May 7, 2010, 4:15 PM EDT
Look, I don’t bring up this question because I “hate” the Boston Bruins or the Montreal Canadiens. In fact, I’m a real sucker for those two teams. Their histories are Bill Gates-rich, with great fans, a fantastic rivalry and some sexy uniforms to boot.
That doesn’t change the fact that I had horrible, horrible visions just about the second the Canadiens took a 3-2 lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins last night. Like, Christopher Walken in “The Dead Zone”-type premonitions. After all, both teams have been guilty of their fair share of … how should I say it? “Prevent defense” maybe? Honestly, if those two old-school rivals meet, I fear that the puck will reside permanently in the neutral zone.
It can be fun to watch the tortoise and the hare, but what happens when it’s tortoise vs. tortoise?
Earlier this week, I promoted the virtues of “Cinderella” teams and juggernauts alike. That doesn’t change the fact that I follow sports to escape the horrific doldrums of real-life. Sure, playing a neutral zone trap – or one of its Devilish mutations – can help a David beat a Goliath but does it have to come at the cost of entertainment? Watching trap hockey is the puck world personification of typing up T.P.S. Reports.
Then again, I’ve been wrong about the entertainment value of series too. Despite being a possible series sweep, Boston-Philadelphia produced enough flourishes of genius and end-to-end play that all hope is not lost. Besides, even less-than-perfect playoff hockey is still playoff hockey. I just worry that – after all these rules changes and other ways to give aggressive, fast and talented teams incentive to exist as they do – we’ll be back to watching hockey as rice-cake-bland as those dreadful Ducks-Wild games back in the 2002-03 playoffs.
Obviously, it’s more-than-hasty to assume that the Canadiens will knock off the Penguins (and the Flyers, technically, aren’t dead yet either). Simply put, I couldn’t help but express my fear that “playing not to lose” will be the law of the land in the NHL.
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