Playoffs drawn out, but entertaining

There’s a new team on top—and the NHL is better off for it.
Look, the Detroit Red Wings deserve a ton of respect for the way they’ve dominated the NHL since the mid-1990s, but the Pittsburgh Penguins are a much better story.
Sidney Crosby is a much easier sell in North America than the understated Henrik Zetterberg. Evgeni Malkin, though hardly bilingual, has this rock star appeal that more than makes up for his lack of communication skills.
Contrast that to Detroit’s Russian star, Pavel Datsyuk, and the only comparison to be made is their impressive skill sets. Datsyuk is flashy with the puck on his stick, but shies away from the spotlight everywhere else.
He’s certainly not a sexy choice if the NHL was hoping to market and promote the league to a U.S. TV audience.
These past two months of NHL playoffs always seem to go on a touch too long, but there’s no disputing this has been one of the best playoffs in recent memory.
Let’s take a look back on some of the highlights and/or surprises of the 2009 playoffs:
•What the bleep?!
Who thought it’d be a good idea to mic the live Cup celebration? It seemed two-thirds of the Penguins who lifted the Cup said “F— yeah!” as a celebratory phase, and it was all captured live on CBC.
Then CBC interviewer Scott Oake asked goalie Marc-Andre Fleury what he was thinking in the final seconds of the game, and Fleury responded with “Oh, s—”.
Whoops.
It’s understandable to see emotions pouring out of these guys and no filter to speak of in a moment of jubilation, but isn’t there steps the CBC can do to avoid these circumstances?
I personally found it mildly entertaining, but for those parents with young kids, it may not have been.
•Star-studded match-up
Certainly the second-round match-up between the Penguins and Washington Capitals leaps to the front of my memory. Sure, Game 7 was a stinker, but the rest of the series featured excellent end-to-end hockey, including that double-hat trick Game 2 when both Alexander Ovechkin and Crosby netted three goals each.
It was the modern day Mario Lemieux vs. Wayne Gretzky match-up, with extra build-up after Crosby and Ovechkin had squabbled during a regular-season game.
Further to that, Lemieux and Gretzky never once went head-to-head in the playoffs.
If the NHL wanted front-page headlines in the U.S., this was the only match-up that would do it.
Did it help grow the game south of the border? That’s up for debate, but for two weeks they at least created a blip on the sports radar screen.
•No, Canada?
The drought continues. No Canadian-based NHL team has won Lord Stanley’s Cup since the Montreal Canadiens did it in 1993.
The Vancouver Canucks looked to have the best chance, but a relatively easy first-round sweep of the St. Louis Blues just created false hopes. The team was no match for the young and exuberant Chicago Blackhawks in the second round, falling in six games.
What was most surprising was the play of Roberto Luongo in goal in Game 6, when he gave up seven goals in a game for the first time ever during his tenure in Vancouver.
He was clearly out-duelled by Nikolai Khabibulin, and his performance (or lack thereof) likely raised some questions about his candidacy for the 2010 Olympic team.
And then there were the Calgary Flames. The team loaded up at the trade deadline in March by acquiring a top centre in Olli Jokinen—only to falter down the stretch and lose in the first round for the fourth year in a row since going to the Stanley Cup final in 2004.
Heads had to roll, and the axe fell on head coach Mike Keenan shortly after the season ended.
•Phoenix. . . falling?
The announcement that Phoenix Coyotes’ owner Jerry Moyes had put the team into Chapter 11 bankruptcy was the one piece of bad ‘PR’ the NHL had to deal with this spring.
BlackBerry boss Jim Balsillie thought he could force the hand of the NHL into relocating the Coyotes to Hamilton, but Balsillie once again was foiled by his arch-nemesis, NHL commish Gary Bettman.
Well, partly Bettman. An Arizona bankruptcy judge, Redfield T. Baum, rejected Balsillie’s bold bid Monday night, saying in a 21-page ruling that there wasn’t enough time to deal with all the unresolved issues raised by the case.
Unfazed, Balsillie vows to continue drumming up support through his “Make It Seven” website in an attempt to negotiate with the NHL over a relocation fee, and still hopes to have the team in Copps Coliseum by the fall.
You’d certainly have to think time is not on his side in this matter, with a decision needing to be made before the NHL draft June 26 and the subsequent release of the league schedule for next season.
Balsillie is anything but predictable, and may have a few rabbits in his hat to unveil just yet. Stay tuned.
•Father’s Day gifts!
The annual day to recognize the dad in your life is fast approaching, and rarely can you go wrong with a sports-themed gift.
Anything golf-related is sure to win him over, especially something he can add to his arsenal for that next round on the links.
A sports cap is never a bad idea, either. Most dads aren’t “well-endowed” in the hair department, so a hat gives them an excuse to cover up that dome. It’s a win-win!
I’d just like to take this opportunity to wish my dad back in Winnipeg a Happy Father’s Day since I won’t be there to spend it with him. I’d also like to wish my sports fan grandpa a happy day himself. Until next time. . . keep your stick on the ice and your feet inbounds.

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