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Justin Bourne’s Blog: Youth movement bad for beards, great for game

Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby might have trouble getting a good playoff beard going, but he's had an easy time finding the back of the net in these playoffs. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby might have trouble getting a good playoff beard going, but he's had an easy time finding the back of the net in these playoffs. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

What part of the NHL playoffs should I write about for my next THN blog?

Should I write about how the Star Wars-worthy epic playoff series between the Washington Ovechkins and the Pittsburgh Crosbys dropped like the stock market the second Simeon Varlamov landed back on Earth?

Nah. That’s been done.

Should I write about how the entire city of Vancouver is still going through breakup-like symptoms after another year of the Canucks winning back their hearts, just to stomp on them once again?

Probably no need to put salt in that healing wound.

Or maybe I should write about the rebirth of skill, high-scoring games and scintillating performances by legends in the making.

Nooope.

Beards.

More accurately, scruff, and what it tells us about the shape of the NHL. 

Has it ever been more apparent that the league’s base of stars is just coming out of prenatal care than in this year’s second round? The only reason a Sidney Crosby interview is remotely interesting these days is because you can place bets on what year his mutton chops will connect to his Abe Lincoln fuzz (I refuse to address that as a mustache).

Patrick Kane? Ol' Geno Malkin? These guys have faces smoother than Matthew McConaughey on Xanax. I only get two weeks into the playoffs before I start looking like Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite and these guys are genetically exempt from having to look stupid.

Remember the days when men like Clark Gillies were in playoffs? Grizzly Adams watched him during the '83 Cup run and thought, "Damn, that guy needs a trim."

That whole Islanders team looked as though they'd been stranded on a desert island with a volleyball for a half-dozen years by the time they hoisted the Cup. I guarantee you the shampoo consumption of that dressing room in the final ate into the Islanders’ bottom line that season.

For some reason, we tend to associate manliness with hairiness – and I feel like you need to be a pretty physically developed man to play in the NHL. So what the hell is going on?

Evolution? Are we in the stages of completing our journey to hairlessness, finally distancing ourselves from the apes?

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The players who boast the highest quality welding masks sport them with a peppered grey tone – guys like Bill Guerin and Scott Niedermayer, who was the recipient of the Harry Neale quip: “Is that a beard, or is he eating a muskrat?”

So where am I going with this?

There’s potential for growth – but in a different way.

What an amazing sign for the NHL that in the midst of the best playoff season I've watched, the stars of the show have voices that occasionally squeak. The rest of the sports world that had so feverishly written off the NHL post-lockout is waking up to the game’s well-refined product.

ESPN’s Around The Horn and Pardon The Interruption have both regularly included hockey in their topic base, including a unanimous agreement on the ATH panel that the NHL playoffs are better than the NBA's this year. They used words like compelling, dramatic and thrilling.

Aside from the well-discussed egg laid by the Capitals in Game 7 against the Pens, this season has done nothing but increase fan interest and hope - from sporting a young cast of characters who are successfully leading their teams deep into the playoffs, to the type of head-to-head battles the NHL would punch their own mothers to make happen.

Though the beards look sparse, the future looks full for professional hockey.

And if I could give any advice to those stock-market strugglers out there, it'd be this: Pull your money out of Gillette and sink it into the NHL. You'll probably shave yourself a few bucks.

Justin Bourne plays for the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL. He excelled with the University of Alaska Anchorage before going on to spend time in the Islanders organization with Bridgeport and Utah. His father, Bob, spent 14 years in the NHL and won four cups with the Islanders. He will blog regularly for THN.com and you can read more of Justin's blogs at jtbourne.com.

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