The NHL’s second round hasn’t gotten off to the most rousing start. The Lightning did that efficiency thing where they play just well enough for just long enough to win, even if it did involve Nikita Kucherov turning Aaron Ekblad into a tetherball set. The Avalanche looked unstoppable, and the Rangers tried and failed to bore everyone to death. Pretty standard plotlines.
Good thing the Flames and Oilers decided to make up for that, and perhaps the next year’s worth of boredom, and the rest of the entire second round in one night, no matter what happens in the other three series.
Whatever side you’re on, Calgary’s 9-6 win in Game 1 had everything you want. If you’re wearing a Hakan Loob jersey to work/the shower these days, the one thing you want most is to have Mike Smith embarrassed. You got that within minutes of the series starting, as Smith waved at the only 10 shots he saw in six minutes of work and was lucky that seven of them were kind enough to hit him. A .700 save-percentage wasn’t deemed acceptable to Jay Woodcroft, so he pulled Smith in the first period and forced him to do the skate of shame in front of Flames fans, who have dreamed about such a thing for years but dared not speak into existence.
If you’re in Oilers blue (the good kind not this current, flaccid shade) you want Connor McDavid to make it ok that your team is outgunned, outthought, and is attempting to advance in the series with Statler and Waldorf in net. McDavid had four points and five shots on net.
And that’s about a tenth of the whole story of Game 1. A game where the Flames blew leads of 5-1 and 6-2 and yet somehow won by multiple goals. The Oilers become the first team in 37 years to score six goals in a playoff game and lose, which is also includes scoring four straight goals to tie it, and is also just about the most on #OilersBrand as you can be. Did you want Matthew Tkachuk ethering Evander Kane? They got you covered on that too:
There are times when hockey, and really only hockey, can lift off and leave all logic and feeling behind. Even if you were a neutral, you couldn’t help but watch this game and either laugh or have your jaw end up in your lap or both. There’s a level of farce where you don’t just think the goalies are going to let every shot into the net, but you know that they’re going to. Hockey can reach a level of cartoonish that only it knows. It goes from watching a sport to watching two clown cars crash into each other while the weirdest Monty Python sketch goes on around it.
I mean, here are the highlights. There were 15 goals scored, and how many of them would you consider good? Good in that you’d say the goalie couldn’t have done better? Five? And that includes the empty-netter to seal it.
It’s the kind of game where a player’s brother, also himself an NHLer, would attend with tallboys in his back pockets. And it just so happens…
These two teams finally, finally meeting again in the playoffs for the first time in 31 years was a callback to the game’s most Vaudevillian era, that of the 80s when 9-6 scores weren’t all that uncommon, the goalies all looked like they were being manipulated by puppeteers on quaaludes, the sound of the crowd was that of roller derby mixed with abduction, and the whole thing passed you by like an amusement park ride that definitely didn’t pass any inspections. If Class Action Park was a sport, it was 80s hockey. And it was Wednesday night in Calgary, an experience that you’re sure should have never been allowed to take place and never felt like anyone was in control or would take responsibility for and yet exhilarating in a way that only coming close to serious injury or death for no decent reason can be.
You wouldn’t choose to do it again, but you won’t be sorry if you have to. Sometimes getting everything you want all at the same time doesn’t come with consequences. It’s just bliss.