The playoff march is an every-other-day saga of games and mini-dramas. The outcome one night leads to off-day questions that are left to be answered on the next. It's a dizzying and exhilarating rite of spring across the NHL. Let's look at some examples from the Conference Semifinals.
One thing you can figure into every playoff season is the impact of injuries. Adding to the intrigue is the secrecy surrounding the nature of an injury and whether a player is available on any given night. In the Eastern Conference series between the Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins, one of the emerging storylines heading into Monday night's Game 6 in Montreal is the status of several Habs' blueliners.
The Canadiens had already lost their top defenseman,
Of course, if Spacek and Gill play, it will be just another heroic effort by banged-up players at playoff time. That is a long-standing given in our sport that adds to the compelling nature of playoff hockey and heightens the sense of sacrifice required to hoist the Stanley Cup. Out of that mindset, the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers have two examples of storybook endings. First,
Speaking of valor and long odds, in Chicago on Sunday night, the Blackhawks had a chance to close out the Canucks, who had lost three straight in self-destructive fashion. Vancouver had lacked discipline and goaltender
In short, the Canucks looked like the team that won handily in Chicago in Game 1. Can they carry that form forward? Certainly. Will they? That hasn't been easy to gauge this spring. They fell behind in the first round 2-1 before reeling off three straight wins to eliminate the Kings. Down 3-2, they will have to do it again without defenseman
And how about the San Jose Sharks, who lost Game 4 in Detroit in blowout fashion, raising the specter of their past postseason failures yet again? In Game 5 two nights later, they played with poise and confidence that had little to do with the past and everything to do with the task at hand. Predictable? Probably not. But goaltender
So while the storylines ebb and flow in a 48-hour cycle, one thing remains constant: the effort expended is valiant, with a hero -- simply born out of an unfathomable willingness to help his team -- waiting in the wings.