Normally, it would be hard to find much in common between a 109-105 NBA playoff game and a 4-3 NHL playoff game. But Saturday afternoon the Golden State Warriors and St. Louis Blues both made game-changing shots with six seconds to play and with a hated regional rival’s star player out of competition in network games (ABC and NBC respectively).
Certainly both leagues would like to see more diversity in participation. Seth Jones winning rookie of the year, like Doug McDermott already having won National College Player of the Year honors, would go a long way toward hockey appealing beyond its traditional demographic. But as far as the games themselves, differences abound. Most glaringly, basketball has the most scoring of the four major sports and hockey has the least.
Golden State’s Klay Thompson hit a free throw with 6 seconds left to clinch a win over a Clippers team that had lost Blake Griffin in a battle of California basketball teams that do not like each other. However, the much more unlikely scenario occurred about the same time when St. Louis’ Valdimir Tarasenko (pictured) scored with 6 seconds left to save St. Louis and ultimately beat a Chicago Blackhawks team minus Brent Seabrook in a battle of Midwest hockey teams that do not like each other.
In the NBA game, Blake Griffin missed two potential go ahead shots from close range and then was called for his sixth foul with 48 seconds to play after the Warriors David Lee grabbed the rebound.
A player fouling out in an NBA game is not that unusual, but an NHL team having to play almost the entire last five minutes of regulation short-handed is. In a game that included 10-minute misconducts on both teams at the end of the second period, the Blackhawks had a 3-2 lead and chance to leave St. Louis with a playoff split when Seabrook lined up David Backes with just under five minutes to go.
Backes was moving along the boards behind the net but was unable to secure the puck and turned and lowered his head to look back for it. Seabrook appeared not to realize Backes did not have the puck, but launched and hit him in the head–leaving Backes struggling to get up with blood coming from the top of his nose
The resultant call for charging left the Blackhawks short-handed for the final 4:51 of regulation–and down two skaters for much of that time.
Bryan Bickell was already in the penalty box for a kneeing penalty that knocked Vladimir Sobotka out of the game, giving the Blues a five skaters to three advantage. The Blackhawks killed off the two-man disadvantage, and killed off another couple of minutes to force Blues goalie Ryan Miller to the bench for a 6-on-4 advantage in skaters.
The Blackhawks short-handed defense held until the final seconds, but was unable to launch a shot into the open net to put the game away.
Finally, the desperate Blues dumped the puck back to Tarasenko and the second year player who scored on the first two shots of his career last year was true again. His slapshot from just left of Blackhawks’ goalie Corey Crawford beat him to the short side of the net.
In overtime, the Blackhawks stopped another power play after a high-sticking call against Jonathan Toews, but Barret Jackman scored the game-winner 43 seconds after the power play ended to send the Blues to Chicago up 2-0. This game-winning shot came from Crawford’s right, and was slowed by his pads only to dribble across the line slowly for the win.
The Blues lost their last six games of the season to barely hold home advantage over the Blackhawks by four points, prompting ESPN’s hockey expert Barry Melrose to predict a Blackhawks-Bruins Stanley Cup. However, with the Bruins being shocked by a Game 1 loss to Detroit and the Blackhawks now down 2-0, both have work to do.