Tonight was a work night which meant I mostly missed the first two periods of the Stanley Cup's seventh-game finale to the NHL season. I heard, rather than watched the game, depending on Bob Cole's voice to let me know when it got interesting.
And to the Calgary Flames' credit, it got REAL interesting in the third period. But even MORE credit to Nik Khabibulin and the Tampa Bay Lightning, this year's Stanley Cup champions. Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards chipped in with his assist on one of two Ruslan Fedotenko goals that had the home side leading two-zip heading into the third.
But it was the Bhulin Wall that denied Canada a return of the hardware to the country from whence it came. Khabibulin's robbery of Jordan Leopold's would-be game-tier late in the game was the brilliant end-game picture that is this year's equivalent of Bobby Orr jumping through the air after scoring his Stanley Cup winning goal back in the sixties. Leopold could have tried roofing it, but why bother? Khabibulin was over the other side of the net stopping the original shot.
Full value for a season of entertainment from the Lightning. They played hockey the way it should be played from October to June. Maybe, when the ice-meisters reconvene from their upcoming sabbatical, the other teams might try emulating the Lightning.
And let's give credit to Jarome Iginla and the Flames. Calgary goalie Mikka Kiprusoff had his OWN might-have-been moment, stopping Vinnie Lecavalier on a breakaway who used the Forsberg Manoeuvre to almost put the game away. But the revelation to those that don't follow hockey ardently was Iginla's emergence as possibly the best player in hockey. (Disclaimer: I have had Iginla two of the last three years in our roto league, the two REALLY GOOD years [G]).
All in all, it's a shame there's no more hockey, save for the World Cup in August, for a LOOOOONNNNNGGGG time. This snapshot will have to make do, maybe until January 2006. Thankfully, it's a worthwhile picture to take into the long hockey night.