It’s tempting to try to glean some kind of lesson from big games. We all try to do it, all the time, just as fans. The playoffs are not all that different from the final few episodes of a prestige television series’ season. You know there’s not much left, and you’re looking for any clues you can get about how it’s going to turn out.
Sometimes, it’s a reasonable endeavor, such as looking at the Rangers-Hurricanes series, seeing New York not having scored since 7:07 of the first period of Game 1, and, it’s like, well, there’s your problem, of course it’s a 2-0 Carolina lead.
And then you have the Battle of Alberta, the hotly anticipated, first-time-in-31-years playoff meeting between the Oilers and Flames, now tied 1-1 after 9-6 and 5-3 games. It doesn’t really matter who won which, unless you believe in momentum, in which case Edmonton did come back from a two-goal deficit, staring a two-game deficit in the face, to win Friday night’s Game 2 in Calgary.
But you’re not going to really learn anything from what happened. There’s no big strategic adjustments to make heading into Game 3. There’s five guys in this series who scored 40-plus goals this season, and a whole lot of suspect defense and goaltending. One team is gonna score a whole bunch of goals and win. Could be either one.
Friday night, it looked like it might be the Flames, as even though they’d squandered the lead and found themselves tied in the third period, Calgary did get a power play with 9:58 left on a useless slash by Warren Foegele. Instead, just 12 seconds later, Zach Hyman turned the series on its head.
Leon Draisatl and Duncan Keith each had a goal and two assists. Connor McDavid had a goal and an assist, becoming the first player to reach 20 playoff points in 9 games since Mario Lemieux in 1992.
While we might not have gotten any fresh knowledge out of the first two games of Oilers-Flames, we have gotten a ton of entertainment, and reminders of some of life’s great joys – and not just high-scoring hockey.
For instance, there’s always a Leafs angle, and in this case it’s Hyman, who last summer was the subject of both the headline “The Toronto Maple Leafs Are Losing Zach Hyman and That’s Fine” from Editor in Leaf, and a line from the inimitable Toronto Sun street food fabulist Steve Simmons, “the Leafs will miss him terribly when he’s gone.” And in this case, you have to give it to Simmons, the Leafs do miss Hyman, who ordinarily would be rounding out a foursome with his teammates this morning to get a quick 18 holes in before hitting the beach, and surely is missed terribly… although, really, it was fine that the Leafs lost Hyman because they had the same result that they do every year, losing the first round in seven games. Big whoop.
The really cool thing about Hyman’s goal? Play it again with the sound up. Enjoy (unless you’re a Flames fan) the sound of a goal by a road team that doesn’t just result in that dismal silence of the air being taken out of a rowdy building, but the loud shouts of rivals who traveled to this and now have seen their team come all the way back and take the lead on an awesome goal. That’s why you stay up to 1 in the morning for this stuff.