Matt Walker and Mike Cammalleri fight for position while going after the puck during Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinal. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
It’s probably small consolation for them right now, but Calgary’s Mike Cammalleri and San Jose’s Jonathan Cheechoo need only look at their respective opponents in Game 1 of their first round playoff series to know the chance for redemption is right around the corner.
Cammalleri scored a goal for the Flames – who fell 3-2 to Chicago in overtime Thursday night in Chicago – but also erred terribly when he drilled Blackhawks forward Martin Havlat in the head after a faceoff; Cammalleri almost certainly will (and definitely should) be suspended for the same swinging motion to the head that got Philadelphia’s Daniel Carcillo banned for Game 2 of the Flyers’ series against Pittsburgh.
Cammalleri was playing his first NHL playoff game and it showed. And because he allowed himself to mentally unravel in front of Havlat, Cammalleri now will probably handicap his team with his absence from the lineup in Game 2.
Meanwhile, Havlat, who had waves of Flames hurling themselves at him all game long, quickly shook off Cammalleri’s egregious punch and exacted his revenge – you know, “sent a message” – the right way: not by swatting back, but by scoring the game-tying goal late in the third period, then adding the overtime winner just 12 seconds into the fourth frame.
However, it wasn’t that long ago Havlat was better known as a post-season flop wrapped in an Ottawa Senators jersey – and somebody suspended twice for kicking at an opponent.
The same is true of Cheechoo’s situation. He wound up the goat on the game-winner in a 2-0 Ducks win over the Sharks, taking a tripping penalty early in the third; Anaheim’s Scott Niedermayer capitalized with the man advantage – and that’s all the support impressive Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller needed to steal home ice advantage from San Jose.
(Cheechoo didn’t help his cause when he took a second dumb penalty late in the third that effectively snuffed out any hope of a San Jose comeback.)
Again, though, Cheechoo should see Niedermayer as an inspirational example.
Sure, the Ducks captain has had an incredible degree of success in his career, but his return to Anaheim’s lineup midway through the 2007-08 campaign is considered in many NHL circles one of the main reasons the Ducks bowed out of the 2008 playoffs in the first round. Niedermayer’s mid-season return also gets pegged as the chief culprit behind some of Anaheim’s subsequent salary cap challenges.
Nevertheless, in the fickle world of pro sports, none of it matters the morning after a playoff win.
My advice to Cammalleri and Cheechoo: buck up, fellas. If either of you can act as the catalyst for a comeback against the Hawks or Ducks, much, if not all, will be forgotten.
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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. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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