By the time the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was completed, winger Max Talbot of the Pittsburgh Penguins had a burgeoning Chewbacca on his face; a bushy postseason beard whose tangled vines engulf his chin strap and, as the Penguins advance deeper into the playoffs, will engulf the majority of his mug.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Joe Starkey called Talbot's Stanley Cup Final playoff beard in 2009 a "Grizzly Adams," which is kind. As you can see, it was nearly a "Cast Away" beard. One half-expected Talbot to raise the Stanley Cup and then attempt to hand it to a volleyball that he confides in during lonely nights stranded on the island. Or at the very least, bite into a live lobster during a locker-room celebration.
As the number of teams remaining in the playoffs dwindles, the amount of significant facial foliage increases. Those who choose to embrace the playoff beard -- one of hockey's greatest superstitious traditions and, more recently, charitable fundraising methods -- are seeing their efforts in full bloom.
Some are impressive. Some are tragic mistakes. And one is a mullet.
Here are the 10 most fascinating 2010 Stanley Cup Playoff beards through the first three weeks of the tournament. Again, the word is "fascinating" rather than best or worst: Some of these beards are in Max Talbot-land, while others are growing in a different direction. Or not growing well at all ...
As you'll see, we're placing great value on what these players looked like before the playoffs in comparison to the beards they're sporting now; in other words, no Henrik Zetterberg.
And here ... we ... go.
10. The Dupuis
The Penguins winger goes from clean-shaven guy borrowing Patrick Marleau's eyebrows to dirty-looking miscreant borrowing Max Talbot's chin. Pascal Dupuis came over to the Penguins with Marian Hossa in a trade two years ago. To think this beard has a closer relationship with the Stanley Cup than Hossa does ...
9. The Boyle
Think of a beard as a construction project. Sometimes you're building something completely new, like The Dupuis. Other times, you're adding on to or renovating an existing structure. Such is Dan Boyle's playoff beard for the San Jose Sharks. It takes a foundation of stubble and turns it into shrubbery. Kudos to Boyle for not having ripped off giant patches of it in disgust after scoring on his own goalie in Round 1.
8. The Thomas
Seeing Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas relegated to a backup role this postseason makes us melancholy on several levels, but mostly because this 70s-style handlebar mustache is wasting away on the B's bench. Thomas went full beard last year; now it appears he's rocking The Conklin.
7. The Toews
Last postseason, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews sported thick sideburns, looking somewhere between a Victorian-era vampire and a roadie for Arcade Fire (right). As you can see from this shot at the end of the Nashville Predators series, he's on his way to another mutton-choppy effort. Which is still an improvement from the Mickey Mouse Club cast member he was back in September.
6. The Hartnell
Scott Hartnell of the Philadelphia Flyers finally seeks to answer the question: What if Carrot Top became disenchanted with prop comedy and entered a bitter Jim Morrison-esque phase of his Vegas career. Or, at the very least, what Brian Campbell circa 2008 would look like in orange and black.
Beards like this seem like such a natural fit on the Flyers, harkening back to their rapscallion Bullies days of yesteryear; and yet as great as Hartnell's look is, doesn't Dan Carcillo capture the Flyer aesthetic better this season?
5. The Pavelski
Joe Pavelski's blonde-ish facial mess, combined with his close-cropped hair, makes the Sharks' playoff MVP candidate appear to have a full cranial beard going. He's scored, like, a gajillion goals with it. Perhaps a carryover to next season for the U.S. Olympian?
4. The Gionta
The diminutive Montreal Canadiens winger Brian Gionta is, like Dan Boyle, someone that took existing facial hair and turned it into a glorious playoff beard. Gionta's face symbolizes the blue collar, hard-working vibe that characterized the underdog run for the Habs in this postseason. He also looks like the short kid in high school who comes back to the class reunion with a beard because he still looks 14 years old, despite it being 10 years after graduation.
3. The Sidney
Sidney Crosby's facial hair is, once again, one of the playoffs most well-reported stories. It's as awkward as it was last season: a pubescent, patchy mess that makes it look like he forgot how to properly use soap. It's equal parts inspiring in its bold struggle to become a real beard and sad in its reality. Wonder how Reebok feels about their poster boy looking like the creepy kid watching you play Tekken at the arcade.
But the longer the playoffs continue, the better this peach fuzz effort looks ... perhaps that's why Crosby's made it a habit of advancing to the final round lately.
2. The Kane
By now you know that Patrick Kane has decided against the playoff beard in order to sport what he called a "trashy" postseason mullet. (Though it appears he's got one going anyway.) It's a bold decision, one that could reinvent postseason foliage if successful.
Progress report: Business in the front? Check. Party in the back? You know it.
Results? Five goals and three assists in eight games. Mullet power.
1. The Bertuzzi
Finally, Todd Bertuzzi of the Detroit Red Wings is growing what might be the beard of the playoffs, both on its own and in comparison to his regular-season look. He's been compared with Bluto from Popeye and the Unabomber. Even the most hardened Red Wings basher must agree: It would be interesting to see where this beard takes us should Detroit rally in the second round. Especially if we can incorporate some tentacles in there, like Davy Jones from "Pirates of the Caribbean."
(Ed. Note: Lambert is traveling today, so What We Learned will return next Monday.)