Drop the gloves during the playoffs with SI.com's writers in the NHL Cup Blog, a daily journal of hockey commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
9:06 PM ET, 4/23/06
Hit Heard 'Round Philly
Posted by Allan Muir
Daniel Briere's winner was the difference maker in Saturday's 3-2 Buffalo OT victory in Game 1 over Philadelphia. But it was Brian Campbell's clean but devastating blow on R.J. Umberger that may turn out to be the difference maker in the series.
"I was just trying to step up and make a play and it ended up being a pretty good hit," Campbell understated after the game.
Umberger's senses were separated from his body just inside his own blue line, immediately after picking up an ill-conceived breakout pass. Back home in Windsor, Ontario, we used to call those Hotel Dieu passes, in honor of the hospital you'd likely wake up in after receiving one. I'm not sure where Umberger woke up, but it was well after he was helped off the ice.
That it was Campbell, rather than, say, a brick wall like Jay McKee who cleaned Umberger's clock is critical. The 6-foot, 190 blueliner, ranked 13th on the Sabres in hits during the regular season, notched one about every other game. If he's chipping in with the body, the Flyers have to know what they're up against.
Not that Philly's going to be physically intimidated. This is a team built for hard-nosed hockey and they'll answer the bell Monday night. But they'll do so now knowing that the Sabres -- every last one of them -- is ready to pay the price, to do what it takes, to win this series. That should mean six or seven games between these two that'll be worth watching.
With intensity the order of the day in the playoffs, big hits are part of the package. Outside of this one, the best I've seen was delivered by Toronto's Pat Quinn on Bobby Orr in the opening round of the 1969 playoffs. Let's hear about the biggest bombs you've seen dropped in the postseason.
True, the Devils have more experienced playoff performers than the Rangers. Martin Brodeur, Sergei Brylin, Scott Gomez, Patrik Elias, Brian Gionta, Jamie Langenbrunner, John Madden, Jay Pandolfo, Grant Marshall, Brian Rafalski and Colin White have each hoisted a Stanley Cup while wearing a Devils jersey. Not a single Ranger is left from the victorious '94 championship team. But you wouldn't expect Jaromir Jagr to be the Ranger to lose his cool in the team's first postseason game in nine years, a resounding 6-1 Devils' victory on Saturday. Jagr took nine shots in Game 1 and had over 13 minutes of ice time on power plays during this penalty-filled game, but he managed just a first-period assist on New York's only goal and in the third period, he may have suffered an injury because of his frustration.
Jagr had control of the puck with New Jersey's Scott Gomez chasing him and the game safely out of reach.