Hnidy primed for playoff run

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

Somebody call for a public inquiry!

The NHL came up with three finalists for the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenceman yesterday, and somehow Neepawa's Shane Hnidy wasn't one of them.

Are they blind?

This despite the fact Hnidy, a member of the Boston Bruins, recently extended to three years his streak of scoring a goal in his first game of the playoffs.

It came in Game 2 of Boston's first-round series against Montreal.

"I was joking about it with the guys: 'Two years in a row I've scored in the first playoff game,' " Hnidy was saying from Boston yesterday. "I said that before the game, and sure enough. I'm the big sniper, now."

OK, we can all pull the tongues from our cheeks.

Hnidy will never be confused with Washington's Mike Green, Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom or the Bruins Zdeno Chara, this year's Norris finalists.

Heck, he didn't even dress for Game 1 of the playoffs, getting his opportunity only after teammate Matt Hunwick had emergency surgery to remove his spleen.

But if you look up the definition of loyal foot soldier, you might just find a picture of the 33-year-old who broke into the league with Ottawa, nine years ago.

Nearly 500 games, four teams and three more kids later -- bringing that latter total to four -- Hnidy realizes he's on the business end of what's been an amazing ride.

A ride that's yet to lead to his planned destination.

Hnidy was on some great Senators teams, but they invariably blew it against the hated Maple Leafs in the playoffs.

The last two years he's found himself in a similar situation: Boston vs. Montreal.

"You grow a real hate," Hnidy said of the storied rivalry. "It was nice to come on the right end of the rivalry, for once."

The Bruins completed an almost-unheard of sweep of the Habs Wednesday night, serving notice to the rest of the hockey world what Hnidy and his teammates were discovering earlier this winter.

"In November and December I think we lost only two games in regulation those two months," Hnidy said. "From there, we started to realize what this team was capable of.

"You take hold of the opportunities as much as you can. And this is one of those years you realize ... to be part of a team like this, you enjoy every day."

The way Hnidy sees it, this Bruins team has it all.

"There's a chemistry and a mix. We've got the speed, the skill, the toughness, the grit, the depth, it's all there. The coaching.

"It's been a special year for us. There's a quiet confidence, and everybody realizes it."

That's why when Hnidy was scratched for Game 1, it didn't faze him. There was a bigger picture to focus on.

"If it had been in the regular season maybe you hold a little more of a grudge," he said. "But in the playoffs, you know it's going to take everyone and your chance is going to come. I was fortunate enough to get it, came in and actually contributed."

In his own rugged but unassuming way, the Sheriff, as Hnidy's known, has helped break the Bruins out from behind the bars of irrelevance in a town where the Patriots, Celtics and Red Sox rule.

Like in Chicago, hockey's back in a big, bad way in Boston, thanks to the Bruins' first playoff series win in 10 years.

And while these next few weeks mean the world to the long-starved fans of Beantown, they mean as much, if not more, to the kid from Westman who used to imagine these very moments.

"Personally, I'm happy with what I've been able to do," Hnidy said. "It's a dream you never thought, growing up in Neepawa. It's been great."

But?

"I'm not done, yet. There's one goal I want to accomplish, and that's the Stanley Cup."

The Norris be damned.


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