Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Favourite Moments From the Last 7 Seasons

When the NHL lockout lifted in 2005 it was the dawn of a new era in hockey. The game was faster, the rules were less restrictive and speed plus skill began being valued more than it ever had. Although another lockout is all but inevitable at this point, the past seven seasons between the two hockey stoppages sure have produced some memorable moments. Here are my favourites:

Favourite Game:
Vancouver Canucks vs. Chicago Blackhawks Game 7 2010 Playoffs

This was one hell of a hockey game. In a series that saw Vancouver race to a 3-0 series lead only for Chicago to charge all the way back and tie it up 3-3, Game 7 did not disappoint. The pace was jaw dropping all game, Corey Crawford played probably the best game of his entire life and just when it seemed like Chicago was finally done, Jonathon Toews scored a work-man like shorthanded goal in the dying minutes. The overtime was over with quickly as Chris Campoli made sure of that, but that doesn't make this game any less exciting than it was. I stood up watching this game for the last 10 minutes of the third and overtime while in my house. That pretty much sums it up.

Runner Up:
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Game 3 2012 Playoffs

Favourite Goal:
Fernando Pisani vs. Carolina

Everyone loves an underdog. Fernando Pisani came out of seemingly nowhere that magical spring for Edmonton and played the best 24 games of his life as he scored 14 goals. The Oilers could, and some might say would, have won the Cup had Dwayne Roloson not gotten hurt in Game 1, but he did and the Oilers quickly spiraled out of control. Ty Conklin and Jussi Markanen didn't give Edmonton anywhere near the goaltending Roloson had provided and they quickly found themselves down 3-1 in the series with Game 5 in Carolina. Edmonton didn't want to go down without a fight, but when Carolina got a power play in overtime it looked all but over. Not so fast. The hometown boy had a little more magic left in his sleeves picking off a terrible pass and going roof daddy. For some reason though, when watching this live, in the second or two between Pisani picking off the pass and scoring you just knew he was going to score; you could feel it coming. It's the little guy, it's the big moment, and it's not quitting when everything seems to be going against you.

Runner Up:
Pavel Datsyuk vs. San Jose Game 7 2011

Favourite Assist:
Patrick Kane to Marian Hossa vs. Anaheim

Anyone who has ever played hockey understands and appreciates just how ridiculous this is. Skating full speed Patrick Kane does a 360 and then hits Hossa right on the tape for a tap-in goal. This is the kind of thing you might try 100 times and get it right once, in practice. Kane did it in a game.

Runner Up:
Anze Kopitar to Dustin Brown vs. San Jose

Favourite Save:
Tim Thomas on Steve Downie

Watching hockey is all about the emotional highs and lows experienced while enjoying each and every game. Boston and Tampa had a war in their seven game ECF playoff series in 2011. With time ticking down in Boston with the Bruins up 1-0, Tampa's Steve Downie appeared to have the tying goal on his stick. When you watched it live you almost already began preparing for the tie and possible overtime too. I don't know if Eric Brewer meant to shoot it off the boards but it was placed perfectly to rebound back to Downie who had a wide open net to enjoy until Tim Thomas reached back out of nowhere with an incredible stick save. It was the save that got the Bruins to the Cup. A heart-stopping, incredible save that brought me out of my seat and still gives me chills to watch.

Runner Up:
Evgeny Nabokov on Brad Richards

Favourite Hit:
Dave Bolland on Dan Hamhuis

I love old school hockey. The back story behind this hit is that in the previous playoff game before the one where this hit took place, Dan Hamhuis went after Dave Bolland's head even though he was just coming back from a concussion. Bolland lost it then but didn't fight Hamhuis, or even worse try to sucker him. So how did he get his revenge? By absolutely destroying him the next game which led to a turnover that the Hawks scored on. These are the hockey plays I personally love. You take a number, and you wait for your chance to get a guy back cleanly. There was no elbow here, he didn't leave his feet and it wasn't dirty. He just flat out killed him.

