Allan Maki shares his opinion on the previous night’s NHL action and looks at the early news of the day Monday through Friday during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Sometimes the story goes beyond the game, even a playoff opener.
On a night when Los Angeles defenceman Slava Voynov gave his Kings all the offence they needed, a strange and curious thing happened: a 32-year-old career minor-leaguer made his Stanley Cup playoff debut for the San Jose Sharks.
Bracken Kearns was in the San Jose lineup Tuesday wearing No. 38. He didn’t score a goal, didn’t get a point. His team lost 2-0 proving that just because you’re playing in Southern California you aren’t guaranteed a Hollywood ending.
Still, that a guy with Kearns’ background could be in the NHL and playing in the postseason’s second round is two strides beyond the norm. The son of former Vancouver Canuck Dennis Kearns, Bracken was never drafted by an NHL team and never even played major junior hockey. He did play in a B.C. junior B league but wasn’t overly serious about it.
He wanted to be a golfer, wanted to go to school at the University of British Columbia but enrolled at the U of Calgary, where he graduated after four years. He ended up playing in the AHL and ECHL before making his NHL regular-season debut with the Florida Panthers two years ago. His stint lasted five games. Then he was sent back to the AHL.
Two months ago, Kearns played a game for the Sharks and was tabbed for the playoffs after Adam Burish was hurt in the previous series against Vancouver. Between the first and second periods in L.A., TSN asked Kearns how he was dealing with his emotions. “It’s nerve wracking,” he said, “until you get on the ice … I know I’m lucky to be here.”
The Sharks are going to need a ship-load of luck to get past the defending Stanley Cup champions. The Kings were good in a feisty Game 1 and, when they weren’t, goaltender Jonathan Quick was there to clean up the mess. L.A. is in full playoff mode now, and you know how they love sequels in Hollywood.
March of the Penguins
He’s the man who fires it up for the Pittsburgh Penguins and he’s not Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang or Sidney Crosby, although he does play alongside Crosby.
Pascal Dupuis was good in the 2013 regular season; he’s been better in the playoffs. The 34-year-old winger from Laval, Que., scored his sixth goal, best in the NHL so far, and he did it in dramatic fashion Tuesday. Racing into the Ottawa Senators’ zone on a two on one with teammate Matt Cooke, Dupuis held the puck then wristed in a perfect shot to seal the Penguins’ 4-1 final.
It was a declaration goal for two reasons: it came shorthanded and it was the first third-period goal Ottawa has given up this postseason. Against Montreal, the Senators enjoyed a huge third-period advantage, scoring 12 times without allowing one. But as most everyone suspected, and the Senators have quickly discovered, facing the Penguins is a whole new level of opposition.
The Senators pushed Montreal around. They pushed Pittsburgh and the Penguins answered back. Even with Tomas Vokoun having some shaky moments in goal, the Penguins experienced a leisurely night at the office, scoring a couple of powerplay goals for effect and making it all look so easy … because it was. “(Bleep) happens,” offered Senators’ defenceman Erik Karlsson.
If Ottawa doesn’t readjust its level of engagement, this series won’t last long no matter what Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk thinks. “Good first game,” Melnyk Tweeted. “Full credit to #Pens for win they will be tough. This will still be a classic series. On to Game 2! #peskySens.”
A foot note: Hockey Night in Canada showed a first-period clip of Matt Cooke hitting Karlsson along the boards behind the Senators’ goal and, just as he did earlier this season, Cooke raised his left foot. In their previous run-in, Cooke’s raised skate blade sliced Karlsson’s Achilles tendon costing him most of his season. Cooke said the injury was accidental; Melynk didn’t buy it and initiated a forensic examination. But Tuesday’s replay was good enough for Crime Scene Investigator Don Cherry who said “that tells me that’s how (Cooke) likes to hit.”
The Stanley Cup gets its share of TV time in the playoffs. But Wednesday night, it has a bit part in an evening drama not involving men in hockey pants.
The Cup, along with its handler Phil Pritchard from the Hockey Hall of Fame, will make a guest appearance on NBC’s Chicago Fire, a show about firefighters. In Chicago. According to industry info (an NHL news release), the Cup will play the part of itself in a scene where the Chicago firefighters rally to overcome a three-goal deficit late in the third period of Game 7.
Actually, the firefighters rally to support their favourite bar. No word if the firemen get to drink out of the Cup. If they do, just remember Red Kelly’s baby boy peed in the Cup’s bowl back in 1964. They may have cleaned it since then but still.