With the best first round of the playoffs in years coming down to the short strokes, I thought I would take time to write some letters to people in the hockey world.
Dear Joe Thornton:
For years, I’ve listened to people run you down for your lack of performance in the playoffs – it’s getting a little difficult to keep defending you, by the way.
I’ve always thought it would just be a matter of time before you’d have that monster playoff season and lead your team to the Stanley Cup. I still believe that, even after a first round in which you were outscored by Dwight Helminen and had fewer points than Chris Neil. Even in a round in which you were tied for 310th in the league in plus-minus. Even in a round in which you looked as though you were either too scared or not interested enough to make a significant contribution.
I know you’re better than that and so do you. And here is your opportunity to prove it. You and Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau know you were saved from ignominy by Joe Pavelski, Devin Setoguchi and Ryane Clowe.
You’ve been given a second playoff life; please take advantage of it. Come out in the next series like a man possessed. Hit somebody. Cycle the puck with authority. Go to the friggin’ net. Nobody will remember what you did in the first round if you redeem yourself in the next three.
You have the talent to do it. Now show the world you have the gumption to do it, too. Be a difference-maker, Joe.
Dear Marian Hossa:
Congratulations on scoring the overtime-winner in Game 5. Quite the storybook ending.
Perhaps after being on the losing end of the Stanley Cup final each of the past two years, you deserve a little bit of good luck. Well, you got it.
You’re a very lucky man that the NHL has this ridiculous idea that if you take reckless, stupid hits out of the game everyone will immediately revert to wearing tutus and embark on playing 4-on-4 ringette.
Because if the league and those who run and officiate it had any courage in penalizing dirty/reckless play, you wouldn’t have even been on the ice to score the game-winner because you would have been kicked out of the game. And you might have missed Game 6 as well.
Dear Phoenix Coyotes and Detroit Red Wings:
I don’t know how this series will ultimately turn out, but thanks for everything. Yours has been by far the most compelling and entertaining series in the first round so far. And given the quality of hockey we’ve seen this April, that’s saying something.
The only downside is that one of you won’t be around for the second round and I worry how much the winner will have left after Game 7.
Dear Sidney Crosby:
Just wanted to let you know that after your 14 points in the first round, you’re 34 short of breaking Wayne Gretzky’s record for points in one playoff season. And if you score five goals a round the way you did in Round 1, you’ll break the all-time record for goals as well. I’m not sure you can do it, but nothing would surprise me after the season you’ve put together so far.
Congratulations on producing all three finalists for the Norris Trophy in Duncan Keith, Mike Green and Drew Doughty. The fact all of them are 26 or younger bodes well for you.
But didn’t you used to be a lot better when it came to goaltending? Any idea why, going into Monday’s games, you have exactly one goaltender in the top 12 in playoff save percentage?
Dear Mikael Samuelsson:
The way you’ve played in the playoffs, you had every right to be pissed at the Swedish Olympic team for leaving you off its roster. You’re right. The people who made that decision are a bunch of @#$%^& know-nothing &^%$###@s.
Is there any way we can convince you to stop airing those commercials of Frank D’Angelo singing? While you’re at it, can you do something about those crotchety old guys in the bank?
Dear NHL referees:
Hey guys. When a player, either a defenseman or a forward, is standing in the slot and he gets cross-checked in the back and falls face-first into the ice, isn’t that supposed to be a penalty?
Dear Los Angeles Kings:
Thanks for the great series. You’re probably incredibly dejected this morning, but your day will come. This is all part of your maturation as a franchise. If history rings true, you’ll have a devastating loss early in the playoffs next spring when much more is expected of you, then you’ll emerge as a serious Stanley Cup contender for years to come.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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