“Get it out of there,” I was saying every time the Expos made it across our blue line last night. “Now, don’t let them breathe. Stay on them. Don’t let them breathe.”
And that’s pretty much what happened last night in Game 6. Our Bolts played the kind of relentless hockey that has to be rewarded. For the last two nights, pretty much every hockey analyst I watched gave all the credit in the world to a team the Bolts had beaten 8 out of 10 games this past year (last night made it 9 out of 11). I had to hear about Carey Price and his upcoming awards (MVP and Vezina) … he’s the greatest goalie in the world! Somehow these same analysts managed to forget that our guy, Ben Bishop, has beaten Price 8 consecutive times (5 regular season games and the first 3 playoff games).
I also had to hear about P.K. Subban and the running of his mouth … and I couldn’t help but think back to what a high school football coach used to tell us when our football team talked trash: “Talk is cheap.”
It certainly is … and it was last night.
I have to say I was very confident about Game 6 last night. I’m only a hockey enthusiast the past 4 years or so (it might be 3.5) … it started with a co-worker Sue Bennett’s dedication to the Rangers (Ranger paraphernalia surrounding her desk, etc.); she egged me on to watch. So did a dear friend and terrific author, Dana King (a Penguins fan). He kept telling me “there’s hitting in this, Charlie. You’ll love it.”
I watched and quickly became a Ranges fan, but mostly because of the Rangers’ Captain at the time, Ryan Callahan. His relentless work ethic stood out. He made me keep watching. He made me want to learn the game. Callahan is the kind of player any fan would appreciate—a player who gives 100%, 100% of the time. Just about every team has a guy like Callahan. Those that don’t wish they did.
After becoming a fan during the regular season, I watched my first hockey playoff games (Strangers-Crapitals, believe it or not) … and I learned that the playoffs and the regular season are two very different animals. What I loved about the sport, however, was the class shown at the end of each game (players saluting fans), and the fact that teams shook hands (after trying to kill each other) once a playoff series ended.
Once the infamous trade was made, as a socialist, I really didn’t have much of a choice. Players (unless they’re assholes) come first in my world. I’d become a hockey fan because of Callahan and I was sticking with him. So, it was off to Tampa Bay … literally, the wife and I flew down for games 2-4 back in October … my first live hockey game in what had to be 25 or more years. And were we treated to some fun or what? We were there when our Bolts destroyed the same Hab Nots, 7-1 … with Stamkos scoring a hat trick and Cally putting one in the net directly below where we were sitting. He skated around the mouth, P.K. Subban, and left the goalie holding his jock.
I’ll admit it, I’m a dinosaur. I’ve been fed up with NFL football for a long time now. The chest beating, trash talking, “me, me, me” attitudes turn me off. Watching my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills put up with Stevie Johnson a few years ago, a wide receiver with way more dramatic drops to his career than catches, required I find something new to obsess over. Johnson was finally traded, but nothing much has changed in the NFL. With all the available talent in and around the NFL, why would any team put up with the kind of crap that makes old farts like me turn to the AMC channel?
Last year probably did it forever for me. The Oakland Raiders had to call a timeout because two of their idiot defenders were still celebrating a sack while the offense ran to the line of scrimmage and were about to call a play (what would’ve been a freebee for the Raiders being offside—the “sackers” were ten yards behind the line of scrimmage AND THE OFFENSE!) … well, that pretty much did it for me. If the game doesn’t respect itself enough to can that level of bullshit, so be it.
The fact I’ve seen that same shit in Pop Warner leagues and high school football is all the more depressing. Instead of teaching kids how to win with class, the system seems to have accepted teaching them to be me-firsters. Remember when a guy made a tackle, got up, and then hustled back to the defensive huddle (rather than turn to one sideline or the other, beat his chest, and declare himself the King of the World)? I remember one of the Moonachie Green (Jets) all-stars last year doing something as dumb as that after a sack in a game they were losing by 20 points. I hope Coach Rex Ryan left that level of horseshit in Moonachie now that he’s in Buffalo.
ESPN has destroyed more than one sport with highlights that play to the selfish antics of opportunists. So be it. I now look much more forward to October than September. While the NFL turns into the WWWE, I turn to hockey. Quoting that same high school coach: “It’s as simple as that.”
So, back to hockey … last night the Bolts came out jumping and they didn’t let the Expos breathe … they kept them from crossing the blue line … they took pucks away when the Expos did manage to get one deep … and they passed pucks out as quick as (dare I say it?) LIGHTNING. In before and after game interviews, Bolts players across the board professed a solid tribute to a hockey warrior, Ryan Callahan. The post-game analysis mentioned what John Tortorella said a few years back: “You don’t win championships without guys like Ryan Callahan.”
He suffered appendectomy surgery Monday night and there were some musings about him possibly playing last night (24 hours after his surgery?). Thankfully, it was just Coach Cooper playing with the press. More hopefully, Callahan will be back in time for some part of the Final series, which may well be against his former team, the New York Strangers. The Bolts were 3-0 against the Strangers this season, and Callahan scored 4 goals against his former teammates.
Last night was an impeccably played game by our Bolts, and except for one very lucky bounce off the glass that eventually found our net, we didn’t let the Expos breathe.
Tonight we learn who our next opponent will be … either the Strangers or the Crapitals. Something tells me we’ll be ready for either of the two.
And if things get a little rough, we always have Momma Stella’s Malocchio …
Listen to my man, Crazy Dave Mishkin, call the highlights from last night:
To the Expos … this year, the Hab Nots …