NHL

3 centers already burning up the NHL playoffs

Ryan Getzlaf

The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are just starting, yet three centers are already setting the stage for hot streaks.

Centerman is a central position in hockey — hence the name. Centers have a lot of responsibility, unlike wingers who just get to skate around and score goals. Ok, there’s more to being a winger than that, but centers have to be strong on the forecheck and backcheck and help set up the scoring. Well, these three centers have been multi-tasking already.

Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche

At the ripe old age of 28 Paul Stastny is a veteran on a crazy-young Colorado Avalanche team. Actually, with 15 playoff games under his belt going in this year, on a team where the captain and the cornerstone defenseman had no playoff experience, Stastny is a definite leader.

Well, Stastny showed in the Colorado Avalanche’s first playoff game against the Minnesota Wild that leadership isn’t just about experience and locker room talk. After the Avalanche played a lackadaisical second period that saw Minnesota score three goals to take a 4-2 lead, Stastny showed his young teammates how to take matters in hand.

Head coach Patrick Roy pulled the goalie with a whopping 3 1/2 minutes left — it’s becoming a trademark of his — so that the Avalanche could put the pressure on Minnesota goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson put a shot on net, which generated a rebound for Stastny to poke past Bryzgalov. Game tied.

Stastny wasn’t done, though. With the first overtime period more than halfway finished, Stastny decided to just win the game. He described the goal with typical humility, saying during a post-game press conference, “That overtime one, all five guys end up touching it… When you get the puck, you want a quick release because you know the goalie’s not going to be ready. It was fortunate to squeeze in.”

Stastny’s second goal came on just his second shot. He got an assist, too, to sweeten up the night.

Brad Richards, New York Rangers

Brad Richards gets to wear the Broadway Hat.

Among other locker room traditions, most teams have some funny headgear that the hero of each game gets to wear. (Paul Stastny was awarded the under-sized Avalanche helmet after his Game 1 night.) The New York Rangers, though, let the hero wear a slick fedora. After the Rangers’ first game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Richards got awarded the Broadway Hat.

No doubt he earned it. He scored the game-winning goal and earned a couple assists to boot — all in the third period.

Brad Richards is shaping up this post-season to look directly opposite last year’s, when he was booed, benched and just not on his game. If the first game of the 2014 NHL Playoffs is any indication, he’s coming in hot. (Sorry to Bobby Ryan, who normally bears the slogan “Coming in Hot.” He’s reclining at home, though, after season-ending surgery — and a season-ending record from the Ottawa Senators.)

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks

Getzlaf doesn’t get to wear a slick hat or even a silly one. Instead, he gets to wear hospital scrubs and a chin guard, though not at the same time.

That’s because Getzlaf has been a busy man. He’s been busy scoring goals, earning assists, stopping slapshots with his face and having babies. (Ok, his wife had the baby, but he was there.) All of this in just a 48 hour period.

In the opening match with the Dallas Stars, Ryan Getzlaf scored a goal and earned an assist in the first period, helping the Ducks take a 4-0 lead over the Stars. Anaheim might have thought they had the game put away, but Dallas fought back, coming to within one on a third-period goal from Tyler Seguin.

Lindy Ruff, a slave to tradition, waited until the “proper” 1:10 mark to pull Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen. (Coach Roy would have had Lehtonen out two minutes earlier.) The Stars began their assault on Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen.

And then it came, a Tyler Seguin slapshot. Seguin shattered glass earlier this year with his slapshot. Whether Getzlaf knew that probably wouldn’t have mattered. He put himself in the way to block the shot. And he did — with his face. His pain was immediate and intense, but he’d gotten the job done. Dallas fell to Anaheim.

Just about 24 hours later, he and his wife Paige welcomed a baby girl into the world — at the ungodly hour of 12:36 AM. Good thing babies can’t focus their eyes very well when they’re born because this little girl’s daddy had some serious franken-lip going on.

Getzlaf missed the morning skate for Game 2 — he was a mite tired, apparently — but he suited up for the game itself, complete with a chin guard to protect his sewn-up gash.

He scored a goal in the first period of that game, too, by the way. It could be that Getzlaf is just getting warmed up.

 

Photo by Jae C. Hong

 

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A professional writer, Nadia Archuleta is a hockey expert. In addition to maintaining her own hockey blog, Hockeygrrls, she has contributed sports writing for numerous websites. From the hockey smile to the butterfly style -- she covers it all.

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