I’m a man who enjoys his routines. Among them, is getting home on Thursday afternoon and doing a quick review of my newly arrived Sports Illustrated. As I arrived home this Thursday, I was mortified when I looked at the cover – featuring New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
I loudly cursed the editors who suddenly decided hockey was worth putting on the cover after ignoring the sport all year. The only thing going through my mind was evident to those who know the publication – the Sports Illustrated cover jinx!
The Rangers had just come off a disastrous Game 5, where, in the second period, they allowed the Montreal Canadiens to score as many goals in one period as they allowed to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the last three games of the previous series - combined. I envisioned the karmic laughter of those smug Qubecois with their gazillion Coupe Stanley banners, coming back from a 3-1 deficit. I could see Rangers goalie Henrik Lundquist suffering through the New York summer like a character from an Ingmar Bergman movie. I felt the cold, creeping specter of fear and doubt as I took my customary seat in my rec room for Game 6 (always the rec room – I’ve discovered that the family room provides less than optimal outcomes).
(Post Break 1: I know I’m not the only person who believes in jinxes, but I admire a man who is directly affected and spits in the face of one. Josh Beckett did a great job talking to everyone in the dugout throughout his no-hitter last week. Of course I am also the man who jeopardized his marriage by banishing his wife to another floor of the house during the Giants playoff run on the way to Super Bowl 46.)
In a game that was not as close as the score would indicate, the Rangers advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals beating the Habs, 1-0, but not before causing every Ranger fan to gnash their teeth and curse the SI staff. The Ranger attack did whatever it could to put me at ease, peppering Montreal goalie Dustin Tokarski from all angles, but with no result. My sighs grew deeper with every failed Ranger power play and missed opportunity. My plans to invade the Sports Illustrated offices grew more nefarious as the clock ticked down. Thankfully, Dominic Moore buried a brilliant pass from Brian Boyle with about two minutes left in the second period to make the intermission a little less tense.
(Post Break 2: There are a couple of other things that I will take very seriously: I will not wear jerseys watching the games at home; the right side of the couch is mine; changing positions is only allowed if things are going wrong; you will jinx it if you blab; and never any premature celebrations - Reggie Miller, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Joe Pisarcik cured me of that.)
The third period saw the Rangers play perhaps their most dominant defensive period of these playoffs as the Montreal attack took minutes to get the puck into the Ranger end. The Blueshirts broke all historic precedent by maintaining their attack, coming close to breaking the game open several times. I kept waiting for the next “Zelepukin” moment, but none would come as I slumped on the couch filled with relief and gratitude when the final horn sounded (in your eye, SI!).
Oh, by the way, as the champions of the Eastern Conference, the Rangers were awarded the Prince of Wales Trophy. According to hockey superstition, they did not touch the trophy. Four more wins and they can carry the next trophy around the ice.
Doesn’t Whitley, Nuno and Phelps sound like a law firm? Maybe the Yankees should sue . . .
At this point, I think Phil Jackson should just bite the bullet and rehire Hubie Brown . . .
I’m waiting for someone to give Derek Jeter a lifetime supply of penicillin as a retirement present . . .
Eli manning is back at practice two months early – I guess that Josh Freeman signing really did scare him . . .
Fantasy Football Update: In no way, shape, or form am I drafting any Browns this year.
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