By Allan Muir
I always have the best intentions at the beginning of each season to make a running tab of the moments most worth remembering. And, much like my determination to get back into game shape, it hasn’t happened yet.
Still, it wasn’t too hard to come up with a list now that we’re at season’s end. The games offered enough highlights–and lowlights–to fill a full-length schedule. Here are my favorites:
The Yakupov Slide: With the goalie pulled and Edmonton trailing Los Angeles by one back in January, Nail Yakupov crafted the signature moment of his rookie season: batting a Taylor Hall rebound out of midair and putting it behind Kings goalie Jonathan Quick with just 4.7 seconds left on the clock. He took a lot of grief for his spontaneous Theo Fleury impression, but it was a beautiful tally at a key moment. That’s exactly the kind of goal that calls for an over-the-top celly (yep, celly). You want to follow a sport that’s had all the life sucked out of it? Watch the NFL.
The Lindy Flop: No one was really surprised to learn Lindy Ruff was fired by the Sabres on Feb. 20. The organization was long overdue for some kind of significant change and was struggling mightily out of the gate. Still, after 16 years behind the bench and 26 with the organization, there was a sense of permanence to Ruff’s employment few other coaches in this sport ever enjoy. It was time, but it was tough to see him go.
The Calgary Miracle: This early February game was the lynchpin of Chicago’s season-defining streak, the night when it really started to feel like the hockey gods were guiding the ‘Hawks toward history. They were wildly outplayed by the Flames, though Ray Emery kept his mates close with a larcenous 45-save performance that might have been the year’s best. But then Jay Bouwmeester scored to give Calgary the lead with just 35 seconds remaining, seemingly putting an end to the streak…until Marian Hossa knotted it up in dramatic fashion with 2.1 seconds left, setting the stage for Patrick Kane to clinch it in the shootout.
The third Staal to the right: You don’t have to be a fan of the Carolina Hurricanes, or the parents of Thunder Bay’s favorite sons, to appreciate just how cool it was to see Eric, Jordan and Jared Staal lined up to start Thursday night’s game against the Rangers. Jared, making his NHL debut, said, “it was even more than I thought it would be, a lot of fun. I had a blast.” The Staals became just the fourth set of three brothers to appear in an NHL game together.
Matt Duchene’s offside goal: This wasn’t quite Don Denkinger territory here, but as far as blown calls go, this is about as bad as you’ll see in hockey, as Duchene’s goal led to an Avalanche win over the Predators. No way to tell what linesman Derek Amell was looking at, but he somehow missed Duchene entering the offensive zone about three seconds before the puck. He’s a good official, but I’ll be shocked if he gets a playoff assignment.
Mike Watson’s 15 minutes of fame: What I can’t figure out is how it took the Ottawa broadcasters until midway through the second period on January 21 to notice the bodysnatcher version of Sens coach Paul MacLean was seated right behind him?
Erik Karlsson’s leg: From the gruesome damage caused by Matt Cooke’s skate raking down his calf, to the insane CSI-inspired ramblings of Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk, to his miraculously quick recovery and return to action Thursday night, the left leg of the defending Norris winner might have been the top story of the season in Canada.
Jarome Iginla trade: It’s a shame things got to a point in Calgary where the best player in franchise history wanted out. It’s ridiculous GM Jay Feaster told the Boston Bruins they had a deal for the game-changing right wing before he cleared the deal with Iginla, who then chose to invoke his no-trade clause to set himself up for his preferred destination, Pittsburgh. And it’s borderline criminal how Ray Shero managed to add Iggy to his already stacked Penguins roster.
The Ryan O’Reilly farce: Greg Sherman’s mishandling of the negotiations with the young star will be the first item on the Colorado GM’s soon-to-be-written career epitaph, but his incompetence was eclipsed by that of Calgary’s Jay Feaster, who signed the restricted free agent to an exorbitant offer sheet without understanding O’Reilly was subject to re-entry waivers after playing January games in the KHL. Good thing Sherman matched since the Flames would have lost both the bounty in draft picks that would have gone to the Avs as well as O’Reilly.
Damien Brunner’s shootout winner against Columbus: This is one way for a Swiss import to introduce himself to the league. Slick, slick, slick.
Antoine Roussel’s first NHL goal: Every first goal is special, but Roussel’s against Phoenix in February sticks out more than most, partly because I was in the house and partly because it was just a stinkin’ sweet move.
Take it for a spin: Nothing like a hot dog move executed with relish. First it was Zdeno Chára, the 6-foot-9 ballerina, then Patrick Kane spun like a record baby while welcoming Brendan Dillon to the NHL.
The Goal of the Year: Cody Hodgson, Nathan Gerbe and Dan Boyle offered up strong contenders, but the title goes to Pavel Datsyuk who skates through five Nashville Predators before finishing a play that can only be called Datsyukian.
Luongo comes clean on contract: Still hurting from Vancouver’s inability to move him at the deadline, Luongo opened up in an emotionally raw press conference that included one of the most stunningly honest admissions ever heard from a modern-day athlete.
Rick DiPietro sent to minors: He said it felt, “like someone ripped out my heart,” when the Isles dispatched the struggling netminder and the rest of his 15-year, $67.5 million contract to the minors on Feb. 22. He followed that up by revealing thoughts of suicide he later said were misconstrued, then allowed five goals on 12 shots in his first AHL start. DiPietro was never an easy guy to like, but you still have to hope this ends up being just the second act in a story of redemption.
Ducks re-sign Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf: The Ducks killed any hope of an entertaining Free Agency Day — and staved off the dismantling of the franchise — by signing their two superstars to long-term extensions over a 10-day period in March. It was a bold bit of work by Anaheim GM Bob Murray, who committed $135 million over 15 seasons to the duo, but also kept the short term in order by removing the distraction from a team capable of making a Stanley Cup run.
The Boston Anthem: Barely 48 hours after the horror of the Boston Marathon bombings, the TD Garden opened its doors to a city looking for some way to express their defiance and share their grief with the world. They found their voice in the national anthem, a raw, emotional, full-throated version that will be remembered as the moment Boston began to heal.
These are the moments I’ll take away from this season. I’m sure you’ll have a few of your own. Feel free to add them in the comments section below.