NHL Happy Hour: Tavares, Staals, and a Ten-goal Snooze-fest
Sometimes I like to just sit back in my chair, put my feet up with a glass of red, relax, and watch some hockey.
I watch hockey often, like you, but not very often is it stress-free or without emotional attachment. I often have to follow match-ups and switch from channel to channel to catch glimpses of all the players and teams I need to write about. It is always a fast-paced experience with multiple twitter feeds and almost an overwhelming amount of information. Watching hockey at some point has become almost like a job.
Today is different. It is a time when I get to watch a hockey game where I have no team to root for, no players to watch and nothing to write about, except maybe the fact that I am enjoying the entire experience way too much. It is a new experience for me, at least new in recent times, and I am very keen to enjoy every single bit of it. I am excited to watch a game without any agenda attached to it. Today I’m just a fan of a sport, watching a single game from start to finish. I have that feeling of excitement filled with “ooohs” and “aaahs” directed at crazy dangles, and sublime passes. And there is always the anticipation surrounding the next thunderous hit, which has my butt cheeks clenched each time.
The game I watched was between the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes. This game was not the highlight of the night as the Islanders are struggling to find themselves on the power play and Carolina is trying to keep its own feet above water. I chose this game because I do not get to watch both teams very often and wanted to watch a game where I did not root for anything but a good game.
The game turned out to be a bit dry. Despite ten goals scored, I somehow did not get drawn in. Maybe it’s the fact that I was running on about three hours of sleep in the last 24 hours or maybe it is the wine, but more likely it is the play of both teams. Do not get me wrong here, both teams feature some dynamic players, and speed is certainly present here. Tavares is a highly-skilled player who really creates a lot more chances and keeps more plays alive than he is ever given credit for by most of hockey public. I guess not many watch the Islanders besides the Isles faithful. The Canes have the Staal brothers, Semin, and even Skinner is fairly shifty, but something about this game that has me snoozing.
I think it may be the sloppy play.
At one point, Tavares cut on the right side against two Hurricanes players. It is a play that should end without any drama, but Tavares is much more creative than to just dump and chase. He shifts his skates and body to open his forehand to the middle of the ice, all the while slowing down right above the faceoff circle. He turned his body to face the blue line, almost by the boards, and looked for his teammates that were trailing. They were no Canes forwards back-checking them and the play quickly turned into a three-on-two. Odds favored the Islanders.
Tavares quickly dished out his pass as one of the Canes defenders commited to him. As one of the Canes defenseman took the body on Tavares, this play went from a mere one-on-two to a two-on-one break for the Islanders. The trailer to get the puck was Brad Boyes. He had about 30 feet to the net with a straight path to Cam Ward. The Canes defenseman cheated to take away the streaking forward, Matt Moulson, on the left side. Brad Boyes just sent a quick one-timer pass to Moulson, it seemed a bit forced and it turned out to be a dud. As the Canes defenseman poked the puck, the play turned out to be dead.
You can’t help but think that if the same play was made by the Blackhawks top line, we would be watching it on the Top 10 goals of the week in no time.
While, I decided on how to fairly assess what I was watching, Tavares scored another goal. It is amazing to me how he scores his goals – it seems that they are hardly the same…ever. This one happened to be a goal from the left side off a rebound from a weird angle and a backhand.
Not two minutes later, a broken play by Jordan Stall, who lost the puck cutting through a few Isles, was followed by a quick half-broken up slapshot by Jeff Skinner lead to another goal and a tie game. DiPietro did not see the play, or perhaps just did not react quick enough, but it was a play that even the announcers did not anticipate. It sort of just happened. You did not even get a chance to hold your breath, as it was a broken play by the blue line that resulted in a goal. Oh well, this game seems to be full of those; full of broken plays.
My favorite part about wine is that it tastes very smooth. I like mine to be served chilled in a deep glass. The smell really does the trick for me. It creates a clear anticipation, that tease, kind of like a see through dress. My red has a light crisp taste with a smooth finish. I am no wine geek and prefer vodka to be honest, but on a day like this, nothing fits better. Red wine, feet up in a recliner, watching puck.
While pouring my third glass (I’m Russian – three glasses is nothing), another goal scored. This goal was no mistake, no fluke, and is a direct contrast to what we expect from these players and to what I had seen up to that point. The pass and the shot were works of art, if hockey could be consider as such. A quick pass from left to right, from Brad Boyes to Matt Moulson, for a one-timer that left Cam Ward with no chance for a save. It was a refreshing break to this game so far.
So why do I sound like I am complaining with such intriguing plays? Well, while I am relaxed, the sloppy play continued on. With tons of penalties (11 to be exact), this hockey game is not even a hard-hitting affair (Toronto vs Philly had 63 hits compared to this game’s 27). It’s just nothing but sloppy plays and turnovers. Teams mishandling passes and pucks going wide of net. The flow is none existent and if any team had any momentum a power play would completely destroy it. I got the feeling of the product really being watered down, like soda from a fast food place.
I have seen both teams play much better and much faster. I have seen the Islanders dominate teams this year, but was this what we would call boring hockey? Have I been spoiled watching teams like the Sharks, Hawks, Red Wings, and even Toronto? Is it me just having no interest in the play? I wonder if it is me or the game. Maybe these teams were having a day off, just going through the motions. Or maybe the ice wasn’t too great (even the announcers mentioned the bouncy puck). Or maybe I have been truly spoiled watching the better teams play?
My bottle is coming to an end and maybe I am just too tired, drunk, and maybe even bored. There is no excuse for me to be NOT raving about a game where there were 10 goals and more changing of leads than a Hollywood marriage, yet the game drew no emotion from me. I have no true ties to either of these teams and my interest is fairly low. I was fairly removed from the action and the game was not trying hard to get me into it. I guess there are games like these that happen around the NHL. No matter how hard of a die hard fan of a sport you are, you just get bored to sleep on occasion. I feel guilty calling any hockey game “boring”, because it never is or shouldn’t be, but tonight I saw a game that lacked the excitement and was just too messy to get my adrenaline pumping.
Or was it just the wine?