(Ed. Note: We're proud to welcome two of our favorite bloggers, Chuck and Pants from What's Up, Ya Sieve?, to the Puck Daddy fold as they author our weekly NHL Playoff Beard Watch every Thursday.)
By Chuck and Pants from What's Up, Ya Sieve?
The stage is nearly set for the ultimate NHL showdown. The Devils and Rangers battle it out at center stage while the Kings wait in the offing for their opponent to be named. It's a long, hard fight to be among the last teams standing. Every one inch is earned.
This week, we salute the beards of some Unsung Unshaven Heroes. Marquee name or rookie sensation, it doesn't matter what their contracts say now.
They fight on - and the proof of is all over their faces.
Dan Girardi, New York Rangers
Dan Girardi leads the NHL in playoff ice time and it shows. He's sporting 511-plus minutes worth of bruises, stitches and scrapes like he's gone 2 1/2 rounds against the zombie apocalypse... and then run straight to the mall (they always do), where he found a mirror and groomed his beard.
This thing is flawless, and it's multi-tasking - padding his jaw against errant goalie sticks, hundreds of blocked shots and probably hiding a few more welts. Pull that Broadway Hat down over his forehead and Girardi could be checking his reflection in the Prince of Wales Trophy if the Rangers can survive Friday night.
Mike Rupp, New York Rangers
Mike Rupp might not have any points in the playoffs, but it kinda doesn't matter when you're sporting a beard like this.
Rupp's reputation as a tenacious player clearly extends to this full, if slightly unkempt beard. It shows he's a man who knows just what to do and how to grow it. Rupp and his beard come to play every game and aren't afraid to punch a goalie when they're fired up. They've amassed 36 PIM these playoffs and have even inspired a new word ("Rupping" instead of "roughing") and hashtag (#RuppPunch).
With the Rangers facing elimination, Rupp and his beard are up to the challenge.
Adam Henrique, New Jersey Devils
Calder finalist Adam Henrique has arguably NJ's biggest goal this postseason -- the double-OT, Panthers-eliminating game-winner from Round 1. He also has the perfect visage for someone in a Devils uniform - dark hair, sharp cheekbones, this goatee. Very Faustian. It's the look that talks you into eternal damnation and makes you think it was your idea.
We are impressed by a 22-year-old who can not only grow a convincing facial asset but knows how to shape it, like an argument, so you leave empty-handed yet somehow strangely happy. Henrique can keep this beard year-round, and we don't give that advice to just anyone.
Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils
Travis Zajac is our new Emergency Contact. This is the beard of a capable, overworked young ER doctor who would stop at a fender bender after an 18-hour shift to make sure everyone is OK. (Wow. Way to date ourselves with a Noah Wyle reference.)
He missed almost the entire regular season with an Achilles tendon injury, finishing with two goals in 15 games. Now he's pulling out all the stops - seven playoff goals, two of them game-winners, including the OT goal that forced Game 7 vs. Florida.
Dwight King, Los Angeles Kings
Goal-tastic rookie Dwight King is loving the playoffs. Not only is he scoring at twice his previous rate (five goals in 14 games), but, at 22 years old, he can grow one heck of a beard.
If he rocked this fuzziness for any team, we would have been mentioned it much earlier. Now even among all the competition on the Kings' bench, he's bearded like a veteran. This, and the same-name-on-back-and-front-of-jersey joke, will be amusing right up till the end.
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Drew Doughty has really stepped up these playoffs -- both in his play and his grooming. We applaud No. 8's beard/hair combo -- not only because it's burly in a Men of the Night's Watch sort of way, but also because of what it has done for the Kings. In Game 5, Doughty's shot led to Kopitar's short-handed goal. He then scored the Kings' second goal on a wikkid slappa from the blue line. And best of all -- in overtime, Doughty broke up a Coyotes' two-on-one with some impressive stickwork.
With the Kings rolling over opponents like a war machine, and heading to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1993, we are looking forward to what Drew, his beard and all the Kings' Beard Watch facial hair can accomplish.
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