Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Crap What A Goal

Ok, so I am chided by friends for my love of hockey on a fairly regular basis. I know that in most cases this is purely a good-natured ribbing, but the overarching theme seems to be that hockey is a niche sport or that it's boring. Well with the playoffs underway for about 10 days now, it's been pretty damn exciting -- even more exciting than the fact that Ike Davis hit home runs on consecutive nights during passover.

Of the eight first-round series that have happened, only one of them has been resolved as of this morning, in a sweep as it were, but the other seven series have each been taught battles. Overtime -- and multiple-overtime games have abounded, both Washington and San Jose have completed amazing comebacks for the ages, Boston has rallied with two wins on the road to tie a series that looked lost, Buffalo is on the verge of upsetting Philadelphia -- a team tabbed by some to win it all -- after last night's thrilling road overtime win, the Blackhawks have suddenly sprung to life and are making life nervous for the No. 1 overall-seeded Canucks after a big win in Vancouver, and Nashville and Anaheim happen to be caught up in a spectacular series that just about no one is talking about.

Compare this with the NBA, and while I do rather like the NBA, most of my friends who mock my love for hockey do so in deference to hoops. And this year the excitement is no comparison. Sure, the NBA has had its exciting games -- Game 1 between Memphis and San Antonio comes to mind -- but three of four series in the Eastern Conference alone are one game away from being sweeps.


But this is not meant to antagonize or come off as pompous. I like the NBA. But after hearing from dozens (yeah, dozens) that hockey is boring, I can't help but point their collective attention to the absolutely bonkers goal that was scored by Bobby Ryan in last night's Game 5 between Anaheim and Nashville.

Yeah, that's right.

That's an intercepted pass, a breakaway against two defensemen with not just one, but two dangles and then a top shelf backhand to break a tie in a pivotal game. HO-LY CRAP. Seriously. Watch it again. And again and again and again. And lest you claim that the exploits of some po-dunk Canadian boy are of little interest to the standard American, Bobby Ryan, one of the most skilled young players in the League, is actually from New Jersey.

Yeah, he's from Cherry Hill, which is really Philly country -- and we all know how I feel about Philly -- but for the time being I'll take it. This type of skill is nuts, and brings back echoes of Mario Lemieux's wild nutmeg from the 1991 Stanley Cup Final.

And the best thing about the Stanley Cup playoffs? That goal looked like a demoralizing nail in the coffin for Nashville. Instead, the Predators knotted the score up with 35 seconds to go and then potted a winner early in overtime. The skill is outstanding, the drama is high, play is thrilling and the results are wholly unpredictable. Say what you will about name recognition or press coverage, but plays like these are amazing sights to behold. And if you're watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they're all around if you look.

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