Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Dogging Foe's Star Rabbit Is Playoff Gospel

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Dogging Foe's Star Rabbit Is Playoff Gospel

Article excerpt

In most team sports, the playoffs bring a wicked turn on a familiar show - "Star Search . . . And Destroy."

Oh, sure, the occasional juggernaut doesn't have to fret about the other guys. The Dallas Cowboys under Jimmy Johnson had no worries. Neither did the old Edmonton Oilers or the "showtime" Los Angeles Lakers with Magic Johnson. They did their thing, ran over the opposition and dazzled North America.

Most contenders, though, lack that luxury. They must identify the opposing stars - this doesn't take an astronomer - and neutralize them. This is why so many unsung players emerge as postseason heroes. Like Stu Grimson. This is why those superstars who do excel in the postseason enjoy such exulted status.

Remember how the "Jordan Rules" helped the Detroit Pistons defend the Chicago Bulls? The Orlando Magic will be similarly focused on Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon in the NBA finals.

The Magic can't just wave a wand to make Hakeem vanish. Sawing him in half probably is out of the question, too, since NBA executive Rod Thorn has issued a stern anti-mutilation memo. Instead, Orlando will throw an elaborate system of switches and double-teams at him.

In the National Hockey League playoffs, the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks are creaming each other's top players. The Wings have stapled defenseman Chris Chelios against the boards every 5.7 seconds and several eager 'Hawks assailants have tried to decapitate center Sergei Fedorov.

The New Jersey Devils put an anti-personnel principle to work with their neutral zone trap, which has exasperated the Philadelphia Flyers and their "Legion of Doom" line.

How does the trap work? One forward goes on a half-hearted forechecking mission while his four teammates spread oatmeal on the ice.

Just kidding! The Devils aren't actually using breakfast sludge to ground the Flyers. But they are numbingly effective with their systematic checking.

Rather than pressure the opposition with a full-scale blitz - the sort favored by the other semifinalists, Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago - the Devils lurk in the neutral zone.

"They block the middle because they know the puck's going to come there," Flyers defenseman Eric Desjardins said. …

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