Research scientists at The Institute for Hockey Affairs are studying the apparent inverse relationship between any given NHL team’s chances of playoff success and the number of Russians, Swedes, Finns, Latvians, Czechs, Danes, Germans, Morrocans, and Belgians on its roster.
“There is a belief that Euros, most of whom never heard of the Stanley Cup until they got off the boat, just do not want to win it as much as the Canadians and Americans do,” said Dr. Freddy Shero IV, director of the Institute.
“Sure, Euros skate pretty. They pass like laser beams, they prance around, run nifty weaves in the offensive end, and kiss one another on the cheek when they score. Oh, yes, and they don’t fight which, for some reason, is important to people who think the European game is superior to Old Time Hockey,” Dr. Shero said. “But, if you want to win in the playoffs, you better have a bunch of boys who’ve never wanted more out of life than to get their (bleeping) names on the Stanley Cup,” he continued.
Shero said Institute research team was particularly interested in the second-round series in the Eastern Conference. New Jersey held Toronto to just six (six!) shots in the last game of their series and eliminated the Maple Leafs, who have a higher Euro-to-North American ratio than the Devils. More telling, according to Dr. Shero, was the Philadelphia Flyers systematic dismantling of the Euro-rich Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Flyers cemented their position as a Team of Destiny by spotting the Pens a 2 games-to-none lead in the series, then beating them in overtime, eviscerating them and pulling even with the 5OT win in Game Four, skewering the remains with a 6-3 win in Game Five, and completing the sweep by winning Game Six, 2-1.
“This series actually ended with 3:14 gone in the second period of Game Five when Jaromir Jagr told Coach Herb Brooks that he had seen enough and was going to wait on the bus,” Shero said.
Jagr was not a factor in the 5OT game, he quit in Game Five,and got a few shots but was handled cleanly by Flyers rookie G Brian Boucher.
Besides Jagr, who surely must light a candle to the Hockey Gods every night for giving him the skills to escape a lifetime on the line in a Prague tractor factory, the Pens are burdened with 17 other Euros, and together they just did not have the heart to play with the Flyers’ 18 North Americans.
And those Norte Americanos love whupping up on over-talented Czechs. Before handing Jagr his golf bag, they torched his countryman Dominik Hasek in the first round.
Now, let’s talk about Matthew Barnaby, the cheap-shot artist and dive-master, who sincerely disgraced himself at every opportunity.
“There is no accounting for people who may have talent, but play as they have none,” said Dr. Shero. “They apparently are the Third World citizens of hockey.”
In the pre-game skate of Game Five, for instance, he was yapping and carrying on, taunting the Flyers, unaware evidently that if you’re going to trash-talk, you better bring some game.
And game, hockey fans, is one thing Matthew Barnaby does not have.
At 17:50 of the second period in Game Five, he coughed up the puck in the offensive end, lollygagged on the back check, and coasted in as Flyers rookie D Andy Delmore potted his fourth goal of the playoffs.
Then he started crying and whining to the zeebs, and got sent off with a game misconduct for refusing to shut his piehole.
Barnaby is, according to noted hockey windbag Barry Melrose, the kind of guy every team would love to have on the bench. Right, Barry.
Any sensible person would rather have a gutty kid like Delmore. Undrafted, he started the year with the Flyers AHL affiliate Philadelphia Phantoms, and was called up before the playoffs.
All he’s done so far is score two goals in Game Three, including the OT winner, and (in Game Four) become the first rookie D in the expansion era to ring up a playoff hat trick.
And if you had to choose between an overskilled Euro like Jagr and a hardnose like Mark Recchi, who grew up wanting only one thing in life, Dr. Shero said, “You better take the guy from Kamloops if you want to go deep in the playoffs.”