The beauty and the problem with Thursday night’s Stanley Cup first round game between Edmonton and San Jose is that as indisputably and manically entertaining as it was, it disappears almost immediately as the audience searches for a better overtime game, and the sooner it happens, the better.
And before anyone starts getting snippy about the outcome, Edmonton winning was the right outcome based on the state of play and especially the state of the overtime. David Desharnais’ winner 105 seconds from the beginning of a second overtime ended a period in which the Oilers outshot the Sharks, 14-2, won twice as many faceoffs, spent almost the entire time in the San Jose end of the rink and made Sharks goalie Martin Jones work like a rented mule. What should have happened, did.
The only thing that was wrong with the ending was, well, that it ended. This deserved multiple overtimes. This deserved, well, a minimum of three . . . oh, the hell with it, five. And then Desharnais could finish it off.
The difference, of course, is that people talk about five-overtime games the next day, and the day after that. Maybe it’s mostly pretending to be torqued off that they couldn’t stay up for all of it because of anemic excuses like needing sleep or working the next day or getting to the hospital for the birth of their first child.
They’ll forget this one, as indisputably good as it was, because there’s usually another one right down the road.
This was the 13th overtime game of the playoffs, in only nine days and 35 games. It’s the most in any first round since 2001, and there are still six series and a potential 13 more games still to play if those series all go seven.
Which I grant you is unlikely.
Still, the gentlemen are well on their way to breaking the single-season OT record of 28, set in 1993, and since we can agree that Stanley Cup hockey is among the finest forms of entertainment ever granted us by the Watchers of the Universe, this can only be good, right?
We-e-e-l-l-l-l-l-l-l . . .
Only one of the 13 games, Toronto-Washington 2, has gone to a second overtime. That’s simply insufficient because, as we know from our research, tension builds exponentially with the onset of exhaustion. There’s a mathematical formula for this; trust us on this, or go ask a math major, or make up one of your own.
But the point of an overtime is that it takes something good and makes it better by making it last an excruciatingly long time. Conversely, a game like Boston-Ottawa 2, when Dion Phaneuf scored for the Senators after only 1:59, seems hardly worth the trouble of the Zamboni ride.
The fact that we haven’t had more than one multiple-overtime game with so many candidates from which to choose is frankly a disappointment for which there is no real recourse. I mean, you know NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s not going to do anything about it, what with being too busy trying to convince people that hockey in Phoenix can work and pretending there’s no brain trauma issue in the sport and all.
So we’re simply going to have to hope that the players can take matters into their own gloves and provide what we all know we really want – hockey all night. Even if it means Mike Emrick’s larynx shoots out of his mouth from sheer exhaustion, or Sidney Crosby gets stuck trying to climb over the boards because his leg muscles have cramped from overuse. It’s the price they must be ready to pay for our late-night/early-morning amusement.
As for those folks who worry about things like deadlines – you know, those creepy media types we all hate – pipe down. You signed on for this. If you want to be home early, go cover golf. You should want to serve the higher and more noble purpose of the game that never ends. Let baseball worry about pace of play; hockey has all the pace it can possibly handle. It just needs more play.
So it is that there are a minimum of six games this weekend. Surely one of them can go deep for us, if only so we can say “We stuck out that Canadiens-Rangers game that went until 2 a.m. in the east (which is 11 p.m. in the civilized world).”
And even if the multi-multi-multiple overtime game is Oilers-Sharks 6, which begins at 7:30 Pacific, well, laissez le bon temps roulet. Because here’s the real secret about long hockey games that nobody, whether they be players, coaches, officials or fans, really wants to admit.=
It isn’t like you have anything better to do.