After Dougie Hamilton (Then-Bruin) takes a shot that gets blocked by his own teammate that deflects up and into the protective netting, play continues as if it had been suspended in mid-air for about two seconds, as it bounces right in front of Curtis McElhinney and was picked up by the Jackets and brought up ice. Nothing comes of it, but a full minute or so of semi-uninterrupted play comes in what should’ve been a face-off in the other end, and as the period winds down...Columbus scores. By all accounts what should be a phantom goal.
And it stood. As if nothing had changed.
Jack Edwards had words about it.
Now, there probably wasn’t much of a chance for Boston to come back in that one. Columbus ripped off three straight goals on then-backup Niklas Svedberg, who immediately brought Rask in...and then that happened. Whatever happened after that was basically window dressing. What became the story...is that play. A play with such a cheap get-out-of-jail-free card for inattentive officials that it almost feels like it’s letting Referees off the hook for not looking up with their whistles in their mouths.
Hockey, generally speaking, is a game about chaos. So many variables, so many things that can go wrong or right and a lot of human error to tie it all up in a neat bow. In order to score, a cavalcade of mistakes have to be made before anyone gets to see the red light come on. Professional hockey, therefor, is the closest approximation we can get to a game that has most of it’s more unpredictable variables shaved off, or at least try as hard as they can to eliminate as much chaos as they can in order to get a good result. Teams that get/fight for/win opportunities in the slot and spend half the game in the offensive zone carving the enemy defense to shreds are usually going to win. Teams that don’t shoot very much but have some guys who can shoot in the slot/high-slot a lot in transition can eke their way into some wins. A goaltender who makes no real mistakes gets a shutout etc. etc.
But the frustrating, and sometimes hilarious, and always fun part of pro hockey...is that human error is never, ever, truly gone. The rulebook itself punishes teams who aren’t thinking “oh wait the whistle didn’t blow even if I and everyone around me saw the puck hit the netting.” Penalties after the whistle (or even after the run of play) can happen and nobody can see or hear them. We watch a game effectively about trying to make the least mistakes, and more often than not, we see plenty. Because that’s how humans work, apparently.
And because in a world where dumb things like this can happen because the human animal is not and cannot be perfect, it is not necessarily chaos when two teams in the exact same arena as they were five years ago can be in a game where it actually matters now...It’s where people who believe in the Hockey Gods get a feather in their cap. Where the insurmountable odds of having nearly the exact same thing happen except in a fraction of the time...The laws of probability break down. The laws of physics break down. It is instead time for the clowns and fools and harlequins to come out. It is time for japery.
It is deep, shake-your-head, self-inflicted schadenfreude comedy of the finest quality that the astronomical odds of this happening again aligned to say “Oh yes. Let’s do this verse again.”
The kind that made me less sad that the jackets had gotten on the board...but that they managed to do this absolutely unbelievable stunt again and the rules hadn’t changed enough to fix this. It’s just unimaginably funny to me.
Thankfully, Boston managed to do less mistakes than Columbus last night than they did in that post-christmas game in 2014, and course corrected hard in the third period after a tremendous effort where they finally attacked Bobrovsky and his defense’s propensity for giving up doorstep chances. It helps they have a way better squad than they did back then. But it’s still a really obnoxious, but also really, really darkly funny thing that not only could this happen...of all times and of all places...
It happened to the same pair of teams again.
Game 5 is in Boston on Saturday. If there’s one thing we do know for sure about it, it’ll probably be like the rest of this series: absolutely nuts and near air-tight.
And one hopes the chaos of this sport, and especially TD Garden ice, can swing the right way for Boston once again.
Preferably without more goals that shouldn’t count.