Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Old Team Wins...

...Not likely to face the current one.

Growing up in the Cincinnati area has forever warped my sports affiliations (much as New Yorkers root for the Yankees, even if they remember the pre-George days, or the Mets, if they remember the Yankees).

In hockey, we had the Swords. For a few years, the Sabres farm team played locally, winning an AHL championship, and--best of all--broadcasting all of their games on the radio, with announcers who knew the game.

So, as players such as Peter McNabb moved up, it was the Sabres who got a loyalty (made tenuous when the franchise moved away).

The New York media approach to the Rangers and the Islanders didn't change that, though it weakened over the years. Then we got the Devils, transfers from Colorado.

Wayne Gretzky called them a "Mickey Mouse organization." And one of the radio stations did a send-up of them to the tune (phrase used loosely) of "Men Without Hats."

And I heard a few games, and saw a few games, and was hooked.

John MacLean scoring a goal against the Blackhawks in overtime to give them their first playoff birth. Sean Burke performing well, followed by Martin Brodeur and three Stanley Cups that should have been four. Scott Stevens with a clean check that sent Eric Lindros in the next century, and probably still brings a smile to Rod Brind'Amour's face.

The series against Carolina won't change that. New Jersey has suffered strange goals, including a puck that was kicked in in Game Two:
[T]he puck...bounced off [Niclas Wallin's] skate through Brodeur's legs at 3:09 [in OT] to help the Hurricanes beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 Monday night and take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.

A video review upheld Wallin's first goal of the playoffs.

Buffalo fans know all about pucks being kicked in:
In 1999, Brett Hull and the Dallas Stars "won" the Stanley Cup after Brett Hull scored the winning goal Â? in triple overtime Â? with his skate planted firmly in the Buffalo Sabres' crease. Incredibly, officials declined to review the play (despite several angles showing the infraction) and the dodgy goal was allowed to stand. "Man in the crease, puck is definitely out of the crease Â? you can't explain that one to me," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff remarked. Fortunately, the NHL's supervisor of officials Bryan Lewis had an explanation. The play, he said, had been upheld after reviewing a secret "camera angle from down low that is mounted inside the net and not even available to television."

This year, Buffalo has gotten the breaks
The usually quiet Scotiabank Place [in Ottawa] crowd began to chant "Let's go, Senators!" in the third and Martin Havlat came close to rewarding them when he drove a slap shot off the left post with about 6 minutes left in the period.

Emery stopped Maxim Afinogenov's backhand with 3:54 remaining in the third.

Senators rookie Patrick Eaves shot high and wide on a scoring chance moments later. The rebound bounced off the glass and into the Sabres' crease, where Tallinder reached down and swiped it under himself as players from both teams converged in front of the net.

and needed them all to win probably the closest five-game Best-of-Seven ever:
All five games were decided by one goal in the series that featured a tie score or a one-goal lead for all but 1:40 of total play.

So I am happy for Buffalo, and would love to have New Jersey face them in the conference finals.

ESPN tries to warn that history is not on the Devils's side:
Colorado was the last team to win two in a row after losing the first three games of a playoff series. After falling behind San Jose 3-0 in their 2004 Western Conference semifinal, the Avalanche came back with consecutive wins over the Sharks before losing Game 6.

which would be intimidating except that 2004 was the last playoff season in the NHL.

Three weeks ago, the goal for the year was to face and defeat the Rangers in a playoff series, just because fans of the "1994"s retained only that as their point of pride.

That goal is accomplished. Coming back from a 3-0 deficit may be too much to ask.


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