MORRISSEY: Superhuman efforts of Game 1 truly breathtaking to behold
BY RICK MORRISSEY email@example.com June 13, 2013 10:20PM
2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game One
It’s all still a blur. There’s a spray of yellow, black and white uniforms chasing a splash of red and black uniforms — and vice versa. This goes on for hours, a feverish hockey dream of narrow, iced-over
hallways leading to locked doors that look suspiciously like goalie leg pads. Nobody is willing to give in. Nobody can get out.
Back and forth the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins go, one overtime giving way to a second, then nodding wearily to a third.
If you ask me for particulars as I sit here a day after the game Wednesday night, I suppose I could scare up some. But in my mind, the story of the Hawks’ 4-3 triple-overtime victory isn’t about one or two plays or even about Andrew Shaw’s game-winner. It’s about the crazed hockey that took place at the United Center for the better part of five hours in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. And for the last 59 minutes, 54 seconds of action — from the time the Hawks tied the score in the third period to Shaw’s deflection in the third overtime — a kind of feeding frenzy went on, though one without the reward of sustenance or puck in net.
What you had was a group of phenomenally fit human beings pushing themselves to ridiculous extremes. It was a study in perseverance, a study we slobs took in from the edge of our seats. We watched two teams go at each other like bloodied prizefighters. By the time it was over, they had combined for 117 shots on goal, 120 hits and 114 faceoffs.
Two goalies — the Hawks’ Corey Crawford and the Bruins’ Tuukka Rask — were simply amazing. The stats say Crawford stopped 51 shots and Rask 59, but the stats tell only the shell of the story. They can’t tell you the freakish reaction times of the two men or describe their elasticity. Crawford and Rask made a lot of middle-aged men mutter to themselves, ‘‘You know, I really ought to get on a stretching program.’’
Again and again, the puck skittered across the crease, achingly close to the goal line. Crawford and Rask took turns denying it entry. Again and again, Crawford beat back odd-man rushes. Pucks hit posts. Wide-open, potential game-winning shots missed their target. And the band played on.
‘‘It was tiring, I’m not going to lie,’’ Crawford said. ‘‘I just tried to tell myself to make the next save, and we’re going to score on our next shot.’’
Oh, the lies we tell ourselves.
‘‘He was there every single time,’’ captain Jonathan Toews said of Crawford.
An instant classic? That sounds cheap, disposable and made-for-TV. This had weight and permanence to it by the middle of the third period, after goals by Dave Bolland and Johnny Oduya had tied the score at 3-3. The night’s staying power will derive from sheer willpower, from the sometimes-desperate, sometimes-vacant looks in the eyes of the players as they pushed on. No, this was simply a classic, not a notion whipped up in the heat of the latest news cycle.
I watched ESPN’s ‘‘SportsCenter’’ for about 40 minutes Thursday morning and learned a lot about LeBron James’ struggles in the NBA Finals, the rain delay at the U.S. Open, Tim Tebow’s new home in New England, Jason Kidd’s new job as coach of the Nets and something or other about RG3. I mean, who cares about a triple-overtime thriller in the Stanley Cup Final?
Ah, that beautiful goal.
‘‘Luck,’’ Shaw said of it, and he was right. After a long stalemate with no one willing to give even an inch, it took a double deflection of a shot by Michal Rozsival — first off Bolland, then off Shaw’s shin pad — for the game to be laid to rest. And no one had to apologize for the luck involved.
‘‘Sometimes you get those bounces, sometimes you don’t,’’ Rask said.
In an on-ice interview with NBC after the game, Shaw let an F-bomb slip. It was the perfect postscript for this beautifully tense, wonderfully messy showdown.
‘‘Slip of the tongue,’’ he said, smiling. ‘‘I couldn’t think at all, actually. Could barely breathe. I think I made up a word in there, too, actually. I was never good in English.
‘‘Just shows how much heart our team has. We push each other to our limits.’’
And to think, there could be six more games. Game 2 is Saturday night. Better rest up, everybody.