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Series turning into soap opera



Published: Thu, May 3, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



PITTSBURGH -- When we last tuned in to "As the Puck Drops," the Stanley Cup Playoffs were under way and our team, the Flightless Waterfowl, had advanced to the NHL quarterfinals.

All was well in River City, it seemed. By eliminating the Washington Clintons in six games, the Flightless Waterfowl had assured themselves of at least two more home games and some much-needed capital for the owners' pockets.

Still, the No. 1 Owner, the one who came out of retirement to help his team make a serious Stanley Cup run, wasn't happy, specifically with the play of his team's captain and resident Superstar.

Reasoning: The owner, played by the suave, debonair Mario Lemieux, felt the Superstar, the young and restless Jaromir Jagr, should be producing more on offense.

So the day before the next series against the Buffalo Swords was to open, the Owner decided to challenge the Superstar that he's paying $10 million per year to get in the fast lane and score some points.

The Owner told the media it's time for Superstar to live up to his reputation.

Uh oh. The Owner soon learned a tough lesson -- beware the anger of a pouty, jealous Superstar.

As the episode neared its end, Superstar set up Owner with a brilliant pass that led to a breakaway goal and Game 1 win for the Waterfowl.

But in the third period (cue the organ music), Superstar took himself out of the game, complaining of a deadly charley horse pain.

The injury was so severe that Superstar remained out of the lineup for Games 2 and 3 as the Waterfowl and Swords split. Superstar also was observed arguing with his coach, Czech Mate, before Game 2, waving a stick in his general direction.

Superstar moped in silence, then struck back, announcing to the world that not only does his right shoulder ache (sniff, sniff), but that his feelings are hurt (sob, sob).

Superstar, with a dramatic flick of his flock of hair, feels his slave-driving Owner had no right to question his manhood in public.

What's motivating these characters?

He has company: Jealousy in Superstar's case. When the Owner and The Great One retired, Superstar was crowned World's Greatest Player. But Owner's comeback means the spotlight must be shared.

Is the locker room big enough for these two egos?

And then a rookie goalie, Moose, is traded to the Waterfowl right before the playoffs and plays brilliantly, earning his share of acclaim.

Oh, the pain Superstars must endure.

As for the Owner, his eye is on the bottom line. At $10 million per year, Owner isn't sure the NHL's leading scorer is worth the mood swings and disappearances.

Superstar says that if he can't play at 100 percent, what good would he do his team? (Obviously, the thought hasn't struck him that he might serve as a pretty good decoy.)

In Wednesday's episode, neither Owner nor Superstar played well, each recording one assist apiece in a 5-2 loss. Superstar took one shot, Owner none as the team generated just 17.

Is it possible that the soap-opera saga of Lemieux and Jagr has become a distraction for the rest of the team?

Yes.

This much is certain: After working so brilliantly to steal home-ice advantage from the Swords, the Waterfowl gave it back with not much of a fight.

Follow the leader: Maybe what the Waterfowl need is to follow the lead of that great battler of years gone by -- Moe Howard.

The Waterfowl will be playing Game 5 near Niagara Falls.

Remember how Moe handled himself when the other Stooges mentioned the world's most famous honeymoon locale? ("Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch ...")

The way the Pens played at home this week, emulating the 3 Stooges would be an improvement.

XTom Williams covers the NHL for The Vindicator.




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