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The Breakdown: Toothless rant

BRYCE EVANS
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
Sports editor Bryce Evans
ALL |

Going to the dentist, for most people, is a pretty rough experience. Beyond having someone shove their latex-gloved hand in your mouth and troll around with that little curved hook thingy that constantly slips and slices your gums, it’s just plain uncomfortable to be in a dentist chair.

I must admit – apart from having a couple fake teeth – I’ve never really had too much happen at the dentist. But let’s just say I feel other people’s pain.

That’s why I was particularly uncomfortable while watching the Chicago Blackhawks’ toothless terror in the NHL’s Western Conference finals on Sunday.

Defenseman Duncan Keith – largely considered the best blue-liner in the NHL – took a clearing attempt straight in the kisser during the game, losing seven teeth. In the interview afterward (a 4-2 win by the Hawks over San Jose that gives them a shot at their first title since 1961) Keith said he took a breathe after getting hit and felt like his teeth had disintegrated. Really, they were just in a pool of his blood on the ice (that is, besides the one that got stuck in his throat, which he said he had to cough up like a hairball).

And he was back on the ice only minutes later to assist on a goal and eventually lead both teams in ice time at 29 minutes and 2 seconds.

When reporters tried to make a big deal of Keith’s “toughness” after the game, he simply said it’s not a matter of being tough, it’s just what’s expected of (hockey) players; every player on his team would have done the same thing. No big deal.

While I agree that the rest of his team would have done the same thing, I can’t help but disagree with Keith’s assertion and say that this was, indeed, an act of toughness and was certainly a big deal.

You see, this whole story not only epitomizes what makes hockey such a great sport but also shows why Keith’s Hawks are ultimately showcasing the future of the NHL.

(Note: In case you haven’t figured it out by now, this is yet another attempt to convince all of you out there that hockey is not only worth watching but is, in all actuality, the best sport for fans. And, there’s still a minimum of four games in the Stanley Cup finals to get you hooked.)

Now, all of this can be pretty simply described by Chicago’s top two players: Keith and Jonathan Toews. (It’s pronounced Taves, by the way.)

If you haven’t heard of them, well, you certainly will after watching any of the finals.

The easy thing to point out here is that both players are easily among the top-5 in the league at their respective positions (Keith at defense; Toews at center). The bigger thing, though, is that both of them can – to put it simply – do absolutely everything on the ice.

Whether it’s scoring goals, setting up goals, shutting down an opposing player, forechecking, backchecking or even just vocal leadership in the locker room, both these guys pull it off – easy.

They play even strength, penalty kill and powerplay, and they play with a passion and drive that you really only see from the top champions in any sport.

Toews is leading the playoffs in scoring with 26 points in 16 games, and Keith is among the leaders in minutes played.

Oh, and Keith is 26 and Toews (the team’s captain) is only 22.

The NHL is faster and more skilled right now than it has ever been, but that doesn’t mean the games are barn-burning shootouts like in the ’80s. A top player in today’s game needs to do everything on the ice.

The only thing that matters to these guys is winning. That’s it.

In an era of sports marred by PEDs and me-first athletes, the NHL stands alone as the only pro sport played the way it should be.

Despite what some of its players look like, hockey has its teeth; the other leagues are losing their bite.


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