We Should Make The Goalies Even Worse
9:00 AM EDT on June 1, 2022
Can you imagine if we'd ended up with the stupid Blues in this series? That would have sucked! Instead, Game 1 between the Colorado Avalanche and the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Final proved to be a god-given opportunity for goals, goals, goals. Now it's time to push them even further.
This was already set to be the more heavily offensive of the two third-round match-ups—it has the two leaders in team playoff goals per game, the other has the two best goalies by save percentage—but only the wackiest of exaggeratedly contrasting predictions could have called anything like the series' first 26 minutes, which saw the Avs rocket out to a 6-3 lead. Edmonton was scoring at a respectable pace for any other NHL opponent, but Colorado did what they did, only better, immediately answering every setback in their own end by quickly lighting the lamp twice over at the other.
After five minutes of engrossing but fruitless action, Evander Kane and J.T. Compher traded fast-break goals. Ten minutes later, Nathan MacKinnon broke free on a long pass from Cale Makar and converted his ninth of the playoffs. Zach Hyman scored in his sixth straight game with just a few seconds left in the period, but those 23 ticks were 14 more than Makar needed to regain the lead with the most controversial of the many pucks put in the net on Tuesday. Valeri Nichushkin's forecheck right from the faceoff forced a turnover to Makar, who almost immediately fired past Mike Smith with a satisfying clank off the post to make it 3-2. And while it looked during Edmonton's challenge that Nichushkin didn't get back across the blue line in time for Makar to enter with the puck, a thorny and confusing interpretation of the offside rule that minimized Makar's apparent control as he entered the zone led to the goal still being allowed.
Squinting at replays and pondering the true nature of "possession of the puck," however, was completely antithetical to the beauty of this game, and thankfully a veritable ... avalanche of goals helped switch things back toward the group effort to use the tens place on the jumbotron. Nazem Kadri scored 30 seconds into the next period, on the power play caused by the Oilers' shameful attempt to take a goal off the board. A clumsy rebound left out by Darcy Kuemper let Ryan McLeod get one back for the road team. Then the Avs tried to end things with two quick ones from Mikko Rantanen and a Compher deflection, plus another a little later from Andrew Cogliano.
At this point, both backup goalies were in the game—Colorado's due to an injury to Kuemper and Edmonton's due to Mike Smith's failure to contain the onslaught. But while Mikko Koskinen mostly held the Avs at bay in the game's latter stages, Pavel Francouz didn't quite enjoy the same success. McDavid grabbed one at the end of the second to cut the deficit to 7-4. Derek Ryan was in the right place at the right time for a goal early in the third. And Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made it especially tight with a one-timer on a power play with seven minutes to go. The Avs held strong from there, however, and Gabe Landeskog's empty-netter gave the game its delirious, exhausting, 8-6 final. Smith and the Oilers are no stranger to chaotic Game 1 losses in series they eventually win, but this was still a very imposing statement from the mile-high favorites: Just try to outscore us. We dare you.
“Colorado is a different animal,” Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said after the game.
All the goals in this contest made it a hell of a fun time to watch and kept anyone from counting out Edmonton even while they languished in the second. But still, we can do better! Despite the show from the scorers, there were nevertheless an incredible 70 saves between the four goaltenders. That's 70 too many, in my book. It's amazing, some of these would-be goals that were denied their rightful destination in the back of the net by stubborn goalie play. Here is but one example:
Ridiculous, right? In Game 2, we as hockey sickos should set our sights even higher, sabotaging the goaltenders any which way we can in order to satiate our addiction and bring about more, MORE, MORE GOALS! Shrink their gloves. Widen the net. Lace their pre-game brownies. Dye the puck white. Bring back David Aebischer and Ty Conklin and make them play for their respective former teams. This rodeo of a series might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for records to fall and for football teams to get insecure about their production. Let's be sure to make the most of it.