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The Straight Edge: Playoff beards reach new heights in 2009

Chicago's Jonathan Toews chose a double-layered look for his first playoff beard. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Chicago's Jonathan Toews chose a double-layered look for his first playoff beard. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s been a tremendously entertaining post-season so far, so let’s keep the fun going today. The playoff beard has become almost a cliché at this point, but it’s heartening to see a lot of NHLers taking things to the next level this year.

Based on the different looks out there, you’d have to believe at least a segment of the playoff combatants have developed a sense of irony surrounding the tradition and, hey, good for them. Let’s take a look at some of the playoff MVPs – in facial hair. And please, people; this is an exhibition, not a competition. No wagering.

The St. Louis Blues
Consider this an all-around team award. The Blues may have been the first team eliminated from the post-season, but their triumphant struggle just to get into the dance meant several players got the growing party started early. Leading the pack was goaltender Chris Mason, whose big, bushy beard was pure Grizzly Adams. In fact, had the Blues beat the Canucks, Mason would have been hard-pressed to get his mask on by the end of the second round.

But a team doesn’t win on goaltending alone and Mason had some great folks in front of him, most notably veteran right winger Dan Hinote and defenseman Roman Polak. Hinote rocked a very thick Fu-Manchu moustache, while Polak countered with a chin-strap/Abe Lincoln beard, eschewing the moustache altogether.

The Young Captains
No matter their age, captains must lead by example. That means growing what they can, even if it’s modest. Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby are proof-positive of this. The young ones may not have the follicular strength to grow full playoff beards at this point, but they are representing in their own unique ways.

For Toews’ first sojourn into the post-season, the Blackhawks center has been sporting a pair of streamlined mutton chops; not so much Wolverine, more akin to a gladiator’s helmet. It’s original and shows he’s trying; that’s leadership.

In Pittsburgh, Crosby has been mocked in previous years for his inability to beard it up with the best of them, but I think he found a pretty good compromise this time around; last year’s wispy moustache has come back at least 50 percent thicker, moving The Kid up to at least Three Musketeers territory and closing in on Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite. The chin scruff is probably unnecessary, however.

The Traditionalists
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the veterans. Anaheim’s Scott Niedermayer once again takes the crown for best greybeard in the league, while Mike Commodore had competition for best tangled-mess of red hair from Philadelphia’s Scott Hartnell. During the regular season, the Flyers even had Scott Hartnell wig night and ‘Ginger’ did not disappoint in the playoffs, letting his wild mane flow freely with a red beard to boot.

The Sedins
I think I’ve finally figured out a way to tell Vancouver twins Henrik and Daniel apart – it’s the playoff beards. Those wacky Swedes have gone for sculpted, conservative facial hair in the post-season (trim beards leading into goatees and moustaches), but there is one tell-tale sign of who’s who. Daniel, I postulate, has a slightly bigger space under his nose where the moustaches divides. The Canucks, who famously took several too-many-men penalties this season ostensibly because teammates didn’t know which Sedin they were subbing in for, can thank me later.

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Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his features, The Hot List and Prep Watch appears Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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