New Jersey Devils' defenceman P.K. Subban, who could give English singer Harry Styles a run with his wild fashion choices, won the King Clancy Memorial Award yesterday for leadership and humanitarian contributions on and off the ice.
Colorado rolled out its Western Conference champions attire and Avs' Pom Pom Post, while Edmonton handed out Band-Aids and ice packs to its playoff wounded.
And newspapers in Denver, thrilled to see their team in the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 2001, have started marketing the Delirium in Denver theme to readers who must also love the over-the-top Monster Truck-WWE hype.
Here are five things to know as we head into the final few weeks of NHL playoffs:
A FLAIR FOR THE DRAMATIC
Kiss Stealin' Ric Flair, a pro wrestler for more than 50 years, was at Amalie Arena watching the New York Rangers trying to upend the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final series.
One of Nature Boy's greatest quotes suits the Rangers' immediate challenge: "To be the man, you gotta beat the man."
The Rangers are finding that out as the series progresses. After winning both games at Madison Square Garden, the Broadway Blueshirts have dropped two straight in Florida, where the Lightning made several adjustments to get their offensive stars rolling.
The Lightning won 4-1 last night, getting timely goals, strong netminding, and three points from Ondrej Palat en route to their sixth straight playoff win at home. Steve Stamkos' goal at 4:56 of the third put Tampa Bay up 3-0 and the Lightning put it in cruise control the rest of the way.
Game 5 is Thursday at Madison Square Garden where the Rangers have won eight consecutive games.
HIGHS AND LOWS IN SUNSHINE STATE
The Rangers were looking at positives after Game 4 -- they outshot the Lightning 35-31, they outhit the Lightning 35-27, Jacob Trouba had seven shots and they scored their 17th power-play goal of the post-season.
What they weren't talking about were critical injuries. Already down Ryan Strome, they lost another player down the middle in Filip Chytil, who left the game with an upper-body injury after taking a hit from defenceman Victor Hedman with 6:22 remaining in the second period.
Chytil, part of the effective "Kid Line" with Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko, sat on the bench briefly after the hit before going to the dressing room and did not return for the third period.
PLAYING THE PAIN GAME
Edmonton defenceman Darnell Nurse played the entire post-season with a torn hip flexor. His teammate, forward Leon Draisaitl, had a wonky ankle, while countless others had upper body or lower body bumps and bruises. And Oilers' netminder Mike Smith suffered a broken heart.
Hockey injuries are kind of like playoff beards: inevitable and unpleasant. And the team that records the most rarely gets to hoist the coveted Stanley Cup. Which is why ice packs and Bengay are almost more popular than beautiful women sitting behind players' benches.
Willie Mitchell of Port McNeill, B.C., who played for six NHL teams over 16 seasons and won two Stanley Cups before retiring in 2016, had a great way to describe the abuse players absorb.
"We play this great game [in which] I get into a car wreck six times a night, 82 times a year, plus playoffs," said Mitchell. "The rest of my teammates do, too. How many people get into a car wreck in their [entire] life? Hopefully never, but maybe once in their life?”
Hockey commentator Kevin Bieksa said it's because of this endless battering that players on losing teams are often seen crying when their Cup dreams end in disappointment. Controversial goals or offsides likely don't help either.
KINGS OF THE COMEBACK, PART 8
With his team sagging and trailing 3-1 heading into the final period on Monday, Colorado coach Jared Bednar had a few words for his frustrated players: "Turn it loose."
And that they did as the Avalanche outscored the Oilers 4-2 in the third at Rogers Place, before finishing it off 79 seconds into overtime.
The win marked Colorado's eighth comeback win of the post-season. Only six other teams in NHL playoff history have recorded more. Now the Avs are looking to become the only team to join the 1987-88 Oilers going 16-2 in the playoffs. The most recent best playoff record is 16-4 by the 2011-12 L.A. Kings.
INTERIM COACH ACES 'JOB INTERVIEW'
Will Edmonton remove the interim coach label from Jay Woodcroft and, if so, when?
With Monday's deflating exit from the playoffs still fresh on the minds of those who manage the Oilers, it's understandable that decision wasn't top priority. However, on paper it seems Woodcroft aced his trial run and earned a shot to run the team from the start of a season, have a say in the lineup and use the "good and hard lessons" from these playoffs to improve the Oil going forward.
You only have to look west across the mountains to Vancouver, where Bruce Boudreau inherited a tire-fire of a Canucks team midseason and turned it around, narrowly missing a post-season berth.
Fans who enjoyed screaming "Bruce there it is" were now screaming at Vancouver management to reward the bench boss for an incredible showing. Boudreau will be back. Will Woodcroft? And when will we know?
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2022
Gord Kurenoff, The Canadian Press