I love playoff hockey. It is funny because I can't watch it during the regular season (actually do they even show it on TV during the regular season?) The games just don't get me excited from November to May (is that how long the season runs?)
The best part about it is when the games go to overtime. It is sudden death and one shot ends the game. Unlike the NFL's sudden death OT, you can't see this one coming. In the NFL, unless there is a long pass or run or an interception for a TD, you pretty much see the buildup to the finish.
In hockey, the game can swing so fast. One team can take three shots on goal and 10 seconds later there is a counter attack the other way and a shot on the other goal.
The first time I remember staying glued to the TV during a hockey game was in 1996 during the Red Wings and Blues playoff game. I was supposed to go out with some friends, but couldn't leave the TV as a scoreless game went into the fifth overtime.
The game was scoreless into the fifth period, when an innocent-looking giveaway by Wayne Gretzky at center ice turned into a magical moment by the Wings' captain. Steve Yzerman ripped a slap shot from just inside the blue line over the shoulder of a stunned Jon Casey. The game ended with Yzerman's first career overtime playoff goal and arguably the most memorable of his 70 career postseason goals. (Thanks to espn.com for that, I couldn't remember the year).
As I sit and watch the Penguins and Red Wings play in second OT in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, this is shaping up to be another classic. The Wings looked to be 30 seconds from winning the Cup before the Penguins scored to tie the game at 3. The Detroit fans were ready to celebrate a championship until the arena went silent.
Which brings me to what I love the most about overtime hockey, the reaction of the crowd on the game-winning goal. I go back and fourth on this one as to what I am rooting for. Hearing the arena erupt when the home team scores is pretty cool, but then again, hearing a dead silence with the exception of the horn in the arena is pretty cool as well. Since I am a Penguins fan (I love the jersey's if anyone is thinking about a birthday present. July 14 is right around the corner) I am pulling for dead silence.
Speaking of arena sounds, I don't know if there is a more excruciating sound in all of sports (other than the sound of Joe Theismann's leg breaking) than the clang of a puck hitting the post in OT. On both sides, for a split second, breaths are held waiting to see if the game is over or if they will continue to skate.
If the Penguins can win this, I'm rooting for this to go to a Game 7 for the Cup and then I'm rooting for overtime.
UPDATE: 11:20 p.m. - The Penguins just held off a power play in the closing seconds of the second OT to force a third. I'm in this for the long haul.
UPDATE: 11:48 p.m. - SILENCE!!! Just before midnight, the Pens get one in to force Game 6 back in Pittsburgh.