In case you were busy walking the plank at the behest of Bill Belichick, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
LeBron James and the Miami Heat opened their NBA championship defense with an impressive 107-95 win over Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls. An optimistic Rose, who was playing in his first regular-season game since recovering from a torn ACL, said, "I'm disappointed in the loss, but my performance, I can easily change that by making shots and keeping down the turnovers." When Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau heard his point guard's comments, however, he flew into a rage, screaming, "He could have made more shots and avoided turnovers? Well, why didn't he? What the hell was he thinking?" Thibodeau then threw his hands in the air and said, "Jiminy Christmas, he was only out for a year. I have to micromanage everything with this team."
When fresh hire Alain Vigneault addressed reporters at Radio City Music Hall last week after an unprecedented bicoastal Torts swap, he shared a recent Kodak moment. Having browsed some snapshots of the New York Rangers' 1994 victory parade, it became “real clear ... there is no better place” to win the Stanley Cup. (It’s a far cry from this.) Toronto fans nursing a 46-year Cup drought, thousands of whom transformed Maple Leaf Square into a sea of royal blue merely for this year’s quarterfinals (and to watch televised away games, no less) might disagree. When 2 million Blackhawks fans flooded the Loop in 2010 to celebrate their first Stanley Cup victory since the Kennedy administration, a convincing case was made that Chicago was North America’s premier venue for postseason sendoffs. Standing atop the media deck at Hutchinson Field in Grant Park only three years later, looking out across an even more resplendent crowd, I can’t disagree.
Patrick Kane was the first person to realize that the Chicago Blackhawks had won the Stanley Cup. He had put a low-angle shot on net during overtime of Game 6 in Philadelphia, and the puck had disappeared from view, but Kane knew it wasn't stuck somewhere in Flyers goalie Michael Leighton's pads. He had seen it go in the net, where it got lodged behind some webbing and out of sight. But he knew. He shed his bulky gloves and skated down the ice, his now-tiny-looking hands trembling high in celebration. (I can't be the only one to think of SNL's "Lawrence Welk Show" every time I watch the clip.)
That was just over three years ago, in early June 2010. On Sunday, Kane was asked whether he or his Blackhawks team had envisioned returning to that moment: a Stanley Cup–clinching Game 6 on the road, just like the one they're potentially facing tonight in Boston.
The NHL playoffs can define a player’s career. It’s when some elevate their games while others crumble, when legacies are made and lost, and when we separate the clutch performers from the choke artists.
There are two schools of thought on all this, and one of them is that everything in that last paragraph is complete nonsense. The playoffs are far too small a sample size to draw any meaningful conclusions, and because there’s little evidence that “clutch” even exists in sports, all we're really doing is just crafting lazy and often unfair narratives out of statistical blips that should actually be credited to random chance.
The other school of thought is that while all of that might be true, we don’t care because overreacting to the playoffs is part of the fun of being a sports fan.
For the purposes of this post, we’re going with option no. 2. So here are 10 players that have seen their stock move significantly up or down during the first two rounds.
Here’s a general rule about hockey fans: They hate just about everyone.
If you’re an NHL player, it doesn’t take much for hockey fans to turn against you. Sidney Crosby? Too whiny. The Sedins? The whole twin thing is creepy. Alexander Ovechkin? Once he scored a goal and then looked happy about it, so screw that guy. Basically, if a player has ever signed a big contract or won a fight or expressed an opinion, some large bloc of fans have already added him to their enemies list.
But every once in a while, a player manages to stick-handle through the neutral zone trap of hockey hatred and break in alone on the goaltender of positivity and — holy crap, that was a terrible metaphor, but I’m leaving it in because you get the point.
Anyway, here are a dozen of the NHL’s most universally admired active players, the reasons we love them, and a suggestion for why we should all just turn against them now and get it over with.