I wonder if there is any correlation between this team's play and the fact that this is hands-down the best group of players I've been associated with in my ten years on the PR side.
It's not even close. For my colleagues and I, there's never been a better team to deal with. (Yes, Garth, you and your boys from 01-02 were princes. But sorry, nothing compared to Guerin's Gang).
I was watching the game last night at the Garden and experienced an unusual sense of calm during the third period. That's when it started to hit me that maybe it's not a coincidence the way these guys are off the ice translates to how they perform on the ice.
I see Richard Park out there and I get the feeling everything's going to be fine, just as I felt on the eve of his recent speech to new U.S. citizens at Stony Brook. I see Brendan Witt and I know enough about his focus and preparation that he's not going to over-react to Sean Avery when his bigger task is being ready for Jagr at the blue line. Some people might be tired of hearing about Billy Guerin's leadership, but tough: Guerin is the best leader this team has had in a generation.
Corey kicks open the locker room door post-game to the media and we know win, lose or overtime loss the guys are going to say the right things. Nobody is better in a tough spot with the media than Mike Sillinger, so is it any surprise Mike wins most of the big faceoffs and important little battles? Bruno Gervais and Chris Campoli are two of the most dedicated players of any age we've had here when it comes to giving their time to community projects. No wonder they have developed so well and so quickly as home-grown players.
Mike Comrie? Didn't know anything about him when he got here. Now we know he's a brilliant center and a complete class act. I asked Ruslan Fedotenko a few weeks ago to help me out with an autograph for a child I know who was going through some tough times. Now every time I'm around the locker room, Ruslan asks if he can do anything else to bring a smile to the kid's face. I see the passion Tank plays with and I feel like I know where it comes from.
As for Rick DiPietro, his rising star in goal mirrors his growth as a man. Rick has always been a dedicated and respectful young man. It's just all coming together for him now, and nobody deserves it more. He's ours, and we'll take him.
Of course, it starts with the coach. Although Ricky socked Avery - kicking off DP's candidacy for People magazine's Most Beautiful list for 2009, perhaps? - seems clear to me Ted Nolan has said all the right things to his team about ignoring Sean. The comments from Witt, Rick, Andy Sutton and the classic line from Radek Martinek in today's coverage illustrate that.
As Garth wisely pointed out in phone interviews this afternoon with Pierre Lebrun of the CP and Kevin Allen of USA Today, it's early. But there's good reason to believe this team will be just fine during the peaks and valleys of the long NHL season. In fact - because of the makeup of this team and the GM and Coach running it - you could make the case that they haven't even come close to peaking yet.