For anyone who doesn’t love hockey, warning. You’re about to become a fan.
Playoff hockey is anything but boring. The tension and stakes, with series and fates turning on a single shot, deep into the night, where exhaustion adds to the already frenetic pace of a strenuous game, are unparalleled anywhere else in sports. There’s no shootout, no single point for a regulation tie, no 3-on-3 open-ice attempt just to increase the chances for a goal to score.
And, yesterday, we got three more examples of exactly what makes playoff hockey so darn compelling.
Per Eduardo A. Encina of the Tampa Bay Times:
In many ways, Tampa Bay outplayed Toronto at Amalie Arena. The Lightning had the Maple Leafs on the ropes for most of the nearly 60 minutes that followed an even opening period but couldn’t deliver a knockout blow.
After Tampa Bay allowed an extra-attacker tying goal to Maple Leafs forward Ryan O’Reilly with 60 seconds left in regulation, Toronto defenseman Morgan Rielly’s wrister from above the left circle beat Andrei Vasilevskiy near side above his blocker with 45 seconds remaining in overtime, sending the Lightning to a heartbreaking 4-3 loss.
And per the Associated Press:
Dougie Hamilton scored 11:36 into a hectic overtime, and the New Jersey Devils beat the New York Rangers, 2-1, on Saturday night to cut their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series deficit to 2-1.
Chris Kreider scored for New York. Igor Shesterkin stopped 26 shots
In the extra period, which featured non-stop, end-to-end skating at a frantic pace, Bratt found Hamilton on the right side, and the defenseman skated into the right circle and beat Shesterkin high to the glove side.
Jack Hughes scored and Jesper Bratt had two assists for the Devils, who lost the first two games at home by 5-1 scores. Akira Schmid started in goal in place of Vitek Vanecek and finished with 35 saves.
And per the Canadian Press:
Michael Amadio will have to watch his game-winning playoff goal on film because he can’t remember seeing the puck go in the net.
“It is something that I will remember forever for sure,” said Amadio, a Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., native playing in his fourth career playoff game after starting his NHL career with the Los Angeles Kings in 2017.
“I kind of didn’t even see it go in. I just kind of put it on net and then I heard all the guys on the ice start screaming and that was when I knew.”
The goal came after a clearing attempt by Jets defenceman Dylan Samberg failed. The puck went off Vegas forward Ivan Barbashev’s leg to Amadio in the slot and he sent it past goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
Three games into each series, a third have gone to an extra session, two to double overtime. That’s more than double the incidence rate of overtime games during the 2022 playoffs, when 13 of 87 games went past sixty minutes. And given what we’re seeing so far, with every single one of these series now having a team up only 2 games to 1, assuring no elimination game will occur until at least Tuesday night, the odds of eclipsing that total are pretty good.
I’m riveted. I’m invested. I’m excited.