The moment is here. The boys are ready, the odds are set, and the predictions have been made. Get ready for some marvelous chaos to happen. I’m not talking about your boy’s bachelor party in Vegas. I’m talking about the Stanley Cup Playoffs. More specifically, I’m talking about continuous overtime in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the most exciting hockey the sport has to give.
The NHL’s playoff overtime setup is different from the regular season. In the regular season, there is a 5 minute 3-on-3 sudden death overtime period followed by a shootout. In the playoffs, it’s a whole different ballgame. 5-on-5, 20 minutes, play until someone scores. If no one scores, guess what? It’s another 20 minutes of 5-on-5. Nothing happened the second time around? Put 20 more minutes on the clock, we’re not leaving until someone puts the biscuit in the basket.
Last night, on the first night of the playoffs, the hockey gods graced us with two overtime games right from the get-go. Zach Parise (North Dakota product) chalked one up with 22 seconds left, setting up a sudden death showdown between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues. The Wild put up 52 shots compared to 26 for St. Louis, but Blues goalie Jake Allen turned away everything else that Minnesota put near him. Blues D-man Joel Edmundson (Who?!) potted his fourth career goal with 2 minutes left in OT to give the Blues the 2-1 win and the 1-0 lead in the series. St. Louis stole a game right out of Minnesota’s hands in their own barn. Pure excitement for everyone not a Wild fan.
The second game that took more than 60 minutes to decide was between the defending Western Conference Champion San Jose Sharks and the Edmonton Oilers. The boys up north got off to a head start on the Sharks, going up 2-0 in the first period. However, the Sharks kept their legs moving, tying the game 2-2 early in the 3rd thanks to a couple back-door goals from Joel Ward and Paul Martin. Early in OT, San Jose made a beautiful stretch breakout play, resulting in Melker Karlsson putting on a snipe show in Edmonton to end the game. Absolute madness to start this year’s postseason, and we’re just getting warmed up!
I admit to being a huge critic of the NHL and most of the decisions they make, but the league’s rules on overtime play are outstanding. Starting with the regular season, the league brought the shootout into play after the worst year of my life, also known as the 04-05 lockout. Before the lockout, any game that was still tied after 65 minutes ended in a tie. Julie “The Cat” Gaffney said it best in D3 The Mighty Ducks: “I hate ties. They’re like kissing your brother.” Damn right, Julie. Ties stink, and thank you Gary Bettman for making at least one decision I don’t hate.
Bettman and his boys in the league offices made regular season overtime even better by reducing it to 3-on-3 this year. Overtime used to be 4-on-4, which I had no problem with, but 3-on-3 overtime is constant action because of how open the ice is. The young guys coming into the league now are ridiculously fast, and giving them that open ice makes for some great entertainment. Another good job there, Gary. You’re still a little shrimp, though.
However, all of those rules are thrown out in the playoffs. It’s just some good old-time hockey starting in mid-April, and it keeps the fans on the edge of our seats every trip. I’m looking forward to some more thrillers and hopefully a couple games still going on at 4 in the morning, like this beauty from 2000.
Shout out to Keith Primeau. Go Flyers. Playoff hockey, baby. Nothing beats it.
(Side note: Take a look at that video again. Hockey on ESPN. Bring it back, Gary.)