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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.
4:26 PM ET, 5/19/06

Carolina's must-have bathrobe

Posted by Michael Farber
Mike Commodore dons the bathrobe that has Hurricanes fans buzzing.
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
If you can't have rats (Florida, 1996) or fabulous red fright wigs and green hard hats (Calgary, 2004) or airborne octopi (Detroit, basically any year since the early 1950s), the sophisticated Stanley Cup aficionado at least can have his (or her) very own Mike Commodore bathrobe.

The white robe, embroidered with a red No. 22, is all the rage in Carolina. And not just among the shut-in crowd or those, like Tony Soprano, who like to fetch their newspapers while wearing one. Most of the Caniacs don their standard Carolina hockey sweaters when they come to the rink, but the in-crowd arrives in the robe, in honor of the frizzy-haired defenseman. The souvenir shop at the arena has sold about 300 of the things, the most action for a bathrobe this side of Hugh Hefner.

"Oh, Hef, definitely," Commodore said when I asked him who was sexier in the robe, him or Hefner. "He's got a whole thing going on."

True, the bathrobe -- excuse us, smoking jacket -- is basically a cottage industry for Hefner, if the Playboy mansion can be considered some kind of cottage.

The Reader's Digest condensed version of the Commodore robe story is this: at Christmas, the Hurricanes passed out a list of a dozen or so items that the players could chose as gifts - barbecues, etc. Commodore chose a team bathrobe. ("I thought I might actually get some use at it," he explained.)

When it finally arrived with about six weeks left in the season -- apparently Santa was in the Caribbean in January and February -- Commodore put it on in what in hockey is known as, naturally enough, the dressing room. Veteran teammate Glen Wesley jokingly suggested to Commodore that he get his number stitched on it; one of the equipment guys obliged. Word leaked out, and suddenly the Commodore bathrobe was a thing, a collectible in The Research Triangle. He doesn't get a cut from the sales, but then again, he does make $450,000 as year.

Actually, this is the second time Commodore has become a playoff cult figure. In 2004, when his season-long growth of red curls spilled out of his Flames helmet, fans in Calgary took to going to games wearing wigs with a similar look -- at least when they weren't wearing a model of the green hard hat that Flames players would award to the hardest-working hero of the game.

The beauty of these all things is they are organic, part of the fabric of the game and the teams that spawn them. There has been something missing from Florida hockey since the NHL proscribed those plastic rats -- a tribute to the soon-to-be-late rodent that Panthers forward Scott Mellanby one-timed with his stick in the dressing room -- after the 1996 final. (Yeah, I know. A playoff contender.)

A Detroit playoff game without an octopus would be like an American network regular-season telecast without Detroit, Colorado, Dallas, Philadelphia, the New York Rangers or Boston -- simply unthinkable. The silly add-ons bring a little fun, make the hockey experience a little happier, unlike all the programmed nonsense that goes under the post-modern term of "game presentation."

So, here’s to the Commodore bathrobe, the greatest terry in the NHL since former Flyers coach Terry Murray.

Just don’t forget to cinch.

4:02 PM ET, 5/19/06

Each team's Smythe candidates

Posted by Tom Layberger
Sure, there is plenty of hockey to be played before one team hoists the Stanley Cup. But as the conference finals begin, let's look at three possible Smythe Trophy candidates from each of the four remaining teams. Others may emerge in the final two rounds, but for their teams to carry on, the players below -- a largely fresh batch of names for this time of year -- must continue to come up big.

Ilya Bryzgalov: He tied a 61-year-old rookie postseason record with three straight shutouts and enters the West finals with these remarkable numbers: 0.87 GAA and .967 save percentage. Teammate and 2003 Smythe winner Jean-Sebastien Giguere was 1.60, .949 after two rounds.

Scott Niedermayer: The veteran captain may be the best player remaining in these playoffs. The influence of his leadership cannot be understated on a team loaded with youngsters. He also has seven points.

Teemu Selanne: The team's leading playoff scorer (5-5-10) is appearing in his first conference finals. He has played nearly 100 games this season, but appears to have as much zest in his stride as he did a decade ago.

Dwayne Roloson: After his first three games as an Oiler following his trade from Minnesota, his record was an unsightly 6-19-2, though he had a solid save percentage. Now, fans in Oil Country are going wild over the goalie that has come up with the big saves at key moments.

Chris Pronger: The leading scorer among all playoff defensemen (2-10-12), Pronger kept the Sharks' Joe Thornton at bay and his long reach clogged many a passing lane the whole series.

Ryan Smyth: His playoff total of 11 points doesn't begin to hint at his impact. Smyth has become the face of this postseason in more ways than one as he has persevered with his team. Plus, Smyth and Smythe would go well together.

Ryan Miller: Thanks to allowing a combined 11 goals in two games, his 2.25 GAA and .921 save percentage are actually the worst among the remaining four starting goalies. Otherwise, the rookie has allowed two or fewer goals in eight of nine outings.

Henrik Tallinder: A dark horse for sure, but Tallinder is an eye-opening plus-13 and operates under great calm in pressure situations. He has also chipped in with seven points, one-third of his regular season total.

Chris Drury: Drury has a knack for finding the sporting spotlight. This spring has been no exception as he is tied for the team lead in goals (6) and points (13). He is also the only Sabre to have won a Cup.

Cam Ward: All the rookie has done is come in and win eight of nine starts since his team was down 0-2 to Montreal in the opening round. His 1.77 GAA and .930 save percentage are figures that are second to Bryzgalov.

Eric Staal: Not only has the Canes' playoff run allowed the young center to show off his considerable skill, but also his grit. Staal's 15 points (in 11 games) are tied for second behind the eliminated Patrik Elias, who was somebody's (OK, mine) pre-playoff pick for Conn Smythe.

Rod Brind'Amour: His terrific season has continued into the playoffs winning big draws (even letting a big one go), logging considerable ice time, grinding in the corners and leading his team with six goals among 11 points.

OK, it's your turn. Which one of these is your favorite Conn Smythe candidate? Or do you have someone else in mind?

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