After the opening two games between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins, the Stanley Cup final is tied at one game apiece for the first time since the lockout.
Well, not this year’s lockout. I mean, that would be true, but it wouldn’t be very interesting. And because we need to be more specific in Gary Bettman’s wonderful world of perpetual work stoppages, let’s try this again: This year’s final is tied 1-1 for the first time since the lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season. Much better.
Yes, in all seven Stanley Cup final series since 2004, the team that won the first game also won the second. (Although two of those teams still ended up losing the series.) Given that, I thought it would be worthwhile to look back at the most recent 10 times that we’ve found ourselves even after two games, and to see if the past has anything to teach us about what we might be able to expect this year.
The year: 1986
The teams: Montreal Canadiens vs. Calgary Flames
The first two games: Calgary rolled to a 5-2 win in Game 1 and had a chance to take a 2-0 series lead when Game 2 went into overtime. Instead, it took Montreal’s Brian Skrudland just nine seconds to tie the series.
What happened next: Montreal swept the remaining games, winning the series in five behind the goaltending of an unheralded rookie named Patrick Roy.
What we can learn: That getting an overtime done with early won’t kill you, for one thing. Beyond that, the Flames shared more than a few similarities with this year’s Hawks: both held home ice, both won Game 1, and both missed a chance to take a 2-0 series lead with an overtime loss in Game 2. The Flames didn’t win another game after that lost opportunity, which would make Bruins fans happy if it were possible for a Montreal Canadiens Cup win to do that. (Spoiler alert: It’s not.)
The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins needed a third overtime to decide Game 1 of their Stanley Cup final this week. It was the longest game of the 2013 playoffs. (The series picks up again Saturday night in Chicago.) Now it goes without saying that if you’re a fan of one of the teams involved, watching sudden-death overtime is torture. But if you’re a relatively neutral observer who wants to see an entertaining game, overtime is just about the best possible result. And the longer it drags on, the better.
But while you never know exactly how a long overtime game will turn out, veteran hockey fans should have a good idea of what to expect along the way. Here are 25 moments that you'll probably experience at some point in every multiple-overtime NHL playoff game.
1. When the game is still in regulation, but the announcers start saying it already feels like overtime
An announcer claiming that it feels like we’re already in overtime has become a mandatory moment in any close hockey game. It’s especially entertaining when it’s said in an overly ominous way, with the announcer trying to sound like an old man surveying the horizon and warning of an approaching storm.
In a typical matchup, this moment will happen about five minutes into the third period. In a game between two especially defensive-minded teams, it might happen midway through the national anthems.
What do you do when you're completely exhausted? Me, I get cranky. My eyes redden, my skin sags, my temper shortens, and everything seems like a much bigger deal than it probably is. Small tasks become grand impositions. Minor snafus seem life-ruinous. Overheard conversations feel intolerable. I begin considering Joffrey Baratheon in a more sympathetic light.
As for the Chicago Backhawks' Andrew Shaw? Him, he drops F-bombs on national television. He sits down at a press conference behind the wrong placard, one that says “Jonathan Toews,” and he seems content not to care. (You can't say as much about Toews, who notices almost immediately and swaps the two name tags so that everything's where it should be.) And, when asked to walk everyone through the triple-overtime goal that he had scored for the 4-3 win against the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final on Wednesday night, Shaw can only explain, "Luck."
He wasn't being humble, just accurate. His game-winning goal was scored when Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival took a long shot from near the blue line that caromed first off Dave Bolland and then finally, fatefully off Shaw.
The Stanley Cup final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins start tonight. And that means it’s time to break down the various matchups that will decide the series, such as coaching, goaltending, and special teams.
So yeah, hopefully somebody will do a post about those, because they’re super-important. In the meantime, here’s a look at some of the other key matchups to keep an eye on when Chicago and Boston face off for the Cup.
This is the time of year when you can expect to repeatedly encounter some variation of these words: We’re down to just two teams left standing in the NHL playoffs.
That phrasing always seemed oddly appropriate, since it implies that the rest of the league must be on the ground. And metaphorically speaking, that’s true. By the end of the third round, the floor is littered with failed playoff teams. Some may have collapsed from sheer exhaustion, others are sprawled out after a swift and bruising knockout, and a few are curled up in a little puddle of tears, wondering how it all went so wrong.
So before we move on to praising Boston and Chicago, let’s spend a few minutes picking through three rounds of postseason wreckage. Here are the 14 playoff teams that have been eliminated, ranked in order of how disappointing their playoff runs ultimately were.
The animosity doesn’t come as much of a surprise, given which teams we're talking about. And we don’t just mean this year — Boston and Pittsburgh have a history that goes back decades, and it has featured some memorably nasty moments.
