Ideally, columnists and commentators (not to mention those disturbed creatures who attempt to do both) are supposed to provide answers. But this time of year, with 16 hockey teams about to start from scratch, there are none. Only questions.
And so we are left to wonder. Which is what makes the playoffs great. For wondering is…wonderful.
I wonder if there is a lovable Cinderella in this bunch, like the 2006 Oilers, who were the 8th seed in the west, and came within two wins of a title. St. Louis would fit the bill. Better yet, Columbus. With a sensational rookie goalie (Steve Mason), and a superstar (Rick Nash) who has waited six seasons to taste the playoffs, anyone looking for a bandwagon to leap on might just have a spring fling with the Jackets. (Or they might be gone in four…this is why it's called “wondering”.)
The East is trickier, because the teams in the Cinderella spots are underachievers with baggage. Could you really fall in love with the underdog…Rangers? Sean Avery doesn't exactly make us feel all warm and fuzzy.
Speaking of which, I wonder if John Tortorella will keep up this calm, rational, media-friendly persona that he has adopted in New York. Or will he eventually snap, and stick a pen in some reporters' neck after blowing a third period lead in Game 3. I kinda hope it's the latter. I miss the old Torts.
I wonder if Montreal will catch fire and somehow salvage this bizarre Centennial season, which started with so much promise, and turned into ‘Days of Our Lives,' with less make-up and teeth.
I wonder if Hilary Duff and Carrie Underwood will hang out this summer, or if their relationship is purely seasonal. And after Googling Chris Campoli's girlfriend (and Maxim model) Gia Allemand on the advice of a friend, I wonder if I've been spending too much time wondering about Carrie and Hilary, and not enough time wondering about Gia.
I wonder if this is finally the year Joe Thornton dominates in the playoffs. No, he hasn't been as bad as they've made him out to be the last couple of springs. But he has never picked up his team and portaged it, which is what the truly great players do.
By the way, I'm not the only one wondering about Joe Thornton. Some hockey people are wondering if he will even make the 2010 Olympic team. Leading the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final would put an end to that wondering.
I wonder if Boston's Milan Lucic is going to be the breakout star of these playoffs.
I wonder if this is Mike Keenan's last shot. Of course, I've wondered that about a half-dozen times before. Keenan is the Jason Voorhees of coaching--no matter how many times you kill him, there is always another sequel. But if the Flames go out in the first round, I wonder if both Keenan and Darryl Sutter will be done in Calgary.
I wonder if the Penguins and Red Wings can break the jinx of defending Stanley Cup Finalists, who haven't won a single playoff round in the last five years. They certainly look like they might.
And yet, I wonder if Chris Osgoode has an ON-OFF switch tucked underneath his pads that he flicks ON come playoff time. He'd better, or the champs are in trouble.
I wonder why, whenever I ask players or coaches to name a couple of teams they think might win the east, no one mentions Washington.
I wonder if Martin Brodeur will be the All-Universe goaltender we saw in the weeks before he broke Patrick Roy's record, or the struggling puck-fighter we have often seen in the weeks since. Brodeur has had some mediocre playoff performances in recent seasons. I wonder if another one would cost him the starter's job on Team Canada next February. I wonder if Steve Yzerman is thinking the same thing.
I wonder if I could eat the foot-high chocolate bunny I bought for my kids in one sitting. It is currently lying on the table next to me, whispering, “C'mon, eat me…I know you want to.” I wonder if made a mistake sharing that with you.
I wonder if Mats Sundin feels guilty about the five million he's taking for a mediocre half-season in Vancouver. He surely won't if he can contribute to a long Canucks playoff run. But he should if he doesn't. This is not the Mats Sundin the Canucks thought they were getting.
I wonder if Carolina getting Erik Cole back will turn out to be the best trade deadline deal…ever. Since his return, the Hurricanes have gone from playoff outsider to legitimate contender, and linemate Eric Staal has become a scoring cyborg again. I'm not sure you want to play Carolina right now.
I wonder if the number of times someone on the street yells at me: “Hey! Where's your monkey?” will exceed 100 a day during these playoffs. That's my over/under. And I don't even go out on the street much.
From Saturday's Ottawa Citizen