North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Everybody’s watching game seven

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Okay, before I get this thing rolling, I want to make one thing clear: I have not actually watched game seven on Monday night.

But it seemed that everybody else was. After all, it was one of the biggest games all year – and I had to work. So I set my VCR to record the thing.

At about game time (8PM where I live) the supermarket I was at slowed right down. We went from fairly busy to no customers at all. Everybody stopped buying chips, apples, pop or roasted chickens almost right on the dot. You could tell it was game time and everybody was going to be watching.

At about 9pm, I finished my shift and started heading down to City Hall to help out some friends of mine – and on the way I checked my watch. One to nothing, Carolina leading after one period. I called my dad to ask what was going on. “I’d love to stay and chat,” he said, “But coach’s corner is on.”

So I walked down by myself, the only person out on the streets and was passed by just a few cars. When I glanced in the occasional window on my way past a house – or even if I just walked past one that happened to have a window open – I could vaguely follow the score since everyone, it seemed, was watching game seven.

By the time I got to City Hall, the second period was over and Carolina was leading 2 to nothing.

Fast forward a little bit – I’ve finished helping my friends out and we’re heading back to return the truck we’re all riding in. We’re all quiet and sitting pretty much in the dark listening to the radio feed of the game as it winds down when Jussi Markkanen leaves his net.
(What? Isn’t it too early?)
“And Eric Stall picks up the puck…”
(No)
“Up along the boards and he passes up to Williams”
(NO)
“And… Williams scores! An empty net goal and Carolina now leads three goals to one!”
(…)

When I got back I ended up watching the 1990 Stanley Cup (Petr Klima in 3OT) on ESPN Classic. I wasn’t up to watching that tape just yet.

******

Give Edmonton what they deserve – they made a damn good series out of what could – and arguably should – have been a blowout. Jussi really picked up the slack and Edmonton learned from it’s mistakes in the first few games and they really started moving forward by the end of the series. They pushed a great team right to the very edge and even though they lost, they did so in seven games and by just two goals. They were able to come back from a 3-1 series deficit and beat Carolina on both at home and away and they threatened to take the series.

And yet they just didn’t have enough. Maybe they burned out at home on Saturday night, running up the score on Cam Ward. Maybe they just angered Ward enough that he was going to pull out his Dryden impression and make impossible looking saves when they were needed the most. Maybe Edmonton just couldn’t stand the weather. Who knows.

But make no mistake – it was Carolina’s series to lose, especially after game six, and they came in shining when they needed to the most. Cam Ward deserves that Conn Smythe more then any other player does – on either team. All through the playoffs, whether against Buffalo, Montreal or Edmonton, Ward was making huge saves that kept Carolina going. He was the one who beat the Oilers on Monday night. Hell, if these playoffs deserve to be remembered for any one reason, it should be for the coming out party of Cam Ward – hopefully the start of a hall of fame career.

*****

For the new-look NHL these finals were the best thing they could have wanted. A Classic seven game series with two small market teams playing wide-open hockey. It was fast, fun to watch and never once seemed like a marathon (mostly due to the lack of a 3OT game). If they want to attract viewers, this is the way they’re going to do it.

And at the end of another NHL season, I can fully say that the New NHL has been a success. Maybe not on the TV ratings (and with the games on OLN, that’s not about to change), but when you finally have hockey that’s fun to watch, budding superstars like Ovechkin, Crosby or Staal and the Shootout (so much better then I thought it would be) it finally seems that the NHL is back to where it should be: Making us can’t wait for next year.

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Written by M.

June 20, 2006 at 5:04 pm

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