Hockey Hugs is a feature that celebrates the best in hugging from around the NHL, because who doesn't love a good hug now and then? Seen a particularly good hug photo lately? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @HarrisonMooney.
Buffalo Sabres goalie hug (Getty)
And so we come to the final Hockey Hugs of the 2011-12 regular season. Here you go, friends. (I call you "friends" because I assume that that's what we all are now. I mean, I've shared just shy of 100 hugs with you this season. You can't share that many hugs and not be considered friends, amirite? Let's all go to Denny's after this.)
Florida Panthers hockey hug (Getty)But please don't think hockey hugs is over. The playoffs start next week. That's where all the best hugs will come from. As I've been saying all along, as the games become more meaningful, so too do the hugs.
Consider the Buffalo Sabres, who make two appearances today. They're playing nothing but big games right now, which is why Derek Roy followed up his overtime winner by going on a full-blown hugging spree, like some affectionate postal worker. First he leapt into the arms of Marcus Foligno like Foligno had just returned home from being lost at sea. Then, he treated Ryan Miller to the sweetest dip since Lik-M-Aid.
Two hugs in one goal? Yeah, it must be April.
I mean, look at Jason Garrison and Stephen Weiss bringing it in over at the right. That's not even after a goal. The puck is being worked down low. But, as Garrison skated past Weiss, he whispered, "Hey, we're gonna make the playoffs." And Weiss was, as you can see, overcome with emotion.
That's hockey hugs for you. So are these:
No. 5, Pittsburgh Penguins
Wherein Craig Adams and Joe Vitale break down and cry in relief upon seeing Sidney Crosby back at the bench. I mean, he'd been back for weeks, but it's still just such a relief.
Pittsburgh Penguins hockey hug (AP)
"Ohmygod Crosby's back. He's really back."
Meanwhile, Marty Turco awkwardly tries to look around the screen, because the Penguins are on a powerplay.
No. 4, New Jersey Devils
Patrik Elias wraps up Travis Zajac in a hug, then flashes a smug look to his teammates, who are totally not invited.
New Jersey Devils hockey hug
""Suck on that, Clarkson. This hug is an Elias exclusive. Hey Zajac. You know what your friendship is worth to me?"
"Over $100 million, like Kovy?"
"No... a milkshake after the game, my treat."
No. 3, Winnipeg Jets
Blake Wheeler tries to charm a piggyback ride out of Tim Stapleton.
Winnipeg Jets reverse hockey hug (AP)
"Oh, come on. I've been carrying you on my back all year."
No. 2, Buffalo Sabres
For the second straight week, Derek Roy makes the list by leaping into the arms of a teammate. This guy hates the ground.
Sabres happy (AP)
"Let's play the lava game! Don't put me down!"
No. 1, Columbus Blue Jackets
This photo was taken immediately after R.J. Umberger told Brett Lebda and Cam Atkinson that he was taking them to Disneyworld as soon as the season ended.
Columbus Blue Jackets hockey hug (Getty)
"We love you, R.J.!"
"Yeah you're the best."
"That's right... come to R.J..."
As an aside, Umberger bears a curious resemblance here to Sue Heck, the daughter from The Middle. Weird.