Nothing beats overtime playoff hockey

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Nothing beats overtime playoff hockey

Yesterday in Washington, for the fifth time in the last two seasons, the Bruins stared elimination in the eyes and smacked it upside the head.

Thanks to their 4-3 victory, Boston will live to see another day. And while theyre still on the brink of elimination, the game has changed. Yesterday, the Bs had their back against the wall, and a knife to their throat. On Wednesday, the knife will be in Bostons hands, with more than 17,000 fans there ready to help deliver the Capitals a deathblow.

But before we move on to Game 7, I think we need to come down from Game 6. Because holy crap playoff hockey.

Overtime playoff hockey. Elimination overtime playoff hockey!

Is there anything like it in sports?

Id say the closest thing we have is extra innings of an MLB playoff game something like Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

You know that feeling you get in the bottom half of every inning? When you know that each pitch could be the last; that one swing can end it all and turn an entire region of capable human beings into an army of angry zombies?

That was every second of yesterdays overtime. Only worse.

In baseball, at least they take turns. In the bottom half of the 10th, the home fans sit on the edge of their seats, eagerly anticipating every pitch. Meanwhile, the away fans watch through their fingers, curled up in a ball on the couch. The home team is the only one that can win, the away team the only that can lose. Its insanely one-sided. Or maybe the away team is up by a run, and the home team has a rally going in the bottom of inning? In that sense, there's something on the line for both sides. But the pace is different. It's somehow so much calmer.

In hockey, things move so fast that its a dual possession. You can never step back and think: Phew. Were safe for now. No ones safe! Youre at all times on top of the world and six feet under. You're like one of those crazy (and annoying) guests at the hotel pool who keeps jumping back and forth between the hot tub and the regular water. Your body doesn't know what to do with itself.

The only way baseball could ever recreate that kind of drama would be to have two mounds, two plates and two sets of fielders out their at the same time. OK, guys. First run wins. Go! (By the way, Bud Selig should have this passed by 2015.)

In football, every playoff game is an elimination game, but its not the same. While there are examples (Tebow vs. the Steelers, Hasselbeck vs. the Packers) where theres one big play that sneaks up and decides the game (and for the losing team, the season), its far more methodical than hockey. The teams generally spend as much time setting up for field goals as they do going for the jugular. (Also, overtime games are pretty rare in football. We may have had two this past postseason, but they were only the 28th and 29th playoff overtimes since 1958.)

The NBA is probably the closest thing we have in terms of changing possessions and a constant back and forth, but the lack of a sudden death element limits the drama to a certain extent. Plus, between fouls, timeouts, reviews and everything else, it's just so drawn out. Even if more can happen in a shorter time in basketball, it's so regimented. Theres still so much build up and anticipation before every play; time to brace yourself for whatever might happen next.

In hockey, there's nothing. No commercials, very few whistles. You just sit there, straddling the fence between victory and defeat, waiting for the fate to be decided.

Next thing you know, Krejci intercepts the puck. Before you can even process it, hes flipped it to Lucic, whos already found Seguin, who just juked Braden Holtby out of his skates and catapulted the Bruins from the edge of disaster back into the driver's seat.

And there's nothing like it.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Knicks' Noah suspended 20 games by NBA for drug policy violation

Knicks' Noah suspended 20 games by NBA for drug policy violation

NEW YORK - Joakim Noah of the New York Knicks has been suspended 20 games without pay for violating the league’s anti-drug policy.

The NBA announced the suspension Saturday, saying Noah tested positive for Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator LGD-4033 – something that can be found in over-the-counter supplements.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports first reported the suspension.

Noah has not played since Feb. 4 and was likely to miss the Knicks’ final 10 games this season because of a knee injury. The NBA said Noah’s suspension will begin with the ”first NBA regular season or playoff game for which he is eligible and physically able to play.”

Noah is in the first year of a four-year, $72 million contract. He and the Knicks (27-45) have been a disappointment this season. He averaged 5.0 points and 8.7 rebounds in 46 games this season, and has been limited to 75 games over the past two seasons.

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

BRIGHTON, Mass – Let’s start with the straight fact that it’s asinine, apologist drivel to let the Bruins off the hook, and perpetuate an off-the-mark myth there isn’t enough talent on the B's roster to be a playoff hockey team.

They are middle-of-the-road in the talent department to be sure, and the roster depth clearly isn’t what it was in their elite years, as the Bruins balance an aging core group with an influx of youthful talent from the next generation. But this is also a proud, talented group with one of the best all-around centers in the NHL in Patrice Bergeron, a former Norris Trophy winner and future Hall of Fame defenseman in Zdeno Chara, a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate and in-his-prime All-Star left winger in Brad Marchand, an emerging 20-year-old offensive superstar in David Pastrnak and a former Vezina Trophy winning goaltender still in his prime in Tuukka Rask.

That doesn’t even mention high-end players David Krejci, David Backes and Torey Krug that are game-changing talents in their own right.

Combine that with the other players on the Bruins roster and this is a team interspersed with proud Stanley Cup winning players and enough talent to still take care of business in the final eight games and punch their playoff ticket. Winning a Cup in 2011 can never be taken away from Chara, Krejci, Bergeron, Marchand, Rask and Adam McQuaid, and neither can the seven straight seasons in the playoffs under Claude Julien.

But there’s a danger now of some late-in-the-game tarnish on Black and Gold legacies for some of those distinguished, proud players if they once again collapse down the stretch this season and miss the playoffs for the third year in a row with a late-season nosedive. Four consecutive regulation losses have cast doubt into everything for the Bruins and roused all the same old uncomfortable questions from the past three years.

Bergeron and Marchand need to find their best games and dominate the way elite players do in big-game situations like Saturday night vs. the Isles. Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo and Frank Vatrano need to show they're ready for the playoffs.Rask needs to finally show he's ready to shine as a No. 1 goalie and lead his team to victory in a big game rather than buckle under weighty pressure. 

“This is their legacy, those guys. They are Stanley Cup champions and they missed last year. Each year we talk about writing our own story, and I believe that because guys come and go,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “But generally there is a core group of guys and it’s their legacy. I’m sure they want to reach the playoffs and get back to being a Stanley Cup contender every year.

“That’s what they want and to a man I’m sure they would tell you that. I do believe that they believe it’s different [this season]. Until you change the course of your results, those questions are going to come. We have to change the results to make then go away. One week of not getting results that we want doesn’t mean we’re panicking, but we do understand what’s at stake. We want to be playing in April and May.”

If the Bruins can’t pull out a win on Saturday night against the Islanders, who just pushed even with them at 82 points on the season, then their playoff lives will no longer be under their own control anymore. It will become another late-season choke job by a team that will have its character and courage questioned. The highs of six years ago will be matched by the bitter lows of the past three seasons.

People won’t talk about a scrappy, little underdog Bruins team that just couldn’t get over the hump once again. Instead, they’ll lament a formerly proud, tough-minded group of hockey players that somehow turned into NHL tomato cans all too willing to play the victim once the going got tough late in the regular season.

That’s no way to go out if you’ve ever had your name etched on Lord Stanley’s Cup, and the Bruins that know better should be taking that to heart right now.