For three straight years, Marian Hossa was in the Stanley Cup Final. He did it with three different teams, and lost painfully twice before finally winning a championship last spring with the Blackhawks. Songs were made, tears were shed, and the legend of Hossa the cup vagabond was born.
Tonight if the Lightning win Game 4 to sweep the Capitals and put Teddy Ruxpin back on his shelf for the Summer, Dominic Moore’s status as the lucky playoff rabbit’s foot will grow. He’ll become the poor man’s Hossa.
Moore is one win away from appearing in the Eastern Conference Final for the second straight year. That alone isn’t an impressive feat. Just ask any Leaf player in the early 90′s.
But there seems to be a final destination to Moore’s path as a true journeyman, and it’s pointing to back-to-back final four appearances. Last year after being traded to the Canadiens in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline he rode the herculean effort of Jaroslav Halak to the East final during Montreal’s magical run. Now a player who’s appeared on eight different rosters in seven years is about to get one step away from the cup for the second straight year.
That’s right, Moore is Hossa-lite, just with far less talent, scoring touch, speed, and overall ability. But he can get really far in the playoffs!
We kid because we care, of course, and Moore has been a valuable playoff cog to both the Canadiens last year and the Lightning this spring. It seems like only just a few Eklund rumours ago that Moore was one of the top prizes at the trade deadline in 2009 when he was being shopped by the Leafs before eventually landing in Buffalo. Now he’s collected a modest 11 points over 29 playoff games in the last two years.
Before you chuckle at those surface numbers, remember that Moore’s role is one in which irritation and annoyance is his primary function. Flanked by Sean Bergenheim and Steve Downie on Tampa’s third line, Moore’s game is to play the classic grinder, battling the opposition’s top line with a steady dose of physicality. While the stud horses like Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis are expected to carry the offensive load, bottom six players like Moore provide depth and do the heavy grunt work that wins championships.
Moore has done that grunt work and more during these playoffs. A centre who scored 32 points this season has six over Tampa’s last six playoff games, which includes two goals. In the first round during Tampa’s comeback series win over Pittsburgh, Moore raised his pest factor. As Pens Labyrinth noted, he quickly became the most hated player on the ice, and in living rooms.
Moore drew three penalties in Game 2, and Tampa Bay scored twice off those calls – once on a power play, once on what turned out to be a 4-on-4. On two of the calls, Moore goaded Penguins into foul play. Moore was in the Pens collective faces all game long, stirring the pot and looking for trouble. As a fan, it was infuriating watching Moore play Friday’s game. One minute, you wanted somebody to take his head off (legally of course). The next minute, you were hoping the Penguins wouldn’t retaliate.
Playfully dubbed the PITA line (pain in the ass) by Sun Sports analyst Chris Dingman, the trio of Moore, Bergenheim, and Downie has combined for nine of the Lightning’s 35 playoff goals, including one last night. That extra four percent of the load that’s lifted from the top line goes a long way in the playoffs, and head coach Guy Boucher knows it.
“If you want to win, it’s because guys like that are stepping up. You never expect those guys to step it up as much, and that’s what makes the difference.”
Moore and Bergenheim are tied with Stamkos in point production on Tampa’s roster, while Downie’s 10 points puts him only one point back of St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier for the team lead. So yes, with this depth maybe it really is time to start taking the Lightning seriously.