The NHL playoffs like to revel in its celebration of depth and the unsung. Everyone gets a shift, so everyone had better do a job or more, and the puck can bounce onto anyone’s stick or off anyone’s ass to change a game, a series, a whole spring. It is not always a stage for the leading men to provide the theater like the NBA playoffs usually are. But sometimes, the game’s best take that stage by the throat and provide the moments that no one else can, and you’re reminded why they’re still the game’s currency:
Shea Theodore is hardly a pylon, and yet he gets utterly horsed by Connor McDavid. Which is no shame, because most every D-man in the league will have this happen to them at some point.
The poke check at the blue line would be more than enough for any other player on a penalty kill. The puck has been exited out of the zone, the power play would have to regroup, and time would be killed off the penalty.
Martinez is still in good position after losing the puck initially, or at least he would be if he wasn’t about to enter into a race for the puck with a humanized F1 car. You can see it in Martinez’s body language as he goes back for the puck. It’s past panic. He knows he’s fucked. Even getting there first, which he does, is utterly pointless, and really just scene-setting. McDavid is going to lift his stick and by the time Martinez can get it back to the puck, McDavid will already be gone. There must be nothing worse than knowing your ill fate and yet still having to go through with it on the infinitesimal chance that McDavid, like, falls down, or something.
After McDavid seizes the puck, Martinez is nothing more than one of those four elephants perched on the shell of a giant turtle that Terry Pratchett was always going on about. He’s irrelevant. McDavid is too fast and too strong. His only hope is Laurent Brossoit bailing him out. That’s a financial plan built on a lottery ticket.
You can’t defend this
Once McDavid gets Martinez on his back, Brossoit is expecting him to go backhand-forehand as he sweeps around the crease. It would be the only option for mere mortals. Martinez would love to keep McDavid on his backhand, but he’s basically fighting a fire with a glass of water. Brossoit is not expecting McDavid, at full Mach 5, and with Martinez at least claiming to be pestering him on his back, to just flick a wrist to push the puck past Brossoit before the latter can even conceive of what is happening.
This goal is so stupefying because McDavid makes it look like he’s on the ice by himself. The other two didn’t even matter. Once the puck got loose at the red line, they were immaterial. It’s the antithesis of playoff hockey, where space is constricted to the point of suffocation, shots much less goals are supposed to be hard to come by, and everything has to be earned by crawling through a muddy, barbed-wire festooned trench. And through that, McDavid played his own game, uncaring or unaware of anything, or anyone else.
It also ended Game 2 as a contest. Put the Oilers up 3-0 after two more power-play goals, which the Oilers are pouring out like a defective slot machine. Leon Draisaitl has six goals in this series already and has 13 in eight playoff games. Hockey may be the ultimate team sport and more often than not a test of the bottom of the roster. The Knights are an outfit to be seen as 1-12 among their forwards. But McDavid and Draisaitl are the show and the difference most nights, rising above hockey adage, and thought. Night after night this spring, both are doing things that their opponent is helpless to do anything about. Alec Martinez is hardly alone.
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