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Savran: The kettle calls the pot black

Saturday, May 03, 2003

It's no fun when your nose is pressed against the glass, on the outside looking in at the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Maybe it's because the Penguins have put the guards on their skate blades in early April the past two seasons, but it sure seems like these playoffs have provided some of the most riveting hockey in recent memory.

Then again, maybe my memory's gone bad. But some things I do remember most vividly, proving that the more things change in playoff hockey, the more they remain the same.

Remember Boston Coach Mike Milbury calling Bob Johnson a "Professor of Goonism" in 1991?

Well this week, there were howls of protest over a guy being a "dirty" player, plying his craft for a "dirty" team. This charge was leveled by, of all people, the Philadelphia Flyers, against that renowned band of criminals, the Ottawa Senators.

The Flyers might not win the Stanley Cup, but they should be awarded the Governor's Trophy for chutzpah. The Flyers calling another team dirty is like Arsenio Hall saying someone isn't funny.

This accusation comes from a franchise that has employed every cheap-shot artist with the exception of Don Rickles.

This accusation came from a general manager, Bobby Clarke, who would carve you up quicker than Emeril.

They have vilified Martin Havlat, who's not even worthy of honorable mention in the Goon Hall of Fame.

A convenient lapse of memory, however, allows them to forget -- or gloss over -- the bit of plastic surgery Jeremy Roenick performed on the face of Toronto's Alexander Mogilny, which aided them in winning that first-round series. That didn't count, apparently.

Would someone please remind Mr. Clarke and his band of merry maulers that the nickname "Broad Street Bullies" was not a term of endearment?

This playoff paranoia is not the sole province of Philadelphia.

Think back to 1992 when Pittsburgh -- yours truly, especially -- accused Rangers' coach Roger Neilson of putting a bounty on Mario Lemieux, which Adam Graves executed with a wrist-shattering slash.

In North Jersey, the Devils have planted the seed that Pavel Kubina's attempted clearing pass, which struck Scott Stevens and nearly lopped off his ear, might not have been an accident. Martin Brodeur, who has given new meaning to "All in the Family," was an eyewitness from about 175 feet away and questioned Kubina's intent.

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of defensemen?

Do the Devils really believe Kubina shot the puck into another man's face with malice aforethought?

Probably not, but anything to crank up the intensity level, anything to fertilize adversarial dislike into full-bodied hate. It's the playoffs.

By the way, you can expect New Jersey to list Stevens' injury as a groin pull.

When there's not an on-ice incident to rally the troops, teams have been known to manufacture them.

The Penguins did exactly that during the Cup Final in '91, and we bit like barracuda. After Minnesota took a 2-1 lead, there was a rumor that the city of Minneapolis had already planned a parade route when -- not if -- the Stars won the series.

Badger Bob poked the Penguins in the ribs with that stick, and, when they won the next three games, several players said the parade parable was a motivating factor. Never mind that the whole story was bogus.

The truth is, there never was any such parade plan. It was the product of two overly exuberant Twin Cities disc jockeys. And even if there had been such a plan by the city, the North Stars didn't have anything to do with it.

Nevertheless, perception is reality, so if it served to fire up the Penguins, so be it.

Now, Jeremy "Slice 'n' Dice" Roenick, well-versed in the lore of the game, has introduced similar charges against the city of Ottawa, the province of Ontario, and most, if not all, of Canada. Something about an article in an Ottawa newspaper debating which owner's name, soon-to-be-former owner Rod Bryden or owner-in-waiting Eugene Melnyk, should be engraved on the Cup in the event the Senators win it.

A foolish issue at this point, to be sure. But since when are the Senators responsible for what a newspaper prints?

This is a typical ploy. Our media vs. their media. Ridiculous. They don't even want us around most of the time, but all of a sudden the stinking media is part of "The Team"?

For the Stanley Cup playoffs, the NHL ought to install couches instead of benches and replace trainers with team shrinks. It's absurd and beautiful at the same time. And you miss it. As the song says, "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?" It's the playoffs, eh?


Stan Savran is the host of a sports talk show from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays on WBGG-AM (970).

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