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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.
7:20 PM ET, 5/09/06

A quick exit for the Sens, too?

Posted by Allan Muir
After playing phone tag for several hours with a number of high-ranking NHL officials, I finally managed to confirm that, yes, a team still has to lose four times before it's eliminated from a series.

So being down 2-0 to Buffalo doesn't officially put the Ottawa Senators on the links. But doesn't it feel like yet another premature playoff ouster is just a matter of time?

Forget for a moment that the Sabres built up that lead by taking two at Ottawa's Scotiabank Place. It's more important to consider how they grabbed those wins, and what that means for the remainder of what could be a shockingly short series.

Game 1 was a farce, highlighted by a level of discipline and execution you'd expect to see in a game of shinny played on the Rideau Canal. The Sabres showed a lot of moxie in coming from behind five times, but not much else that you'd crow about in a 7-6 OT win.

And Game 2 won't go on the personal highlight reel of anyone from Buffalo save for goaltender Ryan Miller, who flat out stole that one for his teammates after they mustered just 17 shots on Ray Emery. Miller's 43-save performance was a marvelous bounceback effort from Game 1, and featured at least a dozen truly fine stops -- the exact type of stops a Cup contender needs from its goalie.

So as the series heads to the HSBC Arena for Games 3 and 4, no one should be surprised if the Sabres close it out at home.

Basically, they've got Ottawa in a position where the Senators have to take four of the next five to stay alive -- and the Sens haven't even glimpsed Buffalo's A game yet. For that matter, they haven't even seen Buffalo's B game.

Ottawa will play better over these next two contests. Expect the Sens to continue to outshoot the Sabres by a good margin, and to tighten up in the neutral zone where they've relinquished too many possessions. And surely they'll get something out of Daniel Alfredsson, who couldn't play with any less passion than he did on Monday night.

But the gritty, relentless Buffalo Sabres look like a team that will be ready to answer. After all, they have an A game or two up their collective sleeves. And they've got Ryan Miller.

And the Sens? Well, let's hope they've got some good excuses. Because in a couple of nights, by the looks of things, they're gonna need 'em.
5:03 PM ET, 5/09/06

OLN's graphics gone wild

Posted by Tom Layberger
The New NHL brought us more than a new product on ice this season. It also brought us a first-timer in the business of broadcasting hockey: OLN (Outdoor Life Network).

We can only hope OLN does not endure any Terrible Twos next season because, much like Derian Hatcher's play on the Philly blue line, the network's inaugural campaign has given us enough to scream and cry about.

The Stamford, Connecticut-based network gets a pass for early-season audio and video issues, problems that were largely ironed out in due time. But if you have been able to see the playoff action on OLN this spring, then you're doing pretty well. That's because there are so many in-play ad graphics shooting horizontally across the screen that I feel I need to peek through them as though they were Venetian blinds just to see Daniel Alfredsson streaking up the ice.

At least the silly jingle that accompanied the graphic providing scores and times of other games lasted about as long as the Rangers, but for some reason there is a desire to get fancy because it is the playoffs. And that includes a mysterious horn that goes off with every goal that is scored.

The Flyers were trailing the Sabres something like 13-0 late in the second period of Game 6 when Branco Radivojevic scored a goal that was about as meaningful as Donald Brashear's limited ice time in the series. Yet the horn blared like it was a significant tally.

What's next? The reincarnation of the FOX robots?

At least we've been spared the glowing puck (shhh!) but these excessive graphics have been covering more play than Ken Dryden did net. In that same Game 6 Sabres/Flyers telecast, I had to take Joe Beninati's word that Brian Campbell was teeing one up from the near point because a graphic telling viewers about some show unrelated to the sport -- any sport -- obstructed my view.

Game 2 of the Devils/Canes series on Monday night was a prime example of graphics gone wild, and it had nothing to do with Cam Janssen going nuts toward the end of Game 1.