Here’s a visual guide to the history of the Penguins and Bruins hating each other.
The old sports cliché says that you’re never really in trouble in a playoff series until you lose at home. But, with all due respect to the wisdom of old sports clichés, right now the Los Angeles Kings look like a team that’s in a lot of trouble.
They’ve dropped the first two games of their Western Conference finals matchup with the Blackhawks, including a surprisingly easy Chicago win Sunday that saw L.A. trailing 4-0 before the midway mark. While the series has returned to Los Angeles for the next two games, the prospect of the Kings coming back to win four of five against the Presidents’ Trophy winners seems slim.
Or does it? After all, the Kings are the defending Stanley Cup champions, and they’ve already come back from a 2-0 series deficit this postseason (against the Blues in Round 1). Counting them out after two games of a seven-game series seems like a reach.
Here are eight things that are going wrong for the Kings right now, and our best guess as to whether they’ll be able to fix them in time.
The fans inside United Center were the very last to know. They were on their feet (most up off their feet, really) hollering and high-fiving in their Kane and Chelios and novelty Griswold jerseys, finally releasing all the tension that had gripped them throughout Wednesday's Game 7 between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings. Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson had just scored to break a 1-1 tie with 1:49 to play, and now "Chelsea Dagger" was DA-da-da-DA-da-da-DA-da-da-DA-ing over the PA system, and life was pretty great.
Viewers watching at home found out almost immediately that the goal was being disallowed. In the press box, partially deafened by the goal horns, we struggled to make sense of the little things that didn't seem quite right — the refs were huddling, Chicago captain Jonathan Toews seemed angrier than usual, and no one was skating toward center ice. But most of the fans were too busy celebrating to really notice — like some scene from a dark comedy in which a happy, waving, unsuspecting dude doesn't realize he's about to get taken out by a bus. (Actually, that dude could be Hjalmarsson himself: "I was probably looking like a fool celebrating in the middle of the ice," he later said.)
The NHL playoffs can define a player’s career. It’s when some elevate their games while others crumble, when legacies are made and lost, and when we separate the clutch performers from the choke artists.
There are two schools of thought on all this, and one of them is that everything in that last paragraph is complete nonsense. The playoffs are far too small a sample size to draw any meaningful conclusions, and because there’s little evidence that “clutch” even exists in sports, all we're really doing is just crafting lazy and often unfair narratives out of statistical blips that should actually be credited to random chance.
The other school of thought is that while all of that might be true, we don’t care because overreacting to the playoffs is part of the fun of being a sports fan.
For the purposes of this post, we’re going with option no. 2. So here are 10 players that have seen their stock move significantly up or down during the first two rounds.
Hockey fans have an uneasy relationship with the second round of the NHL playoffs. Don’t get us wrong. We like it. It’s fun. No complaints. It’s just that well, if we have to be honest, it’s probably the postseason’s least interesting round.
We can all agree that the first round is pretty much the greatest thing ever. With eight series going on at the same time, there’s always a game on. The action is unbelievably intense, every other game goes into overtime, and the matchups feature a nice mix of powerhouse favorites and plucky underdogs.
By the time the third round rolls around, every game is crucial and every remaining team is a legitimate Cup contender. And most years, the finals are packed with enough tension and drama to make up for the fact that the league schedules each game nine days apart to make sure there’s never any momentum.
But Round 2 is just kind of there. There are still a lot of games, but after Round 1 it feels like it’s not enough. There are always a few underdog teams who have almost worn out their welcome. And injuries are starting to tilt a few of the series in unfortunate ways (as opposed to the later rounds, when everyone is hurt so it doesn’t matter).
It wasn’t always like this. Prior to 1994, the second round was actually the divisional final, which meant guaranteed intensity and gave us clutch goal scorers like Doug Gilmour, Peter Stastny, and Steve Smith. But since the league ditched its divisional playoff format, Round 2 has become the NHL playoffs' unloved middle child.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We can learn to love the second round. To help, here’s a look back through 10 great second-round moments since the NHL moved to a conference-based system:
By now, hockey fans have probably seen the video of a group of Toronto Maple Leafs fans watching last week’s Game 7 loss to the Bruins. If you haven’t, it’s below. Fair warning: It’s downright painful to watch.
You don’t have to be a Leaf fan or even follow hockey to understand what you’re witnessing. If you’ve been a die-hard fan of a team in any sport for long enough, chances are you’ve suffered through watching a game like that. Depending on which teams you follow, you may have been there far more often than you’d care to remember.
