own net tp set up the Caps’ insurance goal.
It’s a backbreaking play. The Leafs lose on a terrible late decision and an Ovechkin goal that dribbled through Vesa Toskala’s equipment.
There are no moral victories for players, but there are for followers.
The Leafs, up against a better team that is built around the game’s dominant superstar, went step for step with Washington.
Upstairs, I hear everyone retiring. I have to tread carefully. Where there once was something close to order, there are now little piles of presents, not yet put away.