Headlines and Sidelines
Fans of the Montreal Canadiens have good reason to be smiling this week. (Although unlike many Leafs fans, Montreal fans for the most part don't get all worked up over winning the opening round of the playoffs. To be fair, Leaf fans haven't had much to get worked up about the last dozen years or so, so perhaps that type of Leaf fan has forgotten how. Maybe someday we'll find out.)
But enough about teams who choke and stumble and fall their way out of the freaking chase for the Stanley Cup.
The Canadiens made quick work of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL playoffs – dusting them in four straight games – leading some to ponder the age-old question of whether it's better to go into the next round of the playoffs well-rested (but possibly rusty), or if it's more advantageous to scratch and claw your way through a round and hit the next one still in top gear. That can work either way of course, although I don't think there's much of a debate: the quicker you can finish off a team and be home and cooling, the better off you are. Not only are you resting the legs and the mind, you are watching other teams knock each other around.
Other NHL playoff thoughts:
1.) It's somewhat surprising that, as of this writing, the San Jose Sharks are up 3-0 on the Los Angeles Kings and on the brink of knocking off the 2012 Cup champs. The Sharks are usually good for winning a round, but when the stakes get higher, they usually go into the tank. No pun intended.
2.) Columbus is giving the Pittsburgh Penguins a battle. The Blue Jackets entered the post-season playing well, but I don't know that they have the talent to hang with Pittsburgh. Then again, heart trumps talent most of the time.
3.) Hockey Night In Canada commentator Ron MacLean apologized for suggesting the NHL should not have assigned a French referee to Game 4 of the Tampa Bay/Montreal series, after a blown call by a French ref may have cost Tampa Bay in the third game (not that it mattered, because Montreal was going to win the series anyway). I understand why MacLean said he was sorry because he certainly didn't want to start a big controversy, I also understand why he said what he said in the first place. This is not to question the integrity of the official who refereed Game 4, but it's just bad optics.
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Now that the weather has turned spring-like and civilized, golfers in Pictou County have turned their thoughts to whacking balls at the driving range and the impending opening of local courses. If, in fact, those thoughts ever stray too far from the serious golfer's mind. When I say "serious" I don't necessarily mean "good," I just mean that die-hard golfers may struggle to break 95, but that doesn't mean they don't love golf to the point of near-obsession.
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The Toronto Raptors first foray into the NBA playoffs in six years got off to a mixed start against the Brooklyn Nets; the Raptors split the first two games against Brooklyn, with both games played in Toronto. Toronto looked sloppy, though: turning the ball over far too often in both games, and teams who do that long enough are going to pay for it. As a quasi-Raptors fan (I follow them if they do well, don't care that much if they don't), the first two games were exciting basketball, and the fans in Toronto were into it, big time (resisting urge to take another shot at the Leafs here). Playoff basketball is very much like the NHL playoffs: the intensity rises dramatically, and if your team can't match the other team's ability to ramp it up another notch, you won't last long.
Kevin Adshade is a sports columnist for The News.