Insights & Insults
SI.com writers trade takes and shots on hot playoff topics
This week: Rangers-Devils, handshake ugliness, the Kings, and KISS guitarists
Martin Brodeur is like Partick Roy was near the end: good when he has to be
The Kings-Coyotes line had the most tension since Red Wings-Avalanche in 1996
Once again, our intrepid hockey scribes have thrown down the gloves to take on some of the Stanley Cup playoffs' big issues and stories as well as each other. Click here for last week's thrilling installment.
MUIR: Alright, AD. Time for you to wipe off the Vinnie Vincent makeup and turn down the volume on your Creatures of the Night eight-track. Let's talk some conference finals stick and puck. I'm guessing that the Rangers wish they had Mark Messier dressing for Game 6. If Torts is resorting to openly praying for goals from the gang that can't shoot straight, they may as well dress a 51-year-old. At least Moose would get to the net.
DATER: Allan, first off, thanks for setting aside your viewings of Apple's Way reruns to talk hockey here. Guaranteed, Mark Messier could come out of retirement RIGHT NOW and play a better game than Mike Rupp. And Rupp wasn't the worst of the Rangers in Game 5 (though he wasn't good). That would be Michael Del Zotto, whose plus-minus in this series is starting to resemble the temperature in Winnipeg in January. I picked the Devils in six before the series, and let's give a tip o' the hat to Pete DeBoer. Yeah, I'm a little worried about his complexion these days, but the man is gettin' his coach on isn't he?
Pierre McGuire made a good point at the end of the Game 5 telecast -- when he could get a word in edgewise between Doc and Edzo -- something to the effect of, "If you look panicked as a coach, your team can play panicked." And vice-versa. DeBoer is projecting well behind his bench, never lettin' 'em see him sweat, always with that "It's no problem, we're fine, we're gonna win this thing" calm. Whereas Torts....Hey look, I like Torts really, his juvenile press-conference antics aside. But let's face it, the guy's emotions probably wear his guys out after a while. He's got to stop looking like The Most Anguished Man in the World all the time. It's...stressful.
MUIR: Gotta love DeBoer, another great alum of the University of Windsor like your ol' buddy Joel Quenneville. He's pushing all the right buttons. He's done much the same thing for the Devils as Darryl Sutter did in LA. He kept the defensive chassis that Jacques Lemaire installed and added some aftermarket offensive aggression. They're not just a meaner machine for it, they're a lot more fun to watch. I know I harp on that point a lot, but I don't think a little entertainment is too much to ask from a high-priced sporting event.
I remember seeing Stephen Gionta during early call-up and wondering how shallow the Devils' talent pool must be if that guy was their best option. Come playoff time, he's been a different player. Smart, aggressive, surprisingly strong on the puck. I gotta believe that DeBoer had a lot to do with that transformation. He clearly has confidence in the guys and they're responding. You know, if they get through this round, they have a real shot to beat the Kings...as long as Marty Brodeur doesn't give away too many freebies. This team might actually win in spite of rather than because of him.
DATER: I'm really confused about this part of the Devils' run: you just really have no confidence in Marty. I mean, he always seems like he's one step away from playing like Johnny Unitas in a Chargers uniform or something. Really, he hasn't been all that good in the playoffs. But you know what? Strike that. He's been good enough in the right moments. Patrick Roy was like that at the end of his career, too. Like Toby Keith sang -- and I only know these lyrics because you posted them on your Facebook page, Allan -- "I ain't as good as I once was. But I'm as good once as I ever was." This is Marty's new theme song. But if he adds in "There's a plate of homemade wishes on the kitchen window sill" come Cup final time, I'm picking the Kings in four.
MUIR: Toby Keith: America's greatest philosopher. Well, either he or Joey Ramone proclaimed, "I don't wanna be buried in a pet sematary (sic)." I pretty much live by those words. It ain't over yet, but it's starting to feel like the league won't get its happy ending. The Rangers have that "what's gonna go wrong next?" look, much like their biggest fan, Frankie Francisco. Lundqvist looks shakier than Steve Buscemi in Reservoir Dogs. Brad Richards is skating like me out there (yep, Shrek On Ice). Gaborik finally got off the schneid, but it hardly felt like a breakthrough moment when he tied it up on Brodeur's Folly in the third period. I'm not sure they've got enough left to take this thing to seven.
DATER: I feel fine about my prediction of Devils in six. And that's probably why the Rangers will definitely send this puppy to seven. You said last week that you were William H. Macy of The Cooler for one week. Try being that guy your whole life. They were going to name that movie The Life of Adrian Dater, but it was too obscure. I've tried to count the Rangers out all year, and every time they bite me in the rear.
MUIR: I'm sticking with the Devils to win this round, but I'll take the Kings in six for the Cup. The Devils will be able to look at the tape and see how the Coyotes slowly started reeling them back in after Game 2, but I think the Kings will learn from their mistakes as well. If they can get back to that consistent forecheck, they'll finally get their parade in front of Elmo and Batman and Spongebob and probably a few Kardashians on Hollywood Boulevard.
