There's nothing like playoff hockey. Nothing. It is by far the most entertaining team sport when the intensity reaches a fever pitch and every game is a war. Basketball, football, baseball ... they all pale in comparison. And when my hometown Vancouver Canucks are marching along with a real chance at the Stanley Cup, which also just happens to be the most beautiful trophy of any major sports league in the world, you can be sure I live and die with my team.
I've got a blogger bet going on this series with lightning, a long-suffering Chicago Blackhawks fan, which only adds to the fun as the two teams meet in the second round of the NHL playoffs. So, as per usual, I got together with my dad for our playoff hockey routine of screaming at the TV screen as our Canucks were full value for a 3-0 lead after two periods over a young Hawks team that showed its lack of experience and was dominated, in large part due to their own undisciplined play which had them in the penalty box for long stretches. If you make mistakes like that, the Sedins et al. will make you pay.
However, I got more than a little nervous as the Hawks turned the tables in the third period to storm back to a 3-3 tie and it was looking as if the Canucks would improbably be stuck going into overtime in a game they had no business losing. But with under two minutes to go the Hawks comitted a costly turnover at the Canucks blueline and gave up a 4-1 outnumbered rush and Sami Salo made no mistake on the rebound to snap home the game-winner. An empty net goal quickly followed and the home team won 5-3.
Lightning has to hope that the talented young captain of the Hawks, Jonathan Toews, gets healthy and is able to perform up to his usual standard of play. He was noticeably invisible, except for taking a double minor penalty for high-sticking in the first period, and only played four shifts in the third period. The Hawks as a team are really going to have to improve their competitiveness over a full 60 minutes as the Canucks are only going to play better as they shake off the rust from a long nine-day layoff. I would bet a lot of money that the Canucks won't blow another three-goal lead in this series.