What a first week covering the Stanley Cup playoffs. This is the time of year when you have to be ready to pile up the frequent flyer miles, but the past 12 days have been the most hectic I’ve experienced in 20 years of covering the NHL. After driving from South Florida to my home in upstate New York (stopping along the way in Raleigh to call the final Panther game on FSN), I barely had time to pack for a trip that began with the first 2 games of the Dallas-Vancouver series. A car service brought me to the Montreal airport last Tuesday (a 3 hour drive) for my cross-Canada flight to Vancouver.
The journey to Vancouver was just the beginning. Game one between the Canucks and Stars turned out to be the 6th longest in Stanley Cup history….a four OT thriller that ended about 5 ½ hours after it began with a 5-4 Canucks’ win. Roberto Luongo faced a modern day record 76 shots and made 72 saves. Daniel Sedin scored the first goal of the game and his twin brother Henrik scored the OT winner. It was the first time brothers had scored goals in a playoff game for the same team since Jeff and Steve Larmer did it for the Chicago Blackhawks back in 1984!
Game two was a more “conventional” playoff game…tight checking and not many scoring chances for either side as the Stars evened the series with a solid 2-0 victory. The fact that the game ended in regulation enabled me to begin the next segment of my playoff adventure. NBC allowed me to take a red-eye after game 2 in Vancouver and travel to Atlanta for Game two of the Thrashers-Rangers series the next afternoon. If all went according to plan, I would arrive in Atlanta at 10:30am….about 4 ½ hours prior to game time. There was a back up plan to have someone to take my spot in the event I didn’t get there on time. Fortunately for me, my flights went smoothly and I made it to Atlanta for the telecast. It was the first playoff game in Atlanta’s franchise history and the atmosphere in Philips Arena was electric. The Rangers’ Sean Avery got a lucky goal off a bad bounce on the glass in the first period and the game winner from Brendan Shanahan in the third to take a 2-0 series lead.
Sunday morning it was back across the country for Games three and four of the San Jose-Nashville series. After a nasty first two games resulted to two Sharks getting hurt and one Predator getting suspended, game three on Monday was a bit more tame and the Sharks prevailed 3-1 to take a 2-1 series lead.
Today is an off day and our crew is going to play golf at a truly magnificent course called Pasatiempo in Santa Cruz. My broadcast partner, former Panther goalie John Vanbiesbrouck, will be on the other team in today’s match. I’ve seen him play and I don’t think I can get enough strokes for a fair game. But, considering what I’ve been through the past two weeks, a loss on the golf course will be a small (I hope) price to pay!