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The Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and teammate Evgeni Malkin (PATRICK DOYLE/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and teammate Evgeni Malkin (PATRICK DOYLE/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Maki: Pittsburgh the Miami Heat of hockey - only shorter Add to ...

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.

This is not good for the Detroit Red Wings. Their 3-1 series lead over the Chicago Blackhawks has dried up and blown away. They have to play a Game 7 in Chicago and now, after a lengthy down spell, ‘Hawks’ captain Jonathan Toews is in the thick of the action, fully engaged and putting up points.

That wasn’t the case through the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and there was more ineffectiveness through the first four games against Detroit. But with his team on the brink of elimination, Toews has summoned up his best efforts, scoring his first playoff goal in Game 5 then drawing two assists in Monday’s 4-3 decision in Detroit.

What that’s done for the ‘Hawks is lift their faith and performance level. It was Toews who took the puck to the net allowing Marian Hossa to score and give Chicago a 1-0 lead. And it was Toews again, this time on a slick feed to Bryan Bickell, who helped spark the ‘Hawks’ three-goal, third-period outburst.

“We were down a goal and it was do or die, the season might be over,” Toews said of his team’s response. “We have a special group and we don’t want to pass that up. This is a great opportunity this year. We had to give it everything and we did it in the third.”

The ‘Hawks have been a curious bunch this postseason; they’ve never completely been in sync. When Patrick Sharp played well, Toews didn’t produce offensively. With Toews coming on, Patrick Kane finds himself in a three-game goalless stretch.

In their last two games, though, the ‘Hawks have been piecing more of themselves together. Coach Joel Quenneville has reunited his top two defenceman, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith, and the pairing has been dominant. But when the struggling Toews finally scored in Game 5, it sent a jolt of confidence through the entire team. Suddenly, everyone was back to believing.

“I don’t care who you are, when you see (the puck) go in, you feel like you can do it again,” said Toews, “and that’s a feeling not only within myself, but with the team right now.”

The ‘Hawks are feeling are good again, and there’s still more for their offence to give. They were the best team in the NHL during the regular season and will be again in Wednesday’s Game 7 against Detroit. Captain Toews is back and in charge of that.

Word On

How to interpret Milan Lucic’s remark that the Pittsburgh Penguins are like the Miami Heat of hockey, only shorter. Are the Penguins the 2011 Heat, a collection of planetary-sized personalities that never found their orbit? Or are the Penguins the 2012 Heat, whose star-stacked line-up of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh won an NBA title and could win another?

On the surface, Lucic’s comments before Saturday’s start of the Boston Bruins-Pittsburgh Eastern Conference Final seemed innocent enough. According to the Bruins’ burly winger, “In my mind, (the Penguins) are almost like the Miami Heat of the NHL with all the star power they’ve got. Probably the two best players in the world and a 40-goal scorer and the former 50-goal scorer, a future Hall of Famer and a Norris Trophy candidate on their team.”

That would be Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Jarome Iginla and Kris Letang, although the Penguins weren’t buying the Lucic comparison. Some even took exception to it.

“I think we want to be confident and know we are a good team,” said Brenden Morrow. “But I don’t think there’s anyone in here with big egos or expecting anything’s going to be given to us because of who we are.”

As for LeBron Crosby, he said: “We appreciate the compliment … I think it’s a compliment.”

Probably was. Yeah. Had to be.

Seven Times 10

When Scott Gomez of the San Jose Sharks takes to the ice Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings, he will be competing in his 10th career Game 7, a total equalled by only three other active players – Boston’s Zdeno Chara and Andrew Ference and New Jersey Devils’ goaltender Martin Brodeur.

Gomez was asked if he had any pearls of wisdom to pass along to his less-experienced teammates. “Yeah,” he answered. “Don’t suck.”

Gomez has done well enough to win six of his previous Game 7s, which puts him near the likes of – to name only two – Mark Recchi, who won seven of 11 series finales, and Glen Wesley, who won seven of eight.

Wesley, now retired, once spoke of how he and the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes were prepared by head coach Peter Laviolette before their Stanley Cup final Game 7 against the Edmonton Oilers. Laviolette spoke about his neighbour’s six-year-old daughter, who was stricken with leukemia. Then he asked his players what was the most important thing to them. “Family,” they answered.

“If we had lost, it would have been disheartening and devastating but we would still have the love and support of our families,” explained Wesley. “I’ve had some personal success in seventh games, but it’s not me; it’s the whole team playing well. You play in enough, you understand that.”

Fortunately for Wesley, he didn’t suck and he got the Cup.

Last Take

Forget about raising money to buy the video of Toronto mayor Rob Ford allegedly huffing and puffing on crack. Let’s all chip in and pay Jamal Mayers’ fine. The veteran Blackhawk was docked half a day’s pay by the NHL on Monday for his warm-up antics in Game 5 against Detroit.

While the two teams were doing their pre-game rituals, Mayers slid a few pucks down the ice at Red Wings’ goalie Jimmy Howard. They weren’t hard shots, and Howard acted as if he barely noticed them. But the NHL was not amused and didn’t want things to escalate. A puck here, a bump there, next thing you know Dave Brown comes flying out of the dressing room without a jersey on and starts throwing punches. (See: 1987, the Brawl in Montreal for details.)

Anyway, Mayers admitted he was “trying to get under (Detroit’s) skin” and added, “The league fined me and took the appropriate action. I’ll pay the piper.”

A hockey player speaking candidly? Never once saying heavy on the forecheck, cycle down low? For that, Mayers deserves to have his fine covered. It’s roughly $1,600 (US).

Seriously. We could all take our empties to the Bottle Depot and he’d be good.

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