In 1981, Dino Cicarelli was a fresh-faced rookie for the Minnesota North Stars. In the playoffs, he went on the greatest scoring run of any rookie in NHL history, scoring an amazing 14 goals in 19 games, a rookie record that still stands today. Ciccarelli was third behind Steve Payne and Mike Bossy in goalscoring that year. He even had as many points as Gretzky! Granted, Gretzky played in 10 fewer games, but still.
In Cicarelli’s honour, I inaugurated the Dino Ciccarelli Award last year for the NHL’s best rookie in the playoffs. The regular season has the Calder for top rookie, but it takes something special to excel in the playoffs as a rookie. Many of the league’s top rookies don’t even make the playoffs, as teams with high-impact rookies generally aren’t particularly good. There’s a reason they have ice time available for rookies.
The first round of the playoffs had some excellent performances from rookies. Let’s run down the top candidates for the 2013 Dino Ciccarelli Award. Warning: get ready for a lot of Ottawa Senators:
One of the most stunning stories from the first round of the playoffs has been the performance of the New York Islanders, who tied up their series with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday with a 6-4 win. The Penguins were the prohibitive favourites to come out of the East this season after loading up at the trade deadline, adding Brendan Morrow and Jarome Iginla to an already stacked forward corps and beefing up their defence with the hulking Douglas Murray.
Meanwhile, you would think the Islanders would just be happy to be in the playoffs at all, having missed the playoffs for five straight seasons, finishing fifth in the Atlantic Division each time. Very few people even gave the Islanders a chance in this series, with most predicting that the Penguins would win in five games, since predicting a sweep is a little too bold.
But the Islanders have done more than just show up. They’ve surprised the Penguins with their speed and tenacity and reminded everyone why there are still question marks surrounding Marc-Andre Fleury. It’s the classic tale of David versus Goliath, if Goliath had awful goaltending.
What fascinates me is how these Islanders were constructed. They’re a team full of cast-offs and misfits cobbled together by a general manager under extremely limiting financial constraints.
Hockey Ughs is the cynical sister to Puck Daddy’s Hockey Hugs, a feature written by my same-sex blog-partner Harrison Mooney from Pass it to Bulis. While Hockey Hugs highlights the joy of scoring a goal and celebrating it with your bestest buds, Hockey Ughs highlights the agony of the other team’s fans right behind the glass, watching those hugs.
(Hannah Foslien, Getty Images)
Buying a ticket to a playoff game is a massive gamble. Sure, the atmosphere is electric, the hockey is at its most passionate, and seeing your favourite team win in the playoffs is incredibly emotional, but you’re also setting yourself up for a potential heartbreaking experience.
Just imagine the Leafs fans who paid premium prices to see the first playoff game in Toronto in nine years, only to see the Bruins thump the Leafs 5-2. Or consider the Canucks fans who travelled all the way down to San Jose to see game three and watch the team collapse in the third period and lose by that same 5-2 score. If you were given the odds of your team winning a particular and were asked to place a bet equivalent to the price of going to that game, you’d most likely pass.
But this is what being a fan is all about. You take a risk supporting your team, knowing that at any given moment you could experience euphoria or misery. There’s plenty of time to focus on the joy of being a hockey fan; let’s have some fun with the sorrow for a little while.
Here are the best Hockey Ughs of the first round of the playoffs so far.
I had no choice. My soccer team had a game scheduled for 9:00 pm, an ungodly hour for physical activity. I couldn’t skip the game: I’m the captain of the team and, since our regular goaltender is recovering from an injury, I’m also our goalie right now. Also, we were already going to be short a number of players.
I’m not sure why our spring soccer league starts the season during the NHL playoffs (probably something to do with the start of spring), but it was unavoidable: we had a game scheduled and I wasn’t going to be able to watch the Vancouver Canucks play the San Jose Sharks in game one of their series.
I was going to have to record it and watch it later. There’s something that just doesn’t feel right about watching a playoff game out of sync with everyone else. It’s an odd feeling watching a playoff game hours after it’s already been completed.
This year is the 20th anniversary of both the seminal NHL ’94 and the last time a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup. Way back in 1993, the Montreal Canadiens, with Patrick Roy in net and Jacques Demers behind the bench, defeated the Wayne Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings in five games for their NHL-record 24th Stanley Cup as a franchise.
18 seasons have come and gone since then. Canadian teams have come close since — the Canucks made it to game seven of the Finals twice, the Flames and Oilers once each, and the Senators lost in five games — but haven’t been able to carve their names into the Cup itself.
As a result, every year around playoff time, the debate rages over who will be “Canada’s Team,” the marginally non-racist version of the “Great White Hope” that will battle for the pride of Canada and wrest the Stanley Cup from the evil clutches of the United States. For the first time since the 2005-06 season, there are four Canadian teams in the playoffs and thus four claimants to the throne. Who will be Canada’s Team? Who?
How about none of them, since the entire concept is idiotic.
It’s been nearly a month since Sidney Crosby played a game and someone finally passed him for the league-lead in scoring on Wednesday. That’s remarkable on it’s own, but what’s truly remarkable is who passed him.
With a hattrick against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Martin St. Louis took over the lead for the Art Ross Trophy and with just a two or three games remaining for his closest competitors, it appears that he’ll hang onto that lead. Barring heroics from Patrick Kane, Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, or some insane pre-playoff comeback attempt by Sidney Crosby, it seems safe to say that St. Louis will win the second Art Ross Trophy of his career.
It seems like every hockey fan online, other than those in Detroit, Dallas and Minnesota, has jumped on the Columbus Blue Jackets bandwagon, rooting for them to make the playoffs. Fans on Twitter have latched on to the #Lumbus hashtag, started by the Los Angeles Kings’ twitter account, with every improbable victory leading to eruptions of virtual support.
I admit, I have a purely selfish reason to be rooting for Columbus. At the start of the season, I made the absolutely crazy prediction that the Blue Jackets would make the playoffs, before they had played enough games to make any statistical analysis worthwhile. I was just going with my gut. A month later, the Blue Jackets were 5-12-2 and I was feeling like the biggest idiot in the blogosphere.
Then the Blue Jackets started grinding games into overtime and the shootout and began stringing wins together. They currently sit in eighth in the Western Conference, tied with the Minnesota Wild in points and just one point ahead of the Detroit Red Wings. The Wild and Red Wings both have a game in hand, as do the Dallas Stars, who sit three points back. If the Blue Jackets make the playoffs, I get to play the only-guy-who-predicted-the-Blue-Jackets-would-make-the-playoffs card. If they don’t, I get to play the at-least-I-was-closecard, which isn’t anywhere near as fun.
Here are 5 much better reasons why it would be awesome for the Blue Jackets to make the playoffs.