There’s no right or wrong way to react to the sight of your favorite team self-destructing on national television. But through the years, fans seemed to have developed a variety of methods for handling it. The next time you have to sit through a sports disaster for the ages, here are 20 different types of unhappy sports fans you might find yourself in the room with.
On Thursday night, Barry Derr was reminded in stark metaphorical terms of his place in the entertainment pecking order. Thousands had come to downtown Los Angeles to see the big matchup: Candice versus Kree on American Idol. Barry and a few dissidents had come for Kings versus Sharks, a second-round NHL playoff game. The idols were greeted by a wide red carpet outside the Nokia Theatre, where teleprompters spit out inane questions (“What’s going on down there on the red carpet?”), and entertainment correspondents wore heavy makeup. The Kings had a deejay playing “Sweet Home Alabama.” Someone had strung up balloons. “If you’re born in L.A.,” Barry said, “you gotta fight to see a hockey game.”
You could forgive Kings fans for feeling like members of an out-of-the-way cult. This is partly because their team plays at Staples Center, which is nestled in a vast entertainment complex called L.A. Live and is just steps from the Nokia Theatre. L.A. Live is a place where TV shows are filmed so they can be shown to the West Coast on tape delay. It is also a favored site of movie premieres and VIP visits. Thus, a Kings fan leaving Staples often finds himself encountering Twilight fans who have bivouacked for the premiere, or emissaries from the South Korean presidential delegation. The two groups stare at one another as in a first-contact moment on Star Trek.
The Senators and Penguins opened their second-round series Tuesday night, with Pittsburgh claiming an early series lead thanks to a 4-1 win on home ice.
The no. 1-seeded Penguins are the consensus favorites over the 7-seed Senators, but nobody would be surprised if the series turned out to be a long one. In the end, it may come down to which team can manage an edge in the key matchups.
Which key matchups, you ask, since you assume that’s what you’re supposed to do? Good question! Here are a dozen battles to watch as the series resumes on Friday night.
There’s a secret that Toronto fans aren’t supposed to talk about, but after what happened Monday night, I don’t care about anything anymore, so here it is: Heading into Game 7 against the Boston Bruins, Leafs fans were OK with losing.
Not "OK" as in we wouldn't care. Leafs fans wanted a win, were hoping for a win, and — in some cases — may even have talked ourselves into expecting a win. And we were ready for the three hours of agony we knew were coming. A Game 7 in the NHL playoffs is pure torture, and Leaf supporters were feeling that every bit as much as fans of the Bruins.
But there was an insurance policy, because the 2013 Leafs season was already a success. A team that hadn’t made the playoffs in seven seasons and was expected to miss them yet again had ended the drought. Young players who’d been written off as busts suddenly emerged. A franchise that floundered for a decade had finally found an identity. And though they were written off after falling behind three games to one in a series against a team that had spent the last few years kicking sand in their faces, the Leafs clawed back with a pair of gutsy wins to force a deciding game.
A loss would sting for a while, sure. But it couldn’t really hurt, not the way big losses are supposed to. It couldn’t leave a scar, whether it came in a blowout or sudden death or somewhere in between.
Well, what can I tell you? Some nights, you just show up in the wrong arena. Up in Boston, the Bruins came roaring back to win a Game 7 on Monday night because the Toronto Maple Leafs picked the wrong night to stop sniffing glue or something. Meanwhile, here in Washington, his team already trailing 3-0 and with all of 13 seconds elapsed in the third period, John Erskine of the Capitals surrendered a chocolate éclair of a turnover along the left boards. Ryan Callahan of the New York Rangers accepted the gratuity and went sailing in to lift a backhand past Caps goalie Braden Holtby. At which point, Verizon Center became the quietest hockey arena in America. I am not kidding about this. There was more energy in the former Hartford Civic Center at ten o’clock Monday night than there was in this joint, and Pucky the Whale was livelier than the entire Washington bench. Meanwhile, on the TV, the Capitals broadcast crew ominously began using the phrase “played their hearts out this season” a lot, and opined that the Capitals defensive corps would be even stronger next year with a full training camp under their belts. All that was missing from the wake were weeping old ladies and a spray of flowers from the local Elks.
The juice went out of the place long before the 5-0 final closed the book on the first-round series and sent the Rangers along to an Original Six–a-palooza against the Bruins. Both Washington and New York looked tight and jittery at the beginning of the game, and no player more so than Holtby, who had the devil’s own time controlling rebounds and, at one point, completely lost control of the puck behind his own net. The comparison between the two goalies was striking, as we shall see. But whereas the Rangers managed to get beyond the early shakes, the Capitals never seemed to get fully organized, or entirely into the game.