Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Takin' Care of Business

Well, the St. Louis Blues came to the party, but it seems they were uninvited as the Vancouver Canucks ousted the upstart Blues in a four-game sweep. Tonight's game was a 3-2 victory in overtime that saw Alex Burrows score with 19 seconds remaining in the first overtime period to seal St. Louis' fate as the first team eliminated from the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's interesting to think that there have been some pretty big moments in overtime over the course of NHL history. This one, while big in Vancouver's history, probably won't make any major lists of overtime achievements, but there have been a number of overtime games where players literally were "workin' overtime". With the playoffs well underway, here are some of the more memorable overtime games that I remember.

The longest game in modern NHL history took place in Pittsburgh. The visiting Philadelphia Flyers and Penguins were tied at one goal apiece, and into their fifth period of overtime. The 2000 NHL Playoffs changed dramatically for the Penguins after Keith Primeau ripped a shot past defenceman Darius Kasparaitis and goaltender Ron Tugnutt after playing 92:01 of extra time. Pittsburgh had won the first two games of the Eastern Conference Semi-Final, and led the series 2-1 until Primeau scored. That tied the series, but the Penguins were never the same as they went on to lose the next two games as well.

This game is the third-longest in NHL history, and I remember watching every second of it. Here's the video of Primeau's historic goal.

Pat Lafontaine's overtime goal will always be remembered as my first experience with multiple overtime periods. We go back to April 18, 1987 for this one. The Washington Capitals and New York Islanders are tied at 2-2, and pushing into early morning. By the fourth overtime period, both teams looked exhausted. The key on this goal? The Islanders eliminated the Washington Capitals on Lafontaine's slapshot that got past Bob Mason after playing 68:47 of additional time.

This is officially the tenth-longest game in NHL Playoff history. Let's take a look at this one.

Another one that I remember staying up and watching until the wee hours of the morning was the 1996 battle between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. Washington had won the first two games on Pittsburgh's ice, and the Penguins had won Game Three on Washington's ice. The fourth game would prove pivotal. Petr Nedved's fake shot froze goaltender Olaf Kolzig enough, and his wrist shot found its way through a crowd at the 79:15 mark of extra time.

This is officially the fifth-longest game in NHL history. Here's Nedved's overtime winner that tied the series, and pushed the Penguins to a 4-2 series win.

Now, I'm not saying that every team that has played in a long overtime game and lost has gone on to lose the entire series. However, history shows us that this case more often than not. Overtime, especially a game that goes twice as long as a regular game, is especially grueling on a player's body, and this apparently has a major effect on the losing team. It's like adding insult to injury.

Of the longest games, here is the information that should be of interest:
  • Pittsburgh-Philadelphia in 2000. Philly wins Game Four after 92:01 of overtime, and goes on to win the series 4-2.
  • Anaheim-Dallas in 2003. Anaheim wins Game One after 80:48 of overtime, and goes on to win the series 4-2.
  • Pittsburgh-Washington in 1996. Pittsburgh wins Game Four after 79:15 of overtime, and goes on to win the series 4-2.
  • Vancouver-Dallas in 2007. Vancouver wins Game One after 78:06 of overtime, and goes on to win the series 4-3.
  • Dallas-San Jose in 2008. Dallas wins Game Six after 69:03 of overtime, and wins the series 4-2.
  • Washington-NY Islanders in 1987. New York wins Game Seven after 68:47 of overtime, and wins the series 4-3.
In all of those series, the team that won the extended overtime game has gone on to win the series. Not only are players on the losing team physically drained, but they are drained emotionally and mentally as well. In a seven-game series, that kind of mental and physical fatigue can really affect a team... as history shows.

An overtime win is a far bigger factor than we may give it credit. Playing early into the morning can generally change a series, so while it may be entirely true when coaches tell their teams that they would prefer to win early, history says playing more than an hour of overtime and winning has a far bigger effect than playing for, say, ten minutes of extended time.

Of course, keeping people and players awake and energetic becomes a problem at that point.

Congratulations to the Vancouver Canucks, the first team to advance to the second round of this year's NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Carl said...

A multiple OT win can sure change a series, but I can think of a few instincts where that did NOT occur.

One big was was in 1994 when the Devils played Buffalo at the Aud up in Buffalo. They game went to four OT's with Buffalo finally winning. It could have changed the series, but the Devils went on to win anyway, and made it to the conference finals...thats just me.

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Cory D said...

I will never forget the Anaheim-Dallas game in 2003, I was in eighth grade and actually got to miss school the day after that game because i'd been up so late watching the game. what an amazing performance. this is why i like that they get rid of the skills competition for playoffs.