Every day in New York, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman must find a window with a southerly exposure and offer up profound thanks to Carolina GM Jim Rutherford, head coach Peter Laviolette, renaissance player and captain Rod Brind’Amour, superstar in the making Eric Staal and the rest of the dynamic Canes.
They are Bettman’s new NHL.
They are living, breathing, skating, scoring proof that the lockout worked, that the salary cap works, that the new rules (and enforcement of the old ones) work. Forget the lame “Art of War” ad campaign, the NHL should have just brought some cameras into the RBC Center and let ’em roll.
Until about a week ago, the Eastern Conference playoff race was nearly as exciting as that in the West, with the final three playoff berths up for grabs amongst six teams.
But since then, the New Jersey Devils, Montreal Canadiens and the defending Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning have all made considerable progress in solidifying their holds on the final three berths, thanks to a combination of key victories on their parts and the struggles of the clubs chasing them.