Sadly, viewers were inundated with graphic after graphic pertaining to upcoming shows as opposed to being able to enjoy the game and outstanding commentary provided by the broadcast team of Doc Emrick and John Davidson. It is hard to imagine that the bulk of those visuals could not have waited for a play stoppage.

But of course, the best time to grab our attention is at the most inopportune moment. At one point during the Oilers/Sharks Game 1 broadcast, right as play resumed following a non-commercial stoppage, another of the many network ad graphics emerged from the left of the screen like a Raffi Torres elbow.

The "Bonus Coverage" graphics can also wait until a whistle or at least be less intrusive, which brings me to this next point. On the OLN web site, at the bottom of the postseason broadcast schedule, is this: "As part of OLN's wall-to-wall Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage, we will be bringing you games from Canadian Broadcasters as special bonus coverage, giving fans a perspective from our northern neighbors."

A message to OLN: Please take note of how those broadcasts are conducted so that you can see how our northern neighbors go about them properly.

2:50 PM ET, 5/09/06

WWE gets down with the NHL

Posted by Arash Markazi
About 24 hours after Mighty Ducks fans worked their way through their first "Bryz-ga-lov" chant as rookie goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov worked on his record-tying third consecutive playoff shutout against the Avalanche, fans at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim were hurling less positive adjectives at WWE bad boy Edge who was about to face fan-favorite Mick Foley in a hardcore wrestling match.

While the Pond's transformation from the Ducks' home ice to the site of WWE RAW was fairly quick, a couple hours before the show was to begin Edge and former WWE women's champion Trish Stratus still had their minds on the ice that sat a few layers underneath the ring they would soon be wrestling in.

"I've been following the playoffs real closely since I'm in a hockey pool back home," said Stratus, a native of Toronto, Canada. "I have to go with my Canadian teams, Edmonton and Ottawa. I would love Edmonton to win it since they really pulled it together before the playoffs, but I really think Ottawa is the team of today's NHL. They're a fast team and that's what today's NHL is all about, so I don't see anyone beating them."

Although Stratus is an old-school hockey fan who would have made Don Cherry proud last week when she popped her dislocated right shoulder back in and continued wrestling, she actually likes the new rules that have made the NHL a more offensive game. "It makes for exciting hockey," she said. "It's been awesome. Like that Ottawa and Buffalo game the other day where they combined for 13 goals. I think that's awesome hockey."

As Edge, a Toronto native as well, talked about how big the Stanley Cup playoffs were back home, WWE chairman Vince McMahon strutted by in a suit and teased him for speaking "Canadian," which brought a smile to his face as he tried to collect his thoughts. "It's harder to follow hockey down here [in the States]," said Edge. "Back in Canada we have channels devoted to it. We have the Hockey Channel; we have the Maple Leafs channel, which somehow still continues even though they didn't make the playoffs. We have the CBC, TSN, I mean it's ridiculous in a good way."

The only non-Canadian-born wrestler backstage who knew what was going on in the NHL was Matt Striker, a die-hard Rangers fan from Long Island who has played hockey since he was 11, but hung up his skates and resigned as a high school social studies teacher to become a WWE wrestler last year. Although Striker was impressed with the nearly four-hour shutout streak Bryzgalov was on, he still had a hard time looking at the Ducks cartoonish logo and considering them a real contender.

"I just have a hard time believing in the teams that weren't around when I was a kid," said Striker, 31. "That's my problem. For example, when Joe Thornton went from Boston to San Jose this year, I was like, they have a hockey team? At the same time when you look at their lineup they're one of the best teams. But it's never going to be like the Canadians, Bruins, Maple Leafs, Flyers or any of those old teams."

While Striker was waxing poetic about the good old days of the NHL, Edge walked back to say that Striker "knows nothing about hockey."

"Whatever," said Striker as Edge walked away. "He's a Maple Leafs fan. Edge hopes to one day have a mustache like Lanny McDonald and his favorite player was Ron Duguay because he thought Duguay was sexy when he would skate without his helmet."

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