I have to say that the Toronto Maple Leafs--in dying--made up for 13 games' worth of intermittently lackluster play in the seven minutes of overtime against Philadelphia Tuesday night. If I had to show a foreigner a short piece of hockey footage to help him understand the excitement this game can create, I'd show him that OT. It wasn't just the way things ended, although that right there is a story for the grandkids. Even before the all-century finish, the seven minutes were full of odd-man rushes, wildly bouncing pucks, great saves by Robert Esche followed by heart-stopping rebounds, and other terrific hits.Tonights playoffs had a similarly exciting feel to it, though perhaps not quite as spectacular as there wasn't as much freewheeling back-and-forth play (but since most of the play included the Flyers in the offensive zone, it was damn exciting for me:P) With any luck, the Flyers will be able to harness that momentum for game 7 and then head for the Stanley Cup.
Then Darcy Tucker, our generation's Eddie Shack, flattened Sami Kapanen with the most devastating, gasp-inducing hit you will ever see in sudden-death overtime. It wasn't "Is there a doctor in the house?"--it was "Is there a priest?". Kapanen, only twenty feet or so from the Philly bench, staged an epic mini-drama--alas, seen only later in replays--as he struggled valiantly to leave the ice, falling three times and losing his grip on his stick. He didn't know his own name during those seconds, but he did the right thing. If he'd stayed down and tried to draw a charging penalty, play would have stopped. Instead, Kapanen was physically hauled over the boards by the off-ice Flyers, and Jeremy Roenick--himself playing with a shattered face and a largely fused spine--vaulted over him to set up a winning two-on-one. You don't get this kind of stuff in baseball.
If the Flyers can pull this off, I think we'll be in for a spectacular Stanley Cup finals. Both Keith Primeau and Jarome Iginla have been obscenely dominant clutch players during the playoffs, and they're both really nice guys. It should make for a great series. But first things first. The Flyers need to win game 7 in Tampa on Saturday! Go Flyers!