Carey Price signs an autograph for a fan at the All-Star Game. (Getty Images)
With the end of the NHL season almost at hand, it’s time for an annual tradition: looking at each of the 30 teams, finding a recent movie title (via RottenTomatoes.com) to describe their year and picking out the perfect (and real) movie critic review that also applies to the hockey team. This week will be the Eastern Conference and next week we’ll look at the West.
Movie: Everything Must Go
Plot Summary: A promising start to the Thrashers season fizzles and ends with the worst news possible for Atlanta hockey fans.
Real Review: “There are moments of heartbreaking humanity, moments of bitter irony, moments of self-discovery and a very realistic inconclusive ending.” – Ken Hanke, Asheville Mountain Xpress
Plot Summary: Coming off a 2010 playoffs that was a runaway train going in reverse, the Bruins build up a head of steam entering the 2011 post-season and resolvedly hang in there to win the Eastern Conference and have a chance to win it all.
Real Review: “Has all the requisite edge-of-your-seat events and moments of stark human drama.” – Liz Braun, Jam! Movies
Movie: The Switch
Plot Summary: The Sabres plod through an up-and-down regular season until the franchise is sold to billionaire and unabashed hockey devotee Terry Pegula – and almost instantly, there’s evidence of a huge bump in overall organizational inspiration, from the front office to the on-ice roster.
Real Review: “Built around a resonant love story. Just not the love story you'd expect.” – Gary Thompson, Philadelphia Daily News
Movie: Let Me In
Plot Summary: Buoyed by the spectacular play of rookie-of-the-year frontrunner Jeff Skinner, the Hurricanes knock on the door of a playoff berth all year, but ultimately fall short and finish two points behind the eighth-seeded Rangers.
Real Review: “An ever-shifting, wobbly, see-saw of the wonderful, awful, tedious and potentially permanently damaging.” – Chuck Bowen, Slant Magazine
Movie: The Losers
Plot Summary: The Panthers’ future may wind up being bright, but that’s small solace for Florida fans forced to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune on a team that still has years to go before being a serious Stanley Cup contender.
Real Review: “Globetrotting, things blowing up in slow motion and not a whole lot else.” – David Edwards, London Daily Mirror
Movie: Just Go With It
Plot Summary: The Canadiens’ Cup hopes absorb crushing blows during the regular season when veteran defensemen Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges are lost for the year with serious injuries. But the team shows resiliency and nearly knocks off the eventual Eastern Conference champion Bruins in the first round.
Real Review: “It sounds all kinds of nonsensical, but if you're willing to suspend your sense of disbelief…it actually kind of works.” – Andre Dagan, E! Online
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Movie: Lottery Ticket
Plot Summary: After years of consistent regular season competency, the Devils all but collapse at the start of the 2010-11 campaign under rookie coach John MacLean – and even after an incredible turnaround once MacLean is fired and replaced with legendary bench boss Jacques Lemaire, the franchise misses the playoffs for the first time since 1996.
Real Review: “It doesn't work all the time, but it’s definitely a worthy attempt.” – Dezhda Gaubert, E! Online
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Movie: The Crazies
Plot Summary: The Isles pick fights with sportswriters, give broadcasting contracts to a college radio station, make other questionable choices and once again miss the playoffs. But slowly, there appears to be method to their madness - as well as a coagulating core of young talent that could pay off with a playoff berth in the near future.
Real Review: “Works surprisingly well, in terms of both its extended tension and its deployment of genuinely unsettling images and situations that linger in the mind long after it's over.” – James Kendrick, Q Network Film Desk
NEW YORK RANGERS
Movie: Middle Men
Plot Summary: The hallmark of the Glen Sather Era in Manhattan - being good enough to make the playoffs, but bad enough to not do any damage once there - was the theme for the Rangers once again this year.
Real Review: “Kind of a mess.” – Stephen Witty, Newark Star-Ledger
Movie: The Expendables
Plot Summary: Mike Fisher, Chris Campoli, Jarkko Ruutu, Brian Elliott and, eventually, coach Cory Clouston are jettisoned out of Ottawa during a dreadfully disappointing season.
Real Review: “Willfully out of date, like an aging hair band that can't pack away the spandex.” – Jake Coyle, Associated Press
Movie: No Strings Attached
Plot Summary: The way Peter Laviolette changes his goalies, you can’t label Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher or Michael Leighton Philly’s first string netminder. And once again, the Flyers’ many admirable attributes are undermined by an organizational blind spot when it comes to the blue paint.
Real Review: “No matter how sweet and good-looking and likeable they may be, the bottom line remains: You know what’s going to happen from the very beginning.” – Tom Long, Detroit News
Movie: True Grit
Plot Summary: The Penguins lose their two best players early in the season, but thanks to coach-of-the-year candidate Dan Bylsma, rise above it and avail themselves decently in the playoffs.
Real Review: “For all the mayhem and marble-mouthed exchanges about morality and machismo, (it) is also remarkably appealing, populated by characters who are lacerating, loopy and defiantly capable of surprising each other.” – Kevin Williamson, Jam! Movies
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Plot Summary: The Jeff Vinik/Steve Yzerman/Guy Boucher Era begins for the Lightning with nearly best-case scenario results.
Real Review: “Must be endorsed purely on the strength of its ambition and the awesome heights to which it sometimes soars.” – Leigh Paatsch, Melbourne Herald-Sun
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Movie: The Way Back
Plot Summary: Once again, a brutal stretch early in the season puts the Maple Leafs in a hole they can’t climb out from. However, with the emergence of James Reimer, Luke Schenn, Mikhail Grabovski and other youngsters, Toronto looks set to make a return to consistent contention soon.
Real Review: “Seems simultaneously grand and skimpy. For all its faults, it's an honorable effort, though.” – Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor
Movie: Fair Game
Plot Summary: The Capitals overcome a mid-season slump to finish first in the Eastern Conference, soar in the first round against the Rangers and finally implode against Tampa Bay. You can’t say there’s a lot wrong with this team, but you can’t say they’re in the same group as true Cup contenders, either.
Real Review: “Does a good job of making you irate at the misuse of power.” – Jordan Hoffman, Ugo.com
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Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. Power Rankings appear Mondays, his blog appears Thursdays and his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays.
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