First Round Reflections: Gumbo Joe Thornton, That Columbus Charisma, and Nino Niederreiter

by Kolby Solinsky

Editor, White Cover Magazine

LINE - White Cover Magazine

Forgive a Canucks fan for thinking of himself. It’s just what we do.

Like when these playoffs started and we mumbled with a strained, botox-like, fabricated smile and a Coke and told each other, “You know, it’s sort of just nice to be able to sit back and watch. To not have to worry about every game or have to think about losing. You know?”

Yeah. We know you’re making that up. We all do it. Like when you were 10 and you told your new friend’s Mom, “Oh, I love pulp in my orange juice” and then you proceeded to painfully lick every nasty piece of once-was-an-orange from your molars.

It helped, though, that this first round was nothing but net.

It was exciting, thrilling, and [insert adjective]. It was the sort of mouth-melting mashup of matchups that make CBC’s montage people giddy with self-appointed glory, as they’re sitting there on YouTube, deciding what Serena Ryder song to use in their next three-minute magnum opus.

Nathan MacKinnon broke ankles, only to see Nino Niederreiter call collect in a triumphant Game 7 road win, racking up two goals and an assist, each tally in the nick of time for a Wild team that clawed back down one, then one again, and then one again to steal the series from under Colorado’s rug.

You had Jack Adams guys Patrick Roy and Mike Babcock out in Round 1, the latter to a seriously superior Boston Bruins team, although Pavel Datsyuk pulled a rabbit out of his furry Siberian hat before he was forced to pack up and head back to straights-only Russia.

You had the return of the dynamic duo of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the basically unprecedented 0-3 comeback completed with Quick, Kopitar, and their Kings, and you had the Anaheim Ducks… sneaking out of Texas with a stunning, come-from-behind win in Game 6.

But for all the fun, I couldn’t help but feel a little glum. Either when it was happening, or when it was over.

There are no good guys in the NHL, not anymore.

Columbus, Dallas, and Colorado all flirted with it, because they’re either young or new or hilariously decent.

But the rest – those boring, overrated prima donnas in Pittsburgh, those perennially powerful teams in Boston, L.A., Anaheim, and Chicago, those unlovable losers in St. Louis and San Jose, those “They’re still here?” Rangers on Broadway, and the damn Minnesota Wild – are just the rest.

Seriously, who did you want to win tonight, watching L.A. and San Jose?

With every lead change in that series, my heart bobbed towards the other guy. When San Jose was up 3-0, I felt for the Kings… mainly because they deserved to win at least one of those contests, but also because it just didn’t seem to right to see the Sharks waltz so easily into a round that really mattered.

And as soon as you saw it swinging back the other way – permanently – you gave them that sort-of George Clooney’d head tilt, made a pouty face, and watched them like the critical charity case they are.

How is it that one franchise could be so devoid of clutch-ness? How could Joe Thornton be this bad a leader, or does he just not know what a leader is?

And how could the St. Louis Blues do this… again?

We talk a lot out here in B.C. about teams staining their championship window – that undefined frame of time where a franchise has its only chance to win a Cup with that team right there – but they should be talking about in St. Louis, and we know they’re talking about it in San Jose.

How about Ryan Miller, while we’re on it? At least the rest of Missouri could blame Brent Seabrook for their fall from grace. But Miller grabbed the spotlight and showed us just how poor fluorescents really are.

It was a hell of a first round, and it was a weird one.

The NHL’s self-imposed playoff parity has ensured its viewers that they will never truly see a 1 vs. 8 matchup ever again. There’s no such thing as an advantage on points, or a home ice cookout. Would it have been so inconceivable for the Detroit Red Wings to beat the Boston Bruins, or for Dallas to pluck the Ducks?

It’s sort of a joke, really. Does it make every series more competitive? Yeah. But, so what? Why is that important?

The one thing the NHL did, perhaps unintentionally, was that it overhauled the league’s silly seeding system. Last year and prior, a team that beat a higher-ranked team wouldn’t just play whoever they were lined up against in the bracket. Instead, they would take all first-round winners and they’d re-seed them.

Now, the NHL is finally rewarding the upsetters for their anarchy. No longer will an eighth seed have to climb through all three contenders on their way to the outside, tin lip of Lord Stanley’s chalice. Now, they’ll play whoever’s in line for a butt whooping.

That’s why we have New York v. Pitt, and Chicago v. Minny (although Colorado would have been better, I’m tellin’ ya), and Boston v. Montreal. And what about Anaheim v. Los Angeles?

The first round was made for cable.

The second?