Five, count ’em, five games on the docket Tuesday. Three should be great, one OK and one just a last gasp. I’ll let you figure out which is which.
If Game 4 of the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia series is anything like Game 3, players are in for a rough ride and viewers a real treat.
There is little in hockey better than the Pennsylvania rivalry that has re-emerged over the past few seasons and there may be nothing better than a Flyers-Pens game in Philadelphia. Emotional isn’t enough to describe it. Crazed is closer.
The sea of orange. Kate Smith’s God Bless America. Organ-led chants of “Crosby Sucks!” and “Hey Ref, You Suck!” And, oh yeah, furious action on the ice. Game 3 was a rollercoaster of momentum fueled by a Wachovia Center crowd as die-hard and passionate as any in the NHL. Game 4 is sure to be just as raucous.
Look for the Pens to weather the orange storm a little better tonight. They did a good job taking the crowd out of the game Sunday after two early home-team goals and a melee, but couldn’t keep it together. This series has the look of one that could go the distance. Good, I like this kind of hockey.
If the Pens-Flyers tilt isn’t the game of the night, the first playoff home game in Columbus history has the opportunity to be. Firstly, THN’s Adam Proteau will be there live (and in full Civil War regalia) to make good on his November prediction that the Blue Jackets wouldn’t make the playoffs.
Then, of course, there’s the fact Columbus is in desperate need of a win or this series is basically over. The problem is an uber-talented, brutally efficient Detroit squad that will be in no mood for charity. Nationwide Arena will be rocking tonight – think Wachovia Lite – with the Blue Jackets faithful hoping this time the North (or, at least, the more northern team) isn’t victorious in what has been a much more civil war than the Pens-Flyers series.
Game 4 between New Jersey and Carolina also goes Tuesday in Raleigh, with the Devils looking to take a stranglehold on this series and avoid an upset; something many pundits and prognosticators suggested was in the offing.
Expect a close-checking affair, as two of the three games so far have been won in overtime by the road team. And if the Canes lose this one, they’re done like dinner going back to New Jersey down 3-1.
Speaking of done like dinner, the St. Louis Blues are already there, down 3-0 to Vancouver. If the first three tilts are any indication, the Blues will be lucky to win and will, essentially, being doing it just for their fans.
The Blues’ run to the playoffs was inspiring and only bodes well for their future. Once the team jettisons a certain underachieving veteran with a history of contract holdouts and dumb penalties (I’ll let you figure out who that is) and some other dead weight, these kids have a real shot at being good for a while. Good for them. Can’t wait to watch St. Louis mature.
And in Anaheim, the Ducks look to take a 3-0 series lead over San Jose, my pick to win the Stanley Cup. Ouch. Scott Niedermayer has been awesome; he’s the NHL’s version of Steve Nash, the two-time NBA MVP and non-stop, push-the-play Phoenix Suns point guard. It’s not often you see a defenseman take over the power play like Niedermayer, while lining up as a forward. He’s Bobby Orr-ish that way.
San Jose’s big guns will have to get on track or this series will be all but done, too. Ryan Getzlaf has been showing Joe Thornton what it’s like to play against Thornton when he’s on his game. And Big Joe must respond in kind.
Enjoy the fantastic, fanatical fury that is the reset of Round 1.
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John Grigg is a copy editor and writer with The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his Tuesday blog and the Wednesday Top 10.
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