By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
Now it looks as if this year the fellas have broken out the whipping stick once again: Violent encounters grabbed the headlines and news clips around the league once the playoffs began. Boston's Kyle McLaren punched a one-way ticket to La-La Land for Montreal's Richard Zednik with a vicious elbow to the grille that left the Hab winger in a trifecta of pain, a broken beak, and bloodied, scrambled eggs. This triggered off a "renewal of rivalries," shall we say, between longtime foes. Between the high sticks and misplaced elbows, the eighth-seeded Canadiens managed to pull off the big-time upset by ousting the top-ranked Bostonians in six gritty games. However, the real fireworks in the first round took place in the Eastern Conference in the Islanders-Maple Leafs series, where the usual icy glares and mean intent boiled over into a full-fledged donnybrook of a seven-game series. Neither side blinked, and the result was old-school, with the teams racking up 10 fighting majors and piling up numerous heavy hits that straddled the fine line between penalties and dirty play. Three of the seven contests saw game-ending melees with all skaters involved. The Isles seemed a bit perturbed by the blows dealt them via the Maple Leafs, who knocked out two of the Islanders' main men, Michael Peca and Kenny Jonsson, with hits more at place in the junior leagues than in the NHL. The veteran Leafs barely scraped by the spunky New Yorkers in seven dramatic games that were reminiscent of the classic playoff series the two teams staged back in 1978, when the likes of Tiger Williams and Garry Howatt were walking the beat. While not exactly at the red-line level of those epic encounters, this year's NHL playoffs have rekindled the passions with a bit of that bump-and-grind. Until next time, see ya in the sin bin!
This season's top playoff pugilists, through the first round:
April 22 Brad Larsen (COL) vs. Ian Laperriere (LA)
Right off the face-off and with a mere 11 ticks left on the clock, these two Energizer bunnies drop the mitts and have at it. They each throw a quick salvo of close-in rights, then they hit the deck as the men in stripes come to break them apart.
April 22 Dan Hinote (COL) vs. Kelly Buchberger (LA)
The game clock might read zero, but we're not done yet! A game-ending melee breaks out in the corner, and Hinote and Buchberger come out swinging the rights. Buchy gets his man down and lays an extra right cross on Hinote's grille as they hit the deck, much to the delight of the King faithful.
April 23 Darcy Tucker (TOR) vs. Jeff Blake (NYI)
By now, no doubt, Tucker is Islander public enemy No. 1. The Leaf loony just jumps Blake in this bout, grabbing his man behind the net and firing away. Blake holds on gamely and avoids the main thrust of Tucker's blows. A multi-player melee ensues, and this series is off and running.
April 23 Gary Roberts (TOR) vs. Brad Isbister (NYI)
Roberts goes after an Isle as the clock expires, and all 10 men on the ice get involved, creating a heaping mass of humanity down in the corner of the rink. Things seem calmed down, but Roberts takes that extra poke at his man, and Isbister comes in hard, as if to say, "There'll be none of that!" A bevy of Isbister rights sends Roberts down and has the Islander fans cheering wildly.
April 24 Donald Brashear (phi) vs. Chris Phillips (ott) A frustrated Brashear gets his gloves off and his groove onat the expense of Phillips's face, that is. When the puck drops, so do the Donald's gloves, and soon after that, so does Phillips. The Ottawa blueliner is left dented and bloodied after this sneak attack, which is typical Brashear.
April 25 P.J. Stock (BOS) vs. Gino Odjick (MON)
The fight of the playoffs breaks out in this late-game do-si-do at the benches. Right off the draw, Gino wants it badly, but P.J. makes him wait a bit before shedding the leather. The two then engage in a fierce toe-to-toe battle that ends with a toothless Gino smiling wide for the cheering Montreal fans, and P.J. waving his own bit of good cheer toward the crowd with his right hand. Mere moments later, Mr. McLaren lowers the boom on Zednik, and away we go.