The 64-skater tournament, battle of the fittest is reduced to 32 participants. There were tears from Ryan Kesler, trash-talking by Claude Giroux and a detailed background check that expelled Ryan O’Reilly from future tournaments.
St. Patrick’s Day brought about more oddities. The winners advance to the All-Puck Sweet 16.
WAYNE GRETZKY BRACKET
No. 1 Phil Kessel, Toronto vs. No. 8 Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit
Breakdown: It’s been evident throughout this tournament that Pavel Datsyuk isn’t human, and he proves it again in the opening period when he dangles a second consecutive opponent into hypnosis. He jumps ahead 5-0 against the top-seeded Kessel, appearing like he would surely advance into round three.
But hockey is a funny game, and so is life for those inhuman. Datsyuk never makes it to the ice in the third period. He’s nowhere to be found. All that’s left behind is a crumpled No. 13 jersey and a note …
“We came to pick up Pavel.” – Mars
Sadly, officials had no choice but to grant victory to Kessel.
No. 12 Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit vs. No. 13 Michael Ryder, Dallas
Breakdown: Ryder, on pace for the best goal-scoring output of his seven-year NHL career, is the perceived favorite, despite the lower seed, against the 41-year-old Lidstrom.
But Ryder’s off-season denting of the Stanley Cup in his native Newfoundland draws the ire of Detroit forward Dan Cleary, another Newfoundland native. He and Ryder are the first and second individuals, respectively, to bring the silver chalice back to their province, and Ryder had the nerve to dilute the prestige.
One can imagine that Cleary is irate about Ryder’s flub, and jealous that he has company in Newfoundland history.
So Cleary decides to rally behind his teammate, Lidstrom, and take the bench for the third period. Cleary tosses an octopus onto the helmet of Ryder, perfectly allowable under All-Puck Tourney rules. The obstructed view allows Lidstrom to tie the game.
Then in overtime, Cleary flings another octopus directly into Ryder’s path – a 10 on the judges’ scale for timing and accuracy – which causes Ryder to stumble, and cough up the puck. Lidstrom takes advantage and rings the winner off the post, again with 7.2 seconds remaining like his first-round victory.
No. 3 Marian Hossa, Chicago vs. No. 11 Drew Doughty, L.A. Kings
Breakdown: Doughty’s nickname while bowling with teammates is “Dewey Cox,” the character played by actor John C. Reilly in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
The nickname of a shabby character is fitting for Doughty, a guy who once picked his nose on CBC’s After Hours, and also said he met Wayne Gretzky while “taking a piss beside him at the draft.”
So Doughty isn’t trying to be the classiest guy on the planet, which creates an ideal matchup against Hossa, who ditched Pittsburgh and Detroit to satisfy his salacious, Cup-chasing desires.
The battle devolves into a 1-1 tie through three overtimes. In the intermission leading to the fourth overtime, Doughty grants locker room access to ET Canada for a jersey-wardrobe segment. They request that he “rocks the pink.” He chuckles and says no, but changes into a blinding-yellow jersey that distracts Hossa.
Seven seconds into the fourth OT, Doughty rips the game winner off the post for a 2-1 triumph.
No. 2 Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey vs. No. 7, Scott Hartnell, Philadelphia
Breakdown: Finally, the alleged biting incident that hovers above Hartnell’s career finds its roots.
Why would he sink his teeth into Kris Letang? Because he has the mind of a preschooler.
Consider Hartnell’s “crib,” which entails arcade games such as Pac-Man & Galaga, Contra and Big Buck Hunter.
Don’t think that’s childish? Harntell opened his fridge, pulled out a pack of Kool-Aid Jammers and said they’re for “the kid in me.”
So you can only imagine Hartnell’s reaction when he entered the All-Puck Tournament Hotel. No Kool-Aid Jammers? No arcade games in the facility?
He stomped his feet and pouted from the hotel, to the rink, to the opening-puck toss, all the way through the third period, en route to a 6-0 white-washing against the talented Kovalchuk.
GORDIE HOWE BRACKET
No. 1 Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh vs. No. 8 Patrick Sharp, Chicago
Breakdown: There’s no stopping the MVP candidate Malkin, who scores twice in the opening minute and shows zero traces of rust from an inactive first-round affair caused by Jiri Hudler’s tournament retirement.
You would think that a guy named Patrick Sharp would bode well on St. Patrick’s Day considering his sharp-shooting skills, but that was far from the case.
Malkin rolls, 9-2.
No. 5 Zach Parise, New Jersey vs. No. 13 Milan Lucic, Boston
Breakdown: On the eve of round two, police officers are summoned to the All-Puck Tournament hotel, where Lucic is rumored to have a heated argument with his girlfriend.
He answers the door in a foul mood.
LUCIC: “Why are you here?”
POLICE: “A witness informs us they heard yelling …”
LUCIC: (Throws cell phone to floor) “Do you know who I am?!?”
This time, an arrest is made and Lucic spends the night in jail. Not for the screaming match with his girlfriend. No. But he failed to obey officers’ orders and was cited for an obstruction of justice.
Lucic, playing on a 30-minute nap, sufferers dearly in the opening period, half-asleep, and falls behind the slick-shooting Parise en route to a 11-0 defeat.
No. 6 Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay vs. No. 14 Jamie Benn, Dallas
Breakdown: Benn jumps ahead 3-0 in the opening minutes and then drills St. Louis through the glass, strikingly similar to his pasting of Niklas Hjalmarsson.
The 36-year-old St. Louis has his hands full against Benn, a 22-year-old rising star who owns a significant size advantage of six inches and 30 pounds.
St. Louis sulks near the benches at intermission when “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey blares from the PA system.
He raises his head and sees good buddy Vincent Lecavalier in the Nassau Coliseum control room, who acts like a Roman emperor and gives St. Louis a thumbs up.
St. Louis thinks about his early-career stints in Ottawa and Calgary, how they released him, and how he responded to the adversity to find success in Tampa Bay.
Will a 3-0 deficit stop him now? Not quite. St. Louis keeps believin’ and responds with a five-goal second period en route to a gut-wrenching 5-4 victory.
“Ne pas cesser de croire,” St. Louis sings in French.
Winner: St. Louis
No. 2 Erik Karlsson, Ottawa vs. No. 10 Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit
Breakdown: Karlsson performs a first-period dive in an effort to draw a penalty shot (which, in this tourney, is a flat-footed, one-handed release from the hash marks).
Karlsson’s diving theatrics are similar to his stunt during a January game at Anaheim, and it draws the ire of Zetterberg, who was victimized by Dustin Brown’s diving antics during the All-Puck Tournament qualification round, and nearly lost because of it (Brown missed his OT penalty shot, Hank prevailed in 2OT).
Clearly frustrated, Zetterberg pushes Karlsson to the ice repeatedly until he’s knocked dizzy.
Karlsson, forgetting if he tagged-up at the blue line, scores on himself. The game unravels immediately, and Zetterberg rolls to an 8-3 win.
Afterward, Zetterberg coach Mike Babcock mocks Karlsson with the diving signal – just like he motioned to Brown in the qualification round.