DATER: What went on in that Kings-Coyotes handshake line? That was downright hostile. I'm gonna give Shane Doan a pass. He just had a huge stomach punch when Pancakes Penner put that biscuit in the basket to end it on his home ice, plus he had to watch his teammate, Michal Roszival, hobble off the ice from Brown's hit, but, I must say, after watching it about 10 times, it was a legal hit. I was thinking today how fun it would have been to see Doaner just say "To hell with it" and haul off and clock Brownie in that line. We'd never stop talking about it. It would live on forever in YouTube Hall of Fame.
MUIR: Sure, right there with Sweet Brown and Antoine Dodson. As for the hit, yeah, after 10 views I can see that it probably was a borderline play at worst, but if Brown was able to make initial contact up top, he should have finished with his upper body, not followed through with his leg. Either way, with Rozsival writhing on the ice, the optics were bad and I remain surprised there was no call.
DATER: I could definitely put on a Coyotes hat here and argue that a call could have been made. For the second week in a row, though, I'm kind of in the terribly awkward position of defending Dustin Brown. I feel like the attorney for Al Capone a little bit. Let's agree on one thing, though: Brown takes just as good as he gives. He took more than a few "tough" hits in that final game. He doesn't whine about it, either. Yeah, he's a dirty guy at times. I'd absolutely put up "Wanted" posters all over town with his face on it if I was a fan of the team he's playing. But in the end, I'm not sure the Coyotes can sit and cry to the refs for the way things went when they had guys like Mike Smith acting like George Washington cutting down the cherry tree with his stick, and more uncalled slew foots than a forest full of reindeer.
MUIR: I might have said "more uncalled slew foots than a seventh grade dance," but reindeer, okay. So, less than five minutes after the Brown hit, the series is over and they're shaking hands. It's amazing to me how quickly the guys are able to stuff away the animosity that builds up over the course of a series and go through that line without grinding their glove in someone's mush. But that was the most tension I've seen since the Avs-Wings series when Claude Lemieux suckered Kris Draper. You were there, right?
DATER: Yes, I was there in '96, at McNichols Sports Arena, watching that handshake line after the Avs beat the Red Wings. This was the infamous one, right after Claude Lemieux's horrible hit broke bones in Draper's nose, jaw, cheekbone and right eye socket, with five teeth bent inward and 40 stitches around his eye. (I looked this up, from an old story I did.) The thing was, nobody on the Wings, except captain Steve Yzerman, knew how badly Draper was hurt at the time of the handshake. The team's medical staff didn't tell anybody besides him and the coaches while the game was on because they didn't want the Wings retaliating the whole time -- Game 6, with Detroit down 3-2. It wasn't until after the game, in the locker room, that they saw. That's when Dino Ciccarelli uttered the immortal words "I can't believe I shook this guy's frickin' hand." Or maybe his words were, to bad lip read here: "I cart bonanzas into sashaying tad gummit friendly henriettas." I'm not sure.
MUIR: I know the wound was still fresh, but I was a bit surprised by the level of bitterness coming out of the Coyotes' room after the game. Who put the cod liver oil in their water bottles? All the moaning about the calls sounded like my kids whining when one thinks the other got a bigger piece of cake. I'm right there with the Yotes that the officiating was brutal in that game, but it went both ways. Look, they got their chance with the extra man in OT when Doughty got tagged with that phantom call and they did nothing with it. And that pretty much summed up their shortcomings throughout the series right there. They couldn't capitalize on their chances.
DATER: Yup, agreed. Phoenix, by the by, was the third-least penalized team in the NHL during the regular season. Then, they want to turn around and say they were targeted, etc? Nope, the dog ain't gonna hunt that one. But one last thing about Doughty: I would have definitely sent his butt to the box for an extra couple minutes after his whiny stick-smashing displays on calls that went against him, or weren't called the other way. Now THAT was embarrassing to sportsmen everywhere.
MUIR: Any other point in the contest and he gets 10 more minutes to figure out the best way to turn his stick into composite kindling. OT in an elimination game? No chance that call gets made. Never gonna happen.
DATER: Guaranteed, though, he gets the first borderline call against him in the Cup final because of that. Refs don't forget that stuff later on.
MUIR: Wait a minute...when you say Doughty, do you mean Brad Doty? I saw him mentioned on the news the other day in LA. Seems like a real up 'n' comer.
DATER: I'm tellin' ya, those Sacramento Kings are really having themselves one heck of an NHL playoffs aren't they? All led by Brad Doty, for sure. I mean, can local TV sportscasts get any worse in this country? Congratulations to the LA hair-sprayed dingbats on that one, eh? They will live on forever in YouTube's Hall of Shame for their mangling of all things hockey in these playoffs. Even Ron Burgundy would be embarrassed.
MUIR: You wouldn't see Champ Kind making mistakes like that. And it's not just local TV. The Kings are fast becoming the Larry Burns of the NHL. They can't get no esteem. (I'm not afraid to throw down an obscure Simpsons reference, no sir). Did you see this offer on the league's own site? Be the first on your block to get an official Alex Kopitar t-shirt! If the Coyotes had won, I guarantee they wouldn't have made that mistake with Shawn Doan.
DATER: I mean, I don't ask for much from my TV fare anymore. But I gotta get me one of those Alex Kopitar jerseys, word up man.
MUIR: All the cool kids have them.
DATER: We will revisit this next week, (Ghost and) Mr. Muir.
MUIR: Hopefully I won't find so much common ground next time with a guy who ranks Cousin Vinnie as KISS's greatest guitarist.
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