From the Stands
Guelph Storm alumni are making the NHL postseason fun to watch.
The one player receiving the most accolades early on is Los Angeles Kings right-winger Dustin Brown (pictured) who has helped catapult his team to a shocking 3-0 lead over the Vancouver Canucks. He was named third star in the first game picking up a goal, but it was in game two that he helped his team take early ownership of the series. Brown scored not one, but two shorthanded goals while setting up a third causing a good friend from Vancouver to send a agitated text saying “Dustin Brown is killing us.” In game three all he did was score the only goal of the game to put his 8th seeded club on the verge of a stunning upset.
Commanding the blue line for the Kings is Drew Doughty. Averaging almost 27 minutes of ice time per game, he sees more ice than any of his teammates. After sitting out training camp because of a contract dispute and then getting off to a slow start, his game has rounded into form at just the right time.
While the Canucks are in a hole, Manny Malhotra has become a calming presence for them. Playing on the team’s checking line and being one of their top penalty killers, he plays an important role.
Another defenceman with a Storm pedigree, Dan Girardi, has become the go-to guy in New York. He leads the Rangers in average ice time per game with over 28 minutes every night. His is an amazing story, going undrafted by the NHL only to make his first all-star game this season. His greatest moment as a member of the Storm came in the 2004 playoffs when he had two goals and 19 points in 22 games. He had two assists in the first two games of the Rangers-Ottawa series.
His New York teammate is captain Ryan Callahan who is seen as one of the greatest leaders the Storm has ever had. He has always played with a ferocity that makes opponents check over their shoulders before heading into the corners. Storm fans should take some comfort in the fact that recent first round draft pick Robby Fabbri has been compared favourably to Callahan when it comes to skill, work ethic and the desire to win at all costs.
One of the prettiest goals scored so far in the post season was off the stick of Nashville defenceman Kevin Klein. He started the rush deep behind the net, lugged the puck up the boards, executed a quick give-and-go with a teammate before deking Detroit defenceman Brad Stuart and then going top-shelf for his first goal of the post-season. It showed off the great skating and skill the Storm coveted when they traded Tyler Haskins and Colin Power to the St. Mike’s Majors in the 2003-2004 season. Klein and teammates Callahan, Girardi and Daniel Paille were instrumental in the team’s OHL Championship that year. Had the Los Angeles Kings not kept Brown as an 18-year-old that season, there is a very good chance they might have won the Memorial Cup in Kelowna. As for Paille, he is the only player from the ’04 championship team that has a Stanley Cup ring. He plays a fourth line role for the Bruins and was heralded for his work ethic and timely goals during last year’s Cup run.
Todd Bertuzzi has been forced to play the role of enforcer in the Detroit-Nashville series after the early antics of Predators defenceman Shea Weber. After Weber smashed Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the boards, Bertuzzi called him out in the opening minutes of the next game to stand-up for his teammate. As an aging veteran, I’m sure it wasn’t something he really wanted to do but on a roster devoid of much toughness he stepped forward to slug it out with Weber.
Two other ex-Stormers are also in the post-season. Matt D’Agostini played in game two for St. Louis in their series against San Jose and Cam Janssen is on the roster of the New Jersey Devils but has yet to play.