Wednesday, April 22: I've never been so down after a playoff win. We beat the San Jose Sharks 4-1 tonight at home, in Dallas, in the opener of our best-of-seven first-round series, but we lost Joe Nieuwendyk, our leading scorer and a guy who takes a lot of pressure off me. About four minutes into the game he injured his right knee after being driven hard into the boards by Sharks defenseman Bryan Marchment.
Why doesn't this surprise me? Marchment is an eighth-year journeyman playing for his sixth team, and his specialty is blowing out guys' knees. He put me on the operating table in December with a low hit that tore ligaments in my right knee. I missed 10 games; the league suspended him for three.
I'm sick for Joe. He was playing great and was really excited about the postseason. As soon as I left the arena I called him at home from my car, just to tell him, Hey, we're thinking about you.
Thursday, April 23: Grim news. Joe has a torn anterior cruciate ligament and cartilage damage. I'd be surprised to see him return before the third round.
I've heard complaints from the Sharks that Game 1 had no flow. Steve Walkom, the referee, called 11 minors on San Jose and nine on us. I'm just happy to see the rules being enforced. Last season our first-round series against the Edmonton Oilers was a free-for-all. We lost in seven games, even though we had finished the regular season with 104 points to their 81. To ease the sting of that upset, I bought a puppy, a golden retriever I named Scout. This year we won the Presidents' Trophy as the league's best regular-season team. Losing in the first round isn't an option. I don't have enough room in my house for another dog.
Friday, April 24: I wasn't around at the end of our 5-2 win. In the second period Marchment nailed me with an elbow to the face, but he was just softening me up for Marcus Ragnarsson, another Sharks defenseman, who later in the period caught me in the back of the head with his stick during a center-ice collision. I blacked out for a bit and missed the third period with a mild concussion. I'm woozy right now, a good 20 minutes after the game, but it's a good woozy. We're up 2-0 in the series.
I'm told that I missed some wild action. I was icing my head when San Jose right wing Owen Nolan ran our goaltender, Eddie Belfour. Eddie was playing the puck behind the net, and Nolan nailed him. It will be interesting to see if the league suspends Nolan.
The Sharks took 20 penalties tonight. All but one of our goals came on power plays. There's a lot of frustration on their side. I think some of their players still want the league to be the way it was in the early 1990s, when die referees put the whistles away. But this is the way the NHL wants it, with the emphasis on creativity and excitement.
Sunday, April 26: We must have borrowed the Sharks' stupidity pills. In today's Game 3 in San Jose we took 20 penalties and lost 4-1.
Their fans rode Belfour the way ours have been riding Marchment. After playing 13 games with the Sharks last season, Eddie signed with us in the off-season. Apparently a lot of San Jose fans took his departure personally. Before today's game a video clip was shown of San Jose's mascot, Sharky, throwing a Belfour dummy off the top of San Jose Arena. The message read, THE EAGLE HAS LANDED.