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.
2:05 PM ET, 4/27/06
Time for Stars to tap Hedberg?
Posted by Allan Muir
You are Dallas coach Dave Tippett, and you wake up this morning with a very important decision to make. Your team has just put together its best effort of the postseason. Brenden Morrow and Sergei Zubov were forces of nature. Maligned goaltender Marty Turco gave you a chance to win.
And yet the Stars still managed to lose, victims of one too many stick infractions and a couple of bad bounces that found their way into the back of the net at the worst possible time. That's why they find themselves down 3-0 to a Colorado team ready and able to put its boots to their collective throats.
So you're Dave Tippett, and you have to find a way to scratch out one miserable win. Make it 3-1, and you go back to Dallas to fight another day. Fail, and you might find yourself out of a job, recent contract extension be damned.
Do you play Turco? He won you 41 games in the regular season and he's a big reason that you finished second in the West. But look at his postseason stats. He's given up 14 goals in the series, ranks 18th out of 19 active goalies for goals-against (4.54), and 17th for save percentage (.831). None of those miserable numbers would matter a whit if he were 3-0 in this series. But he's 0-3, so they do.
Do you play Johan Hedberg? He has a postseason record superior to Turco (10-10 with a 2.31 GAA), and was solid in relief over the last month of the season, going 3-2 and giving up just 12 goals in the process. Carolina coach Peter Laviolette looks like a genius this morning for going with his backup last night against Montreal. Could Hedberg provide Tippett with the same lightning-in-a-bottle magic?
It's a tough call. The Stars exchanged vows with Turco mid-season, signing him to a four-year, $22.5 million extension. He's the present, and future, of the team. Sitting him for this pivotal game sends the message that they don't believe he can get the job done when it matters most. But the way the puck's been bouncing, and the way the Stars have been playing in front of him, you have to wonder if there's any way Turco can dig himself out of this hole.
So if I'm Tippett, I don't worry about hurt feelings or how Turco rebounds next season. I have to win tonight. So I go into the room, tell everyone in it that they're responsible for Turco sitting on the bench, tap Hedberg on the shoulder and hope everyone finally responds with the kind of effort they're capable of delivering.
It is that time of year in the NHL when injury information is as guarded as Fort Knox. Even though everybody that was tuned into Game 1 of the Rangers/Devils series last Saturday could see Jaromir Jagr was having great difficulty with his left arm or shoulder, all the Rangers would predictably indicate is that the great player suffered an "upper body injury".
While Saku Koivu's visit to the hospital late Wednesday night was
fortunately referred by coach Bob Gainey as precautionary, the Habs' captain
was clearly -- and accidentally -- struck near the left eye by an errant
stick that caused bleeding in that area. But should Koivu miss Game 4 of the
Carolina series, don't be surprised if the Montreal injury report indicates
it is in fact due to an upper body injury.
If so, there have been more insulting (to our intelligence) injury reports.
Before a 1997 playoff match against the Oilers, the Stars' Greg Adams was
seen leaving Reunion Arena on crutches. It was later announced that he did
not dress because he suddenly came down with "flu-like symptoms."
In situations such as Adams', teams feel there is tremendous potential harm
in simply revealing a leg injury. Alas, such is the nature of such postseason
information and we have all reluctantly grown accustomed to it.
Now, we don't expect injury reports to reveal more than they have to. And that includes the regular season. For example, during a late-1990's visit to Dallas, the Canadiens' game notes indicated that Patrice Brisebois was out with, well, I'll just say a bruised groin. That is what the notes probably should have indicated. Did we really have to know that both of them were bruised? There it was in plain English -- and French. In instances like that, I would have actually preferred the term "mid-body injury" thank you very much.
In the playoffs, forget any such specificity with respect to injuries no
matter the team or media relations staff. But, come on, it can't hurt to
give us a little bit of info especially if there is no great secret. Enough
For one glorious night Wednesday, the Philadelphia Flyers reset the clock to the spring on 1974, travelling on Professor Bob Clarke's wayback machine. Sure, the sweaters were black instead of Halloween orange and there were some of those Europeans sprinkled throughout the lineup instead of toothless Canadians, but the modern Flyers managed to transmogrify themselves into the Broad Street Bullies -- minus the brawling -- to claw back into their series against the Buffalo Sabres.
The night game began with Lauren Hart singing a virtual duet of God Bless America with the late Kate Smith, the talisman of those fierce Flyers teams, and it ended in the final minute with hats and pompoms and freebie orange T-shirts and other debris littering the ice after Simon Gagne's empty-net goal put a final punctuation on a 4-2 win in Game 3. In-between the Flyers punished the Sabres with body checks; menacing Flyers defenseman Denis Gauthier speared Buffalo's J.P. Dumont in the gut -- not hard but right where the forward had undergone surgery earlier in the season for a sports hernia -- and the sellout crowd lustily jeered the fallen Sabre; Peter Forsberg channeled his inner Clarkie by banking in a couple of goals off the Sabres and also taking a charging penalty; Broad Street era goalie Bernie Parent appeared on the video screen to show off his pair of Stanley Cup rings and lead a "Let's Go, Flyers" chant; and two dandy fights broke out in the crowd. The circus was going on across the parking lot in the old Spectrum, but the big top of the Wachovia Center had the real action.
Detroit expropriated the name Hockeytown, but Philadelphia is the best, most passionate American hockey city. Not the most sophisticated -- the panacea for the Flyers woes at any given time have always been reduced to "Hit somebody"; Flyers fans love to snack on hockey tartare -- but the most engaged. Maybe the Flyers can't quite match the Red Wings body-for-body in attendance, but this is the only U.S. city that loyally supports the NHL team and the Flyers' minor-league affiliate, the Phantoms, who haunt the Spectrum perhaps 150 yards away from the big rink. The Wings could barely draw in the Dead Things Era of early and mid-1980s, but the Flyers have packed in crowds since 1967-68, when the NHL expanded beyond the so-called Original Six. The Flyers have done it with only minor successes in recent times. While the Wings have won three Stanley Cups since 1997 (sweeping Philly that spring), the Flyers have only those long-ago titles, in 1974 and 1975, to fall back on.
The Flyers don't look capable of adding another Cup this year. But in the second period, when they outshot Buffalo, 17-9, when Forsberg was dangling and Gauthier was spearing and a few people in the he crowd were throwing haymakers, the Flyers made the small, quick, clever Sabres merely look small.