If you’re a hockey fan, whenever your team gets eliminated, at any stage of the playoffs, it is a tough pill to swallow. Some fans jump to a bandwagon for the remainder of playoffs (some for the team that beat theirs, others against), some watch half-heartedly, paying attention to the scores alone, and some just wallow in hockeyless misery until they can once again watch their favorite team on the ice.
As a fan of the Montreal Canadiens, the Stanley Cup Final series was rough. The Habs had been eliminated in a Game 6, no doubt shaken by the collision that took Carey Price out of play from the third period of Game 1. Despite some hopes in the two games the Habs won, when that final buzzer sounded to slam the door on Montreal’s post-season, it was downright depressing.
Despite the incredible push the team had, and the gumption they showed, it was still a difficult reality to face.
So I haven’t paid too much attention to the Stanley Cup Final, except to hope, with the vendetta burning within, that the New York Rangers suffer the same fate as my team, and lose the Cup to the Los Angeles Kings.
It’s hard to stay away from hockey, though, and so tonight I found myself watching Game 5, as the Kings tried – for the second elimination game in a row – to put the lid on the 2013-14 NHL season. As the game went into its first overtime, the excitement had already caught on; behind by a goal in the 3rd, the Kings managed to tie it and send it to OT.
Then it went to second OT. And the chances began to come for both teams, fast and furious, both goalies making incredibly big saves. It became very apparent that this was, indeed, a battle of goaltenders, both Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist demonstrating razor-sharp reflexes and acrobatic maneuvers to save the goals from defeating them.
It began to feel like there might be a third OT but Alec Martinez hit the back of the net, beating Lundqvist with a little over five minutes left to go, and the game was over.
It made me truly appreciate the caliber of hockey played in this final round. Whether the Canadiens would have been able to get past the Kings in this round will always be an unanswered question. As a die-hard fan, knowing Carey Price would have been in the nets healthy enough to play the Finals, I’d like to believe they could have. I’ll just never know.
However, I give full credit to the Rangers and the Kings, who fought to get to the Final and fought in every game for the chance to hoist the Cup.
There’s no question that when two teams get to this point – and particularly a double overtime in an elimination game – they are the best in the league, and are to be admired.
It’s little comfort for the Rangers, little comfort for their fans and little comfort for the other 28 teams who did not get this far.
Perhaps being a round removed from my team’s elimination, the ache of loss is a little lessened than it is for Rangers fans. Perhaps that gives me the clarity to be able to have put some thoughts together.
But as a fairly new sports writer, and a fan whose hockey knowledge was only acquired four years ago, I may be seeing things differently as well. This year, with my team having gone so far in the playoffs, the feelings are more intense, my interest more piqued and my observations more keenly sharpened.
I can honestly say the two best teams were on the ice this round. As loyal as I am to the Habs, I recognize that the teams fighting for this year’s trophy were the ones that could give fans of hockey an exciting final round, a suspenseful game every single night right up to the Cup-winning goal, and a fine appreciation for the talent in today’s NHL.
I congratulate both teams. They were able to get this fan of the Montreal Canadiens to watch, with every bit of emotional investment, and enjoy their performances. That’s talent that transcends the ice.