There comes a time each year when the best and worst of the NHL is on display, from its quirky personalities to its self-aware mockery to its godawful taste in music. And tonight is that night: Get excited for the NHL Awards, live from Las Vegas! (The players certainly are: Earlier this week, Henrik Lundqvist "hosted" a party at one nightclub that featured both incredibly phallic glow sticks and Paul Bissonnette dancing on a raised platform, and I spotted several other NHLers still going strong in the Wynn casino when I finally went to bed at 3 a.m., hundreds of dollars poorer and having been utterly humiliated by my dice-throwing skills.)
Here it is, at long last, after three rounds of bruising and bloody playoff hockey: The New Jersey Devils play host tonight to the Los Angeles King in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. It is the matchup everyone predicted at the start of the season and again at the beginning of the NHL playoffs.
The Kings lost the Cup in five games to the Montreal Canadiens, an outcome that scans as definitive yet had seemed quite unimaginable in the third period of Game 2. Up 2-1 late in the third, the Kings were less than two minutes away from returning to Los Angeles with a 2-0 series lead. The whistle was blown, and the Kings' Marty McSorley was called over.
There may be no position in all of sports that can more single-handedly and consistently alter the course of a single game, a playoff series, or an entire season than a hockey goalie. (And there's certainly no position in all of sports — or, really, life — that boasts better helmets.) These guys are fearless, flexible, fast — and often fairly unhinged. Here, we salute five of the week's noteworthy performances in net.