The end of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs coincided with the end of the first week of tour for us out here on the road. I had to get used to balancing our touring schedule and the game schedule. It was tough at times, but I got to watch at least one game a day so I could get a feel for each series.
Most of the time, I could catch a game or two on our bus and, at the very least, catch some highlights and interviews on the NHL Network. The biggest series for me was watching my hometown boys, the New York Rangers, work their rear ends off to almost no avail against the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed, the Washington Capitals.
I'm proud of the way the Rangers worked all season, including the playoffs, but the Capitals were just too much to handle. The Rangers had a chance to tie the series at two games apiece, and blew that crucial three-goal lead in Game 4.
We were in Portland, Maine, that night and I had stepped off stage and immediately asked our merchandise seller, Floyd, to check the score for me. He just showed me his phone and the score read 3-0 Rangers, end of second period. About 10 minutes later I checked the score again and it was 3-2, and by the time I sat down to watch the game it was 3-3. Needless to say, giving up that lead and then losing the game was the ultimate backbreaker for the Blueshirts.
Of all the teams I saw in the first round, the Capitals were most impressive to me. They are obviously talented, but they looked hungrier and sharper than any team I saw in the first round.
I say that, but then where do the Detroit Red Wings stand? They were the only team that swept their opponent, but much like the Rangers-Capitals series, the Detroit-Phoenix series was much closer than the final outcome that was in favor in the winners.
We played in three cities this past week that all had their NHL teams move into the conference semifinals. We started the tour in Boston, where the Bruins righted their ship after falling two games down to the Montreal Canadiens. The series ended in an exciting Game 7 overtime, and I'm happy for the Bruins. I think winning that series might have exorcized some ghosts of playoffs past.
The second show of the tour was in Philadelphia, I remember this day for two reasons: the show was great, and I watched most of all four games that were on that day in the backstage area.
On Monday, we played Baltimore, which is close enough to D.C. that there were a solid bunch of Capitals fans in attendance. In all actuality all three cities showed their NHL team pride while at our shows, and although my allegiance doesn't reside with those teams, I like seeing prideful fans at our shows.
Starting week No. 2 of the Take Action Tour this weekend, we will be down in Florida before we start heading west along the southern states. I'm excited to see how Tampa Bay is reacting to the Lightning moving on to the conference semifinals. When watching their series against Pittsburgh, I had the sense that although they were down three games to one at one point, they were adjusting and learning. And in the end with the leadership of Martin St. Louis and Dwayne Roloson, the Lightning strung together three wins to take the series from the Penguins.
I'm looking forward to Round 2 getting under way. A lot of hockey talk is happening on this tour between us, Silverstein, Polar Bear Club, The Swellers and Texas in July. Everyone roots for different teams, but everyone appreciates what playoff hockey is all about. All the lead changes per game, the blown two- or three-goal leads, the controversial goalie switches, all the pushing and shoving that comes after the whistle, the big saves and the even bigger overtime goals. Let's see who keeps it up, and let's see who can't keep up.