The 28th in our 118-part series, and 6th in our 6-part miniseries.
Okay, we have to admit, sometimes the charms of March hockey elude us. March is the crappiest month of the non-summer part of the year. In fact, March is so wretched on its own that Boomer’s little collection of monthly cross-stitched ornaments with the month name and a little descriptive verb (i.e. “April grows”, or “February snows”) includes the telling ornament, “March blows”. There’s no denying it. Spring fever is setting in, there are no work holidays in sight until Memorial Day, and there’s a woefully-shrinking number of games left in the season. The glass-is-half-empty fan can’t help but look at the schedule in March and sigh wistfully about the passing of the regular season. The glass-is-half-full fan, meanwhile, is just getting antsy for the playoffs to start, already. March truly blows.
But as we take a moment to look beyond the obvious shortcomings of this month, there is something even we can’t complain about: March hockey is the stretch run. March is when the playoff positioning is urgent — the cluster near the bottom seeds is in a panic to clinch, and the top guys are jockeying to maximize their home ice. Teams with injuries are scrambling to get guys healthy, and teams without injuries collectively hold their breath every time a key player takes a shot off his foot. And the teams that made trade-deadline moves are keeping their fingers crossed that chemistry is falling into place. March hockey is the playoffs with training wheels. Until the magic numbers get hit, it’s not do-or-die like the playoffs, but it’s pretty damn close.
And for the fan of the teams not heading for the postseason? Well, March is where you get to try out the teams who will be there, picking which team’s bandwagon you want to jump on and which teams you plan to wish a painful, horrible demise on. No, it’s not much condolence after a crappy season, but what can we say? March blows.