Give Hockey a Chance: The NHL Is Worth Watching

Matthew SchiffmanAnalyst IJune 3, 2008

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not much of a hockey fan.  In fact, I wouldn’t even consider myself a casual fan.

I don’t pretend to follow the sport.  Sure, I know the general rules, and I know about “Sid the Kid” and that Detroit has been the top team in the NHL all year, but that’s simply because I love sports.

But all of that changed Monday night.

As I was flipping through the channels trying to find something decent on television, which is a tough task these days, I found myself impersonating Hamlet when I saw that the Stanley Cup Finals were on. “To watch, or not to watch?”

Finally I reasoned, “Why the heck not, what have I got to lose?”

Little did I know how much I would have to gain.

I turned the game on just in time to see the third period begin with Pittsburgh leading 2-1.  I figured I’d give hockey a chance and watch the end of the game.  What I didn’t know was that the end of the game wouldn’t be until Tuesday morning, when the Penguins would win a thriller in triple overtime.

Nearly six minutes into the final period, the Red Wings tied it up, as Pavel Datsyuk took advantage of a power play to net his only goal of the game.  Less than three minutes later, it was Brian Rafalski giving Detroit a daunting 3-2 lead.

The Red Wings were dominating play as they controlled the puck, pushed numbers forward on offense, and played stingy defense.  I’d imagine you could hear a pin drop in Pittsburgh as everyone held their breath with under a minute left in the game.

But with 35 seconds left on the clock, it was the city of Detroit who fell silent, while there was undoubtedly a raucous celebration in Pittsburgh.  Max Talbot scored on a second shot attempt from behind the Detroit goal to tie the game and send the Red Wings into shock.

Overtime saw much of the same, with Detroit staying in control of the game and Pittsburgh ripping a shot anytime they saw an opening.  But neither goalie would yield. Detroit’s Chris Osgood saved 28 of 32 shots. Marc-Andre Fleury was simply incredible for the Penguins, stopping 55 of 58 shots.

It was amazing to see the players still going at full speed as the game was rolling into the early hours of Tuesday morning.  Some of the fans’ heads may have been dropping from exhaustion, but the level of play on the ice didn’t drop one bit.

Halfway through the third overtime, when it seemed like this game would never come to an end, the unexpected occurred: A goal!  The Penguins took advantage of a power play, and Petr Sykora was the saving grace as he netted a near side goal over Osgood’s left shoulder.

Detroit fans were stunned that their team lost at home, while I was simply shocked that the game had ended.  I was a little disappointed, too, because it had been so entertaining.

With the Red Wings now leading the series 3-2, the teams will be headed back to Pittsburgh for Game Six tomorrow night. 

This time I’ll be planning on watching the entire game from start to finish, and if it turns out to be anything like Game Five, then I’ll be in for one long night.