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Mully: Playoffs bring out best in local hockey fans

It's been a couple of weeks since Mully's had his say, here's his stance on the playoffs and more
Hockey fans James Chartier and Kevin Walker.

Well, this is the first column in three weeks. A lot of you have inquired why.

To say the last two weeks have been chaotic would be an understatement. An illness in the family and subsequent problems were a nightmare. The good news is things are OK now and looking much better. That's about all I can really say.

What I can say, is we have an amazing assemblage of awesome friends. And I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart. Whether it was your assistance or just listening to me and lending an ear, I will never forget that.

I know that almost all of us in life have beautiful friends that we can count on when it matters. I hope we never take them for granted.

Hockey fans James Chartier and Kevin Walker. Supplied photo

You can see in the attached photos what it really means to be a hockey fan. 

The interaction between two hockey nuts James Chartier and Kevin Walker had me in stitches and I just had to share. It is this type of good-natured fun that signifies all that is good about supporting your favourite team and sharing the joy of following that team's efforts. 

Kevin shows up for work in his vintage Leaf jersey at the beginning of the first round. James is not to be outdone and has his Boston gear brought to work to counter Kev.

One of these two is very happy right now. The other? Well, he's used to disappointment. 

I listened intently with a heart full of emotion to Rick Bowness as he announced his retirement. His words on what coaching means to him should be put in every coaching manual that is produced. The game will be missing not only a good coach, but a wonderful human being.

A few weeks ago before the playoff, I gave you the standard schtick about the important elements of a successful playoff. 

One of those elements was the power play. That is a universally agreed upon fact by hockey people. So please don't whine when you get smoked by the opposition power play and lose the game as a result. I don't care if you had perfect penalty killing all tourney. Canada's U18 team's powerplay will feast if you take penalties.

What a hard-earned, team-play-oriented gold medal that was for Canada. Two brilliant teams in an amazing game filled with talent. I would have loved to see Celebrini playing there as opposed to being invited to the Men's World Championships before being dumped after arriving in Europe (along with Fantilli ) for some reinforcements. But that's another column for another day.

Two years ago I got a call from Canada's east coast from a guru of scouting. This guy has been scouting worldwide since the early ‘70s. He called to ask if I was watching the youth Canada Winter Games. Specifically men's hockey. There was this kid named Gavin McKenna playing for the Yukon who was making a mockery of the games as a 14-year-old.

I don't think the Yukon had ever won a game at prior events, but were now poised to grab a playoff spot. 

“You have to see this kid play Mikey." 

"It is unreal.” 

So I watched and knew like so many others we would soon start hearing his name over and over. 

Well, this past U18s as a 16-year-old we all watched as he was the best player in the tournament (in which he can play two more) and served notice to hockey fans worldwide that he has arrived. Making plays at the speed of light and displaying an uncanny knack for making the right play over and over, he delighted hockey fans from all nations with his vast level of skill. It sure is a treat to watch this young phenom perform.

The Markham Waxers who won the U18 Centrals in the Soo and faced Timmins in the event, had a strong showing making it to the semis. They would end up losing in the bronze medal game in a shootout. You have had an amazing season when you get to play for a bronze in a national championship.

Another brilliant move by our leaders in pro hockey. Unless you have special TV or streaming packages (or add them), Monday night NHL hockey, including the Leafs, will not be available in Canada. Oh wait … you can watch them if you want to pay extra and have the equipment. Oh, but we are growing the game I hear. By cutting out those that support you already? The only thing growing is bank accounts. And they aren't yours or mine.  

The NHL recently announced that in partnership with Rogers and Amazon, Amazon Prime Video will now be the exclusive NHL Monday night hockey broadcaster via streaming. You will need an Amazon Prime Video subscription to do so. Oh goody. I'm sure my older friends on fixed incomes or those struggling to make ends meet will be rushing out to add an additional expense so they can enjoy watching hockey. What parallel universe do these decision makers live in? What's that? OK. I’ve just been informed they live in the milk you for your money way star system … just off the Milky Way.

Combine all this with a playoff TV schedule making sense and failing to find a way to get the world's best player on TV before 3/4s of the country is asleep. Canadian western teams playing on the weekends? Ya. 10 p.m. eastern sounds about right.

Today's column features a new segment called. “Mully's much too obvious.”

I appreciate good analysts and commentators in hockey. But sometimes it is just hours and hours of mindless chatter on what each team needs to do to win or not lose.

Here is a brief look at this season's playoff scoring. Top 15 as of Wednesday morning for your perusal. Of the top 15, most have played five or six games at most. Carolina's Aho has played seven and Boston’s Brad Marchand eight.

McDavid in five games has 12 points.
Makar in six games has 12.
Zibanejad, MacKinnon and Rantanen have 11.
Trochek, Draisaitl and Tkachuk have 10.
Marchand, Nichuskin, Verhaeghe and Bouchard have 9.
Hyman Lehkonen and Aho have 8.

The obvious? All of these 15 are their team's top players. Never mind the coaching, or systems, processes, etc. Your best players show up and play like your best players, you win! At least until your best players face someone else's best players in an epic series where the best play very well and the better group wins. 

OK, so good efforts by supporting casts can push you over the top in the playoffs but the big dogs in net, up front and on D are what make or break you.

In seven games the Leafs did not have anyone in the top 50 players. And it was Bertuzzi, Domi and Mathews with four points leading the way. So no big dogs really showed up. I know there were injuries/illness, but fact is the top teams have guys at two points per game or 1.75 points per game. 

So while I hear coaches, analysts, media, etc dive deep to find the “secrets” to winning like making changes to the fourth line, I cringe. The deeper you get in the playoffs then fourth line changes might be a bigger deal. Not now though.

Now it's time for the big dollar boys, the all stars, the TV commercial guys, the no-trade clause guy , the only praise me guys, the top dogs. There’s no fancy dancing around it.

When the top guns show up and perform … well it's obvious, right?

One last request. Could the sports channels wait until at least the end of the playoffs to discuss what they think the Leafs should do. Some of us would like to hear about the teams still playing without 80 per cent of the show still about the Leafs. I am always interested in the Leafs. Just more interested in the teams still playing. You can dissect the team at a later date. It's all hypothetical now anyway. Change won't come before the draft.

Thank you.

Later skater.

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