Hoo boy, conference finals time is right around the corner! The third round is an elusive one for members of the Battle of California; 43 combined times a BoC team has qualified for the playoffs (45 if you count Oakland); this will be only the 6th time that one of them has reached the third round. As such, this chapter of the BoC legend is shorter than the previous two, but it's still got some intrigue. So get tucked in and let's begin...
Way back in the long-ago times, the Hockey Gods divided the land into two conferences and crafted each of them a glorious trophy. Each trophy had tremendous appeal and untellable value, but also carried a heavy curse -- anyone who touched it would suffer tragedy soon thereafter. Over the years, many brave warriors from both conferences fought for the right to be presented the untouchable trophy; some found a way to resist its allure while the less fortunate fell victim to its tragic spell.
A King decided he'd try to test his resolve against the trophy, but he quickly discovered that an elaborate maze separated his castle in California from the site of the conference battle. He tried eighteen times to work his way through the maze but failed each time; his footsteps were difficult to retrace year after year. Finally, guided by the power of the magical #99 medallion, the monarch worked his way through the maze to the elusive battleground, where he faced the Killer Maple Leaf, a powerful agent from the planet Canada. The battle was fierce and at one point it appeared that the King was beaten, but he summoned the remaining power left in the medallion for a desperation move -- he distracted Canada with the illusion of a piano on his back, then he high-sticked his opponent in the chin before stabbing him through the heart. It was a shady tactic, but it worked; the King was finally presented the untouchable trophy, but sadly he embraced it -- the annual toll of the maze had made its allure too strong.
Canada would not soon forget the transgression, and it would take a decade before any other BoC resident made it back through the maze -- this time, it was the lucky Duck's turn. This of course was the year the Duck had made a deal with the Devil, and per the arrangement the Duck was provided a map through the maze plus a Giguere-brand force field generator -- a powerful defensive tool. The Duck emerged from the maze to discover that he was facing a yet-to-be-classified Wild-beast that had evolved into a systematic killer. Confidently, the Duck turned his Giguere belt up to its maximum setting, and the result was embarrassingly easy. Even with all its young promise, the Wild-beast shattered its powerful claws on the force-field before whimpering away in pain -- a new record for battlefield pitifulness.
The Duck wisely abstained from touching the trophy -- he'd heard the cautionary tales about the King a decade before. However, things still didn't manage to go the Duck's way after that, thanks to the Devil's trickery. The Devil used a delaying technique that forced the Duck to wait for ten days before his next confrontation, and as a result the force-field belt got left in its charger too long; it would only work sparingly for the Duck afterwards. Still, the Duck's unique webbed feet did yield one benefit -- suddenly, there was a distinct path leading from California through the complex maze that led straight to the conference finals, one that would be easily followable in the future.The next two years (not counting the cursed year when the universe was locked out of existence), the Shark and the Duck each followed the distinctive web-footed path back to the conference finals, but an embittered Canada was ready to meet them each time. Canada was still stinging with rage from the King's amulet-magic, and in the spirit of state-directed revenge he combined a magical Flame with some sacred Oil to invoke an ancient underdog spell on the Californians. This hex rendered the Shark and Duck shockingly winless within their home territory, and that was all the advantage that Canada needed. He showed no mercy in ending their untouchable trophy hopes as retribution for the King's trickery more than a decade before.
There was one curious side effect to Canada's underdog curse, however -- some of the magic was retained in the hollow flight-feathers of the Duck's elbow-bones, though of course nobody knew it at the time. It wasn't discovered until the following year when the Duck followed the path back through the maze -- only to find the Meddling Octopus waiting instead of Canada! The Octopus had set up camp right at the site of the conference finals in order to get his own revenge. He came at the Duck with tentacles flying, but in the ensuing fracas the Duck somehow managed to thrust an elbow into the Octopus' head -- probably because the Duck was slightly taller or something.
Once the elbow made contact with the Octopus, a mini-curse was unleashed -- the Octopus found that it no longer could inflict any harm in its own territory, and its revenge had to be delayed. The Duck once again resisted the temptation to touch the cursed trophy, and this time it paid off -- the Duck's curse-retaining elbow would come in handy again against an ornery Senator from Canada, but that may be a story for another day.
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Now we're caught up to today -- the Shark now has once again followed the trail back to the conference finals, and this time an upstart Blackhawk has removed any immediate threat from vengeful Canada. Can the Shark find a way to take out the crafty Injun? Is it possible that some of Canada's curse also resides in the Shark's cartilage-based skeleton? Will he succumb to the untouchable trophy's powerful magnetism?
As always, this is the point where the story gets really interesting...
For reference, here's BoC's listed historic third round results, just so you don't have to hunt it down elsewhere. Want to note something fishy, Sharks fans? In all five previous conference finals that a BoC team has participated in, the lower seed has emerged victorious every time. :)
|Year||BoC Team||Opponent||Series Result|
|1993||#6 Los Angeles Kings||#4 Toronto Maple Leafs||Kings 4, Maple Leafs 3|
|2003||#7 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim||#6 Minnesota Wild||Mighty Ducks 4, Wild 0|
|2004||#2 San Jose Sharks||#6 Calgary Flames||Flames 4, Sharks 2
|2006||#6 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim||#8 Edmonton Oilers||Oilers 4, Mighty Ducks 1
|2007||#2 Anaheim Ducks||#1 Detroit Red Wings||Ducks 4, Red Wings 2|
|2010||#1 San Jose Sharks||#2 Chicago Blackhawks||? ? ?|
Still, it's shaping up to be one excellent conference finals -- the west's first 1-v-2 since 2007 (and like then, this possibly could be the biggest round of the tournament). Here's one impressive stat that caught my eye: This postseason, the Sharks are 8-0 when scoring at least two goals in a game.
Stunningly, so are the Blackhawks.
* * *
Speaking of the Blackhawks, I was a guest on the Chicago-based HOCKEE NIGHT radio show with Forklift and CT on Monday night (right before Chicago advanced). I don't know that I was too stellar -- I was a late addition to the show -- but we talked generally about the playoffs, made fun of Sami Salo and Roberto Luongo, and had a good all-around time. We didn't truly preview the Sharks/Hawks series, as the Canucks weren't dead yet, but you can sense the conversation leaning in that direction. Enjoy!
And lastly, a somewhat shocking development -- a representative of a seemingly-legitimate organization called CareMerdian reached out to BoC in order to spread some head-injury awareness. It's definitely more serious-toned than normal BoC fare, so I've put it into its own FanPost. Feel free to check that out, too -- who knows? Someday BoC may become a future champion for under-prioritized world issues.