The best overtime game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was the Denver-Portland game Friday night. All glory and honor to Blues-Stars Game 7 Tuesday night, which certainly did its best, combining multiple overtimes with the additional sparkle of not just sudden death but expulsion, but it remains the silver medalist for now.
The Nuggets and Blazers played that four-overtime game that was so glorious that it stands completely and utterly alone amidst its basketball competitors for pure, unadulterated fun. Those four overtimes and the discussion points that emerged from them brought national attention and even some admiration to the allegedly least attractive second-round series, a fact that even last night’s rout in Denver does not fully dissipate. The same, to a lesser extent, is true of Blues-Stars, which was mostly Blues–Ben Bishop in a game that began slowly and became progressively more tilted as it continued. It is now a franchise classic. So are Sharks-Knights and Hurricanes-Caps, just to name the other two Game 7 overtime games this season.
Because this is what we as a world wish from our entertainments—more, to the point of supersaturation and beyond. In the postseason, we want all the games, and we want them to last as long as possible. Do not listen to media types on this, because they don’t want to be writing or talking at the East Coast equivalent of dawn. They are wrong. Their deadlines are not your problem any more than their hopes for making closing time. This is the business they’ve chosen.
We also mention this because of the massive disappointment of Monday’s San Jose–Colorado game, which ended barely two and a half minutes into extra time, or one-eighth the time it took the Churchill Downs stewards to piss off Andy Beyer. I mean, the result was perfectly acceptable because it means the Sharks and Avalanche play a seventh game Wednesday night, and seventh games with an overtime chaser are among the most important advancements in human society since the Renaissance. Even then, though, overtime games are not meant to end while the ice is still smooth. They are meant to last past midnight.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs have long been lauded by neutral observers as superior to the NBA Playoffs largely on the gift that is sudden-death overtime. The theory breaks down some when you get only a couple of minutes before death.
The ideal situation, of course, is multiple overtimes in a seventh game, as we got at the end of the Carolina-Washington series (Brock McGinn will never pay for another iced tea in Raleigh on Sunday, at least until July), but Barclay Goodrow’s Game 7 overtime winner to end the San Jose-Vegas series will be better remembered for the four power play goals on one misbegotten penalty that caused the league to apologize.
Typically, though, the overtimes come and go quickly, too quickly. There’s nothing to be done about that without bastardizing the concept of sudden death. But there’s something wrong with the last triple-overtime game having been played three seasons ago (Nashville-San Jose). Since 1996, you could pretty much bank on one a year, and several double-overtimes to sharpen your interest, but no more.
The essential beauty of multiple overtimes is in the build, rather like the proverbial roster in a pot of water that is slowly heated to a boil. The longer it lasts, the more pressure there is, until Mike Emrick starts to sound like a teakettle on boil. He agonizes over the exhaustion of the players and glories in the pending heroism of the fourth liners who barely saw ice time in regulation but will end up making themselves famous by being the right guy in the right place by accident. He wants to go all night because he has nothing better to do. If that means he starts uses verbs for passes that he stole from Chaucer, in a voice only dogs can hear, so be it.
Is this me whining? Of course it is. What sort of twisted narcissist becomes outraged when deprived of a luxury he or she did nothing to merit? I know, I know. All of us. This is not a new thing by any means—off-putting self-involvement transcends all ages, genders, ethnicities and creeds, and has for decades. We are in numerous ways the worst people ever. Well, okay, I am in numerous ways the worst people ever, and I can live with that.
But overtimes are not a luxury; they are vital to our shared culture, providing meaning and context to all areas of life because, well, gasbagging. If you have something you care about more, you can bloviate about that. This is one of mine.
Among people with my name and social security number, there is a sneaking suspicion that the introduction of 3-on-3 regular-season overtime has made players more adept at winning overtime games quickly. The Landeskog goal on Monday happened in 2:32 because why the hell wouldn’t it? Colorado played 19 overtime games in the regular season, more than anyone else, and if that isn’t enough tortured and tangential evidence for you, I cannot help you. We need more and longer overtime games, because we do. That’s all the truth you need, because your sleep patterns are of no consequence to the larger society.
Which is why Blues-Stars was such a delightful reminder of what can be achieved—no goals for a long time, then out of nowhere a goofy one. But we are running out of opportunities for a three-plus overtime tragicomedy classic—there are a maximum of 22 games left to us this year, starting with Avalanche-Sharks Game 7 tonight. Utter exhaustion with the exhilaration of advancement for one team, utter exhaustion with the handshake of shame for the other. Otherwise, why are we even bothering to save the planet at all?
Ray Ratto is a tiresome blowhole on this subject. And for a one-time fee, he can be a tiresome blowhole on many other subjects as well.