Runner Up:
TJ Oshie on Rick Nash. Twice.

Favourite Fight:
Wade Belak vs. Cam Janssen

First off, I love fighting in hockey. And yes, I felt it was necessary to say that. Some do, some don't, whatever. A few weeks prior to Belak fighting Janssen, the New Jersey enforcer put a late, dirty, hit on the Leafs star D-man Tomas Kaberle that injured him during the Leafs playoff drive. Frankly, it's a hit that I believe marked the beginning of the downward spiral of Kaberle's career. The Leafs didn't respond that game, but Belak did the next meeting. I love this fight for much more than that though. First off, both guys went all out; there was no holding back here, just pure straight hay-makers right at the beginning. Second is the length of the fight because if you've ever gotten in a fight before you understand how tiring they are. Yet neither player backed down or wanted to stop the fight, they went for as long as they possibly could. The third is the crowd going nuts and chanting Belak's name. Hey, I'm a Leafs fan and I loved Wade. It puts a tingle down my spine every time I watch this video. RIP Wade.

Runner Up:
New Jersey-New York opening line brawl in the Garden

Favourite Tribute:
Pat Burns in Montreal

Pat Burns is my favourite coach ever. I was extremely sad when I found out that he had finally succumb to sickness and died; but was very happy to see the way he was honoured. It was almost poetic that it occurred before a Saturday night game between the Habs and Leafs. Two organizations and fan-bases that hate each other as much as they possibly can united in arms to honour a great, great, hockey man. Whoever made that video did a wonderful job; from the song selection --A Beatles classic-- to the fact that they highlighted Burns' entire career and not just his time with the Habs. This video has no runner up, it stands alone as the best tribute. RIP Pat Burns, we miss you.

Favourite Hustle-Shift:
Mike Richards vs. Montreal

This is just an incredible shift. They are losing the game early, they are killing a penalty --against a very good power play by the way-- and Montreal had settled down the Flyer faithful with their early goal. All Mike Richards did was destroy someone, setup a prime scoring chance, hustle all the way back down into his own zone then all the way back up the ice diving head first then getting up and finishing the goal. If I see a better 200 foot shift in my life I'll be shocked.

Runner Up:
Tim Brent vs. Carolina

Favourite Touching Moment:
Marty St. Louis-Tim Thomas handshake

Sports are such a battle. There is so much emotion in the playoffs, so much intensity and passion that losing just rips your heart out. In case you didn't know, Marty St. Louis and Tim Thomas played college together in Vermont where they went to the semi-finals of the Frozen Four together and lost in overtime in 1996. Both players took extremely long and hard routes to the NHL after that due to people doubting their style of play, or size even though both tore up the NCAA scene. Fifteen years after that Frozen Four defeat the former teammates met for a war in the ECF. St. Louis had already won a Cup at that point, but his passion and desire to win is just so obvious here. Even though he has a Cup ring, he wants another one so badly and knows that that loss may very well have been his last shot at one and that eats him up. At the same time, he's so happy for his former teammate to be getting his shot. The raw emotion here is why I love this game so much.

Runner up:
Teemu Selanne winning the Cup

Favourite Interview:
Shawn Thornton vs. Tony Gallagher

I'll preface this by saying what this Bruins station did to Gallagher was gutless. That said, I love seeing a reporter being put in his place. Personally, I'm from Toronto so I hear a lot of garbage, a lot of incorrect statements, and just flat out bad commentating and commenting. So I for one was glad to see a player get to stand up for himself and just flat out embarrass a reporter. It was also hilarious to hear Gallagher backtrack on basically everything he said. I can think of a few other reporters I'd love to see this happen to.

Runner Up:
Andy Sutton's "You're an expert?"

Favourite Montage:
CBC 2010 End of Playoff Video

Perfect song. Perfect quotes. Perfect video clip sequences.

Runner Up:
CBC Game 3 Preview of 2011 SCF

Here's to hoping there is NHL hockey this year so we can watch more great moments.

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