Monday, August 10, 2009

Welcome To The Finals

It's been quite a ride.

I had no idea this was going to get dramatic. We'd totally dominated the last twenty games of the regular season, and I thought we'd have a feel-good playoff run where we won the Stanley Cup easily.

This thought was no longer in my mind when we entered overtime in Game 7 of the Conference Semifinals against Atlanta. I was gripping, really, because I didn't want to make a mistake that would knock us out of the playoffs. We'd put so much time into the game, and I didn't want Eli 8.0 to be disappointed, because he'd come up clutch several times already, particularly in Game 5 when he'd almost singlehandedly saved the series by scoring two goals in the third period.

We were on the bench when the winning goal was scored in the second overtime. NHL is unique in that when your player is on the bench, you're literally watching the game from the bench. There was a clutch of players around the goal, then the red lamp lit up and we both started celebrating like crazy.

On the replay, the agony of the Stanley Cup was readily apparent. Superstar Sabrina (discussed in a previous post) blocked the initial shot, but it trickled through her pads. There was this beautiful, doomed moment when she turned to see the puck sliding toward the goal line, moving in a desperate burst even though she knew it was too late.

That single moment captured the incredible intensity and agonizing nature of hockey as well as any game I've ever watched on television (and I've watched many).

When we faced elimination against the Rangers in Game 6 of the Conference Finals, Eli scored two goals in the first period and we cruised.

In Game 7, with a 1-0 in the third period, he had a defensive lapse that allowed the Rangers to tie the score with only five minutes to go. "We'll get it back," I said, but I thought we were headed for another overtime. With just over thirty seconds left, though, Fedotenko missed a shot and Eli stuffed in the rebound.

If you thought there was a celebration in the last round, you should have seen us this time.

I don't know what's going to happen in this series--Roberto Luongo is a phenomenal goalie, and Vancouver is the top seed from the Western Conference--but I've had as much fun during this playoff run as I've ever had playing a sports game, and that covers a lot (a LOT) of virtual ground.

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