I don’t care if you love or hate the Montreal Canadiens and San Jose Sharks, Michael Cammalleri and Joe Pavelski are easily the two best stories in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Both guys are everywhere. Scoring in pretty much every game they play. Scoring at will. And that’s why the NHL’s postseason is the greatest tournament in professional sports. You never know who’s going to play the greatest hockey of their entire lives.
The 25-year old Pavelski is in his fourth NHL season. Each of the last two years, he’s tallied 25 goals in the regular season. He’s a steady scorer, and absolutely critical once the playoffs begin. That’s because the opposition is always going to key on the Sharks’ big line of Thornton, Heatley and Marleau. The Sharks’ opponents will do their absolute best to shut them down. If the Sharks are to continue their chance of reaching their first-ever Stanley Cup Final, secondary players have to step up. And boy, has Pavelski ever done that. To go with his nine goals in nine games – he did not score last night – Pavelski has added six assists. Five of his goals have come on the power play. He’s been great to watch.
In Montreal, Cammalleri’s story is even more fascinating. This is Cammalleri’s eighth NHL season. Prior to 2010, he’d skated in just six playoff games. All those came last year, under Mike Keenan, in Calgary. He scored once. This year, he can’t miss. He has 8 goals in ten games, including that beauty he swatted out of the air. The one already immortalized in the NHL’s “What If…” television spots.
The Pavelski and Cammalleri story types aren’t new to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In 1989, 25-year old Chris Kontos had spent his entire NHL career bouncing between the American Hockey League and the big show. In fact, he spent 1985-86 between the AHL and Finland! No matter. When the ’89 Stanley Cup Playoffs began, Kontos was on the roster of the Los Angeles Kings. You may recall that as the year the just-traded Wayne Gretzky faced his old team in the first round. Kontos scored the first goal of that series, just 1:01 in on a power play. The Kings ousted the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions in seven. Kontos scored eight times. Gretzky got four. Chris Kontos finished the 1989 playoffs with 9 goals in 11 games. Strangely, Kontos only played one more full NHL season. That came in 1992-93 with Tampa Bay. His run was brief, yet memorable.
Just one year after Kontos’ heroics, Washington Capitals’ RW John Druce blew the doors off in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Druce scored 14 goals in 15 games, as the Capitals stunned everyone by reaching the Wales Conference Final. Druce had just three in the first round against New Jersey. Then he went ape against the Rangers, scoring nine times in five games. Druce popped two more against Boston, but his seventh-seeded Caps were swept by the Bruins.
Years later, I asked Druce about his 1990 playoff run. He said something like, “I just got on a roll.” Good time to get on a roll, JD. I’ll tell ya what he did. He started scoring and then didn’t think about it. He just suited up and played his a** off. Confidence in your game will do that for you.
And that’s what the Sharks and Canadiens have got to hope. That Pavelski and Cammalleri continue their roll. Continue to play with the ultimate confidence. And continue not to think too much. And keep us enjoying their success. Because, just like it started, it all could end without a moment’s notice.