First up, the bad and the ugly, the Devils vs. the Rangers. Tonight's game was the first one from this series that I've been able to watch but I told you no one with a soul could cheer for the Rangers. Sean Avery's display today was just ridiculous. Here's video for anyone who missed it but basically Avery stood face-to-face with Marty Brodeur, turning his back completely on the play, and waved his hands in Marty's face like a third grader would. Seriously, the only thing missing was him sticking his tongue out and singing "na na na na boo boo, stick your head in doo doo." I understand that Avery has a job to do and part of that is getting under people's skin but this was so far beyond anything I've ever seen. It was immature, obnoxious, and the very epitome of unsportsmanlike conduct. He was completely ignoring the play, he was in no position to tip in a shot or tie up a defender. He was just being a first class, grade A jackass. I was pretty annoyed with the Versus broadcast for pumping him up all night and then ignoring the level of douchebaggery of that play but thank goodness CBC got it right (also in the linked video). Ron MacLean called it dishonorable and cited a rule that he would've used to level a ten minute misconduct for unsportsmanlike behavior and Kelly Hrudey agreed and said that it had no place in the game. Seriously, that display goes against everything I love about playoff hockey. Guys like Brendan Shanahan and Chris Drury should be chewing his ass out even as I type this for that. I realize "honor" is a tough concept for Avery but get a little, why don't you?
(Oh, I had this whole paragraph here about how awesome it was that replays showed Drury skate over and give Avery a little shove which had us all speculating that he was telling Avery to cut the crap and pay attention to the play and how even though I'm not as distraught over his departure as some people I did think it was really cool of him to do that and how it seemed very in character and indicative of how much he always seemed to respect the game and the people on the ice with him but then NHL Network isolated the play and zoomed in on Drury and it turns out that what he was actually saying was, "Stick down" which isn't nearly as endearing.)
Fortunately, the Devils won and the Hockey Gods saw fit to pour even more manna from heaven in the late game between Calgary and San Jose. Usually I kind of hate when an organization tries to get the crowd to all wear one color but the Calgary crowd really looked amazing. Not only were they all wearing red, almost everyone appeared to be wearing jerseys. Those people are hardcore! When the camera panned up some and you could see three or four rows of solid jerseys it was a very cool effect. Which is why it seemed so cruel that the Sharks scored a goal a minute for the first three minutes and chased Kipper out of net. Kipper, who had a kick ass game in their loss a couple of nights ago!
And then everything started to turn. I'll admit, I don't always buy "That hit turned the game around!" but geez, that hit on Patrick Marleau really did change the momentum of the game. The Flames were clearly picking up steam and the Sharks were clearly panicking which is something I guess they're familiar with. With all apologies to the Sharks fans of the world, watching Calgary claw their way back into the game in front of their backup goaltender with the crowd getting more and more crazy as time went on was pretty awesome, an example of sports at its very finest. Watching a team and its fans feed off of each other like that is always a little breath-taking. It seems ridiculous that 18,000 people could care that much about who puts more pucks in a net and it seems ridiculous that professional athletes who get paid a lot of money to do what they do could be that inspired by strangers rooting them on but as ridiculous as it may be, I think it's beautiful and I don't care how stupid some people probably think that sounds.
And I'm not going to lie. Brian Campbell being in the thick of things made it even better. He was playing his particular brand of "I'll just stand back here and wave at the shooter" defense on the game-winning goal and he did a totally needless spin-o-rama and turned over the puck right in front of his net which oh by way, had NO GOALIE IN IT. Uh, Brian... There's less than a minute left in the game and your team kind of needs a goal. Maybe you should pass the puck up the ice or chip it off the glass or something. If Alex Tanguay hadn't tanked the shot, he'd have looked even dumber. I'm sure we'll get video of that spin-o-rama up on Sabres Edge, right? Right? I mean, we miss Campbell and want to wallow in all his highlights, right? Again, with apologies to Sharks fans and bloggers, it's been kind of entertaining watching them go from, "Campbell is awesome!" to "Wait... I thought this guy was a #1 defenseman." I feel triumphant!
I am exhausted by hockey right now and I love it!