Study in Pennsylvania contrast: Sidney Crosby has 10 points in his last two games. Two goals on two shots, and a snowman worth of assists. It’s one thing to notch an assist from a shot that gets redirected, quite another to make the laser-like, tape to tape passes that seem to be a staple of Sid the Kid. Last night’s behind the back bounce pass off the boards, resulting in a backhand flip to Ryan Malone in front, was highlight reel material this morning. Life is good for the #1 draft pick.
Then there’s Petr Nedved. A pair of shots, one goal, and a low yo (that would be -11 to mash most appropriate craps and plus/minus ratings) in ten games. Nedved was waived for the second time this season by the Flyers, and after clearing waivers he ended up back with the Phantoms in the AHL. In a way, I feel for the guy — he’s lost his glamorous wife (Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated model Veronika Varekova) and his glamorous job in the same year. A winter of discontent, indeed. Life sucks for the #2 draft pick. Nedved was chosen second in the 1990 draft, ahead of another Czech guy named Jagr taken 5th by the Penguins in the and Martin Brodeur, chosen 20th by the Devils.
What an end to the Devils’ regular season. After being 19 points behind the Rangers, they win the Atlantic Division title in the last game of the year, in the 3rd period, coming back from a 3-goal deficit. The Rangers lost, the Flyers didn’t matter, and the Devils are given their due: their 6th division title of the last decade.
The game was full of delicious moments, like Gionta netting goals 47 and 48, squarely giving him the Devils record for most goals in a season. Then there was Patrik Elias, putting in the game-tying goal as the clock wound down. And Jamie Langenbrunner put in the game winner, 82 full games after the season started and fans were calling for Lou to trade Lags due to his slow start.
Here’s my recap of predictions, ruminations and commentary:
Superstition is not over-rated. Yesterday I wore my Minnesota Golden Gophers T-Shirt, in honor of Jamie Langebrunner (Gopher), Paul Martin (high school in MN) and Zach Parise (ditto). Today I put the vintage 2003 Stanley Cup Champions shirt on for the plane ride to California. And people noticed – and wished me luck. As if I had any influence on the outcome.
Good guys get good returns. There’s no earthly reason to believe that having Brian Gionta sign an authentic Boston College jersey (given to me as a gift by the good folks at Gio’s alma mater) would put him on a scoring tear, but it did. And as soon as Patrik Elias signed my son’s Czech Hockey Team hat, he produced a hat trick, a 3-point game, and the division title game-knotting goal, all within two weeks.
Trade carefully. Initially I compared the Lukowich trade to Elwood Blues giving up the Bluesmobile for a microphone, but he just took time to learn the system. He’s been the assist-master the last two games. On the flip side, everyone calling for Jamie Langenbrunner to hang his jersey west of the Delaware is happy that he’s still a Jersey boy.
Zach Parise had a great freshman year. Who wouldn’t, playing alongside Gionta and Gomez? He didn’t quite outshine Ovechkin or Crosby, but Parise is in the post-season. Now we’ll see who earns the rookie stripes in the second season. We were pulling from him from opening day, when he notched his first goal.
Nedved’s wife really does call the shots. After a few months in the desert, he’s back on the east coast where he can down cheesesteaks while she does (bathing suit) cheesecake. You read it here (actually it was here, in mid-November). Won’t matter after the Flyers are turned into Buffalo burgers.
Jeff Halpern remains one of the most under-rated, under-recognized captains in hockey. He continued to lead the Capitals through a fairly miserable season, coming within a point of a career-best year while only playing in 70 games. I’ll venture one reason Ovechkin had such a great year is that he was playing for a great leader on the ice.
The Rangers suck. I’m sorry, but I called this one back on October 30th. The wheels were going to fall off eventually. I’m betting on golf by May 1st for the blue shirts.
At this point, the first 82 games are just table stakes. What counts now are momentum and fun. The Devils (and Sharks) have both. The Flyers and Rangers have neither. I’m secretly hoping for a New Jersey-San Jose Stanley Cup, so I have a shot at seeing all of the games in the correct time zone given my work schedule.