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Monday, March 01, 2010

Des plus brillants exploits

Ô Canada!
Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!
Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,
Il sait porter la croix!
Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.
Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.

Ahem.  Well, I don’t think it was a Game of the Ages.  Or a game for the ages, either.  But it was immensely entertaining.  And if you watched these Olympics and still don’t see why hockey is teh bestest game ever, even better than curling and the biathlon, I don’t know what to say to you.

For obvious (and entirely justifiable) reasons, everyone is going to remember Parise’s game-tying goal with 24.4 seconds left (and, I hope, the deft play by Patrick Kane that made it possible:  Kane was the USA’s offensive MVP of the night, and may eventually become the best American hockey player of all times), and the breathtaking, brilliant OT session that followed.  But the first 57 minutes of the game were not really all that thrilling.  The occasion was thrilling, sure—the final event of the 2010 Olympics, a rematch of a terrific prelim game, the latest installment in a serious rivalry.  But although the first 57 minutes were quick, physically intense, and tightly played, they were a little too tightly played.  We were treated to what’s called a “close-checking” game, and apparently everyone was prepared for it: in the pregame commentary, Eddie Olczyk predicted that the game would be won and lost in the corners, and he turned out to be exactly right (even though he didn’t say anything about the puck getting caught in an official’s skates, forcing Crosby to flick the puck down low to Iginla).  Me, I prefer a game that’s won and lost on the question of whether a team can skate through the neutral zone with speed, developing plays and creating open ice and passing lanes; but this game had no open ice or passing lanes, very few odd-man rushes, very little end-to-end action.  I longed for the freedom of the larger international rink; meanwhile, the USA and Canada played old school North American hockey, and they played it well.  It just wasn’t galvanizing—until Crosby’s breakaway and Kane’s furious, possibly-game-saving backcheck.  And then, two minutes later, Kane twisted to save a pass from Pavelski that had been deflected by Getzlaf, spun, sent the puck goalward, off Langenbrunner’s skate and into Luongo’s pads, and Parise put it in.

At which point the team that thought it was going to hold on to win a tightly-played one-goal-game realized that it was going to have to go to the locker room, sit for fifteen minutes, and then come back out and start the entire thing over from scratch.  1993-94 Rangers fans know what that’s like, having watched their team give up three last-minute goals to force overtime, two against the Devils (the second in game seven) and one against the Canucks (in game one).  Oh, yes, the 1993-94 Rangers themselves would know what that’s like, too.  It is excruciating.

Everything after that was just crazy land.  Up to that point, the game was huge because of the stakes, not because of the second-by-second thrills.  But the OT was edge-of-the-seat, second-by-second thrills.  Sudden death is like that.  And a twenty-minute sudden-death with four-on-four play is also like that, except more so.  I decided last night that it’s infinity times better than the five-minute OT, because I’ve watched way too many five-minute OTs in which neither team takes a chance for fear of making the fatal mistake that leads to a 2-on-1 the other way.  In this format, by contrast, players actually try to win the damn game instead of waiting out the OT to get to the shootout.  (I understand why the NHL has to keep it to five minutes, though.) And, of course, the four-on-four produced all the open ice I could have wanted.

In the end, it was exactly the right outcome.  Not only because Canada really was the just-slightly-better team, and not only because Crosby deserves this place in history, but also because Crosby’s goal saved us from decades of debates about the offsides on the first US goal and the Two Clanging Posts at the opening of the third period.  Had the Americans pulled this one out, erasing Canada’s two-goal lead and ending the Vancouver Olympics on a sour note for the home team, Canadians would now be talking about that offsides and those posts, and for obvious (and entirely justifiable) reasons, would continue talking about them forever.

And with that, dear readers, this weary blog is going on hiatus for a couple of weeks.  I have some news—I’ve been asked to serve as the next director of Penn State’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities, and I’ve accepted.  I don’t officially take the job until July, but I’m going to start meeting with people well before then, and that’s going to cut deeply into blogging time, for obvious (and entirely justifiable) reasons.  I’m not giving up the thing just yet—perhaps sometime later this year, after the Penguins-Blackhawks Stanley Cup final.  We will see.  In the meantime, I leave you with three important instructional videos.  First, one for you guitarists:

Then, another for you Karen Carpenter fans:

And finally, a different drummer:

See you around the Intertubes, everyone.  While I’m gone, don’t forget—The Editors have been back for a while now.

Posted by Michael on 03/01 at 10:33 AM
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