Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I Don't Care Who's In and Who's Out...I Freakin' Love Playoff Mania

The games: St. Louis vs. Chicago (NHL) and Portland Winterhawks vs. Vancouver Giants (WHL Round 2 Playoffs, Game 3).

Why I chose them: Chicago has clinched a division title and a playoff berth. Portland Winterhawk Captain Brett Ponich may be playing for St. Louis next year at this time, having just signed with them after being drafted in 2009. As for the Winterhawks, it's exactly why I love the playoffs in any's do or die time. There's no in between..we either go big or go home. Games on.

Major bummer alert: Anaheim is out of the playoffs. After coming within sight of the Stanley Cup finals last year, sending a record number of athletes to the Olympics, and crawling out of a very large hole to come within 3 points of 8th place this year, they are done. Plus, cutie pie Swiss goalie is still injured anyway, so that would have still put a damper on it.

On the other hand: Phoenix is in the playoffs for the first time since I don't even remember when. And they were in an even bigger hole than Anaheim. And how can you argue with this?....

Best play: Rookie Matt Duchene scoring the winning shootout goal last night against Vancouver to put Colorado in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The only thing more perfect was Evgeni Malkin's back-handed, no-look hat trick into Carolina's net during last year's playoffs. On that alone, I'd hand the Calder to Duchene right now.

Also: I'm off pain meds and steroids. Which means: this is the best glass of red wine I've ever had in my life. EVER.

Ooh, did I say that out loud?: Matt Kirk is refereeing the Portland vs. Vancouver game. I will now admit publicly to a huge crush on said official, who works in Vancouver by day as a corporate lawyer. Not that I would waste my precious free time Googling WHL refs to find out that they work as LAWYERS by day, but if I did...

The rules:

Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 413, Change of Players from the Penalty Bench. Rule 415, Change of Goalkeeper During Stoppage of Play.

So, this explains why some players come off the penalty bench directly to the player's bench and some go right back into the game: 413, A player serving a penalty, who is to be changed after the penalty has been served, shall proceed at once, by way of the ice, and be at his own player's bench before any change can be made. I love that they specifically say "by way of the ice." Like the player's going to just wander out into the stands and meander his way back on foot?

As for the goalkeepers, they are pretty much stuck in their little crease: 415, During a stoppage of play, goalkeepers shall not be permitted to go to the player's bench except to be replaced or during a time-out. Violation is punished with a minor penalty.

As for rule 414: It's nowhere to be found, not even in a list of outdated rules. Maybe it's like 13th floors or whispering "shutout" when it's 3-0 with 2 minutes to go in the third. You know it's there, but you just don't say it or think it.

Morals of the story:

The game: I've said it once, I'll say it again. Give the goalkeepers some space! Now I see why it's easier for them to meltdown on occasion. If you had to stay in a little 4 foot by 6 foot box, with limited range of activity allowed within a little trapezoid, and you could only go to the bench under one or two select circumstances while your teammates get to roam freely all over the ice and come and go from the bench, you'd go insane too.

Life: At some point, most of us get stuck in life's creases. It could be small things like an office cubicle, our cars in rush hour, a small apartment, tiny airplane seats, or the one scrap of a seat way in the back at a sold out concert. On a bigger scale, we take on mortgages, car payments and credit card debt that can make us feel very small and trapped. Except in life we don't get to go back to the bench after we've served the penalty. Continuing on the playoff theme of "do it or else" I propose my own life rule for "change of players after a stoppage of play." It would go like this:

1) During a stoppage of play during which they will be given the chance to rethink their life choices: Individuals who choose to give in and not to break out of life's traps will not be permitted to be replaced by some other idiot who hasn't figured it all out yet...until said individual can demonstrate that they are willing and able to take the chance and seek their dreams no matter how scary it is.

2) If said individuals choose at a later time to break out and pursue their dreams, they will be permitted to proceed to the bench to be replaced during the next stoppage of play by some other idiot who still wants to earn his or her mortgage payment by working in a little cube all day.

Next up on 4/9: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 416, Injured Players. Rule 417, Injured Goalkeepers.

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