Be better than the call.
It’s a hockey cliche, but unlike most of them it has real application. You’ve heard it around these parts from time to time, but it’s thrown around anywhere that has actual winning tradition and real substance. In any playoff run, something will go against you. A bad call, an injury, a post hit instead of an open net, a bouncing puck that becomes a delay-of-game penalty. These tests are all around in the spring. You have to rise above.
But people and teams that have been handed everything don’t want to be told they have to be better. Isn’t that America today in a nutshell? The Knights never had to work for anything. Due to the generosity/stupidity of the league and fellow GMs they were given this roster. Due to playing in a division with three or four of the most incomprehensibly-run organizations, they were given the division last season. Due the exhaustion of the Jets, they were given the conference. When a question was finally asked of them by Washington, they were done before you could blink while wondering when it was time to hit their catchphrase.
And those that are installed at the top of instead of climbing there will always run for the stronghold of unfair bias, or injustice, or things not working as they’ve only known them meaning the universe is out of whack.
What the Vegas Pissbabies (really not all that far from “Golden Knights” if you think about it) will come to realize is that nothing was taken from them. Nothing was stolen. They dropped it on their toes and broke four of them. They didn’t have to be there.
Let’s rewind. They led the series 3-1 against a team that was pretty much throwing a sloth who only listens to The Cure in net. They were playing a team that has only known playoff disappointment and angst. The Sharks are basically always looking for a reason to chuck it. They’re not buttressed by the memories and confidence of past glories. There aren’t any. The Knights themselves have just about the same markers of success recently.
Except that what they forgot is that Marc-Andre Fleury is always capable of becoming Martin Jones himself. Probably didn’t remember that when they handed him a new contract that starts when he’s 35. Oh well…not like they made that mistake aga….what’s that you say?
So there was Fleury treating Tomas Hertl’s shorthanded, desperation heave like a rabies shot of yore, and suddenly they’re in a Game 7.
But that’s cool. Martin Jones became Martin Jones again. They got a beneficial call when Cody Eakin, who is apparently 3′ 8″, tipped in a shot with his stick above his shoulder. Perhaps he might have realized he got away with one with his stick high and be more careful from there on out. Maybe next time, Ginger Ninja?
Martin Jones arrived again to let Max Pacioretty’s suggestion of a shot through his legs. That was it. Jones was Jones again. The Sharks were down three, staring yet another playoff loss and the ending of yet another forlorn chase for glory in the eye. Deep down, there was an assurance and comfort within them to settling into what they’ve always known. The Knights had only known success. It was all there.
Here’s a strange note I found buried within the NHL rulebook. You might not know this, but it says you don’t have to let in four goals on a major power play. I know. I really wouldn’t have thought so, but here we are. And suddenly Fleury looked across the ice and screamed, “No one out-playoff-barfs me! I was the Osiris of this shit seven years ago!”
And then he wasn’t anywhere close to any of San Jose’s offerings in the next four minutes. He was a cigar store Indian. Construction sign-men would have put up more of a fight. He came so far out on Labanc’s goal it looked like he wanted to reenact the front cover of “Wish You Were Here.” ( You can probably guess which one was on fire). Never hustle a hustler.
Enter Gerrard Gallant with an excellent Dusty Baker impression. Frozen. No timeout. No, “Let’s settle this down and figure it out.” Not even a call for a pointless review to get the heat out of a building that was starting to sound like an Anthrax concert. Just glares and bitching. This wasn’t in the script. This isn’t the plan.
And even with all that, the Sharks couldn’t escape their true nature completely. Of course they couldn’t, it’s too ingrained. So the Knights had yet another reprieve, tying the game with 47 seconds and getting an overtime against an exhausted outfit using about eight forwards and four defensemen.
It’s kind of fitting that the series came down to Pete DeBoer thinking, “Well, I should probably stop using my cemented-footed, rock-headed pylon (benching Brendon Dillon) and my only hope is that Gerard Gallant keeps using his.” And over the boards came Brayden McNabb! You can’t run from your nature forever. I mean, you can get close when you do things at the pace of McNabb, who can tell his grandkids one day that he got scorched by something called Barclay Goodrow and his grandkids can start planning just how fast they’ll change their last name and filling out grandpappy’s DNR. Maybe down the road when they pull the plug on Ol. Brayden his grandchildren will yell, “Look at me, I’m Barclay!”
That seems like an awful lot to hinge on one call, especially as a good portion comes before that call. But I know time warps in Vegas. No clocks and all.
The Knights wanted to be known as something more than an expansion team. And now they will be. So what are you so upset about anyway? Finally you’re something more than a pregame light show. Except that show is going to really suck when The Knight is just complaining to a ref for 10 minutes.
Sometimes the gods shine on you simply because they know you’ve been asked too much. Somehow, in less than two years, traveling Knights fans have become some of the more obnoxious in the league. Who knew that Vegas had so many transplants? Is that why it’s the 43rd biggest TV market? Because everyone moved away? All of them trying to cash in on their memories of watching their hockey team back home in Vegas…what a cherished time that was…
But now any utterance from a traveling Vegas fan (“traveling” in this case is probably going to have to mean the same as “bandwagon”) can be met with holding up three fingers, or merely mimicking a cross-check, or donning a Fleury jersey and standing perfectly still for five minutes. All will be an authoritative “PIPE DOWN, RUB-A-DUB!” And that will last for years.
And it will last for years because it only took George “Piston Honda” McPhee two seasons to completely bork his cap situation. Sure, perhaps McPhee will be saved by his fellow GMs going from undervaluing all the players he plucked from them to overvaluing them and sprinting to acquire them to save him some cash. They have $2 million in space for next year with William Karlsson to sign. They stepped backwards this year, and giving Mark “Ugly Patrick Sharp” Stone the 10th highest cap-hit in the league probably doesn’t arrest that on its own. Handing out three of your biggest contracts to players over 33 always works a charm as well. Hope you enjoyed Max Pacioretty’s 22 goals, because you’d probably better get used to it.
The Knights will ice a roster that won’t have a 30-goal scorer 60-plus point player at this point, aside from Stone who collected most of those elsewhere. Ask the Predators what trying to be The Borg gets you, especially when you run up against a team with genuine star power. This is Vegas, aren’t you a city built on star power? Oh right, it’s faded star power that does a residency there. Suddenly that Paul Stastny contract makes a ton of sense. He’ll be part of Britney’s or Gwen’s show very soon.
I guess we owe the Knights a thank you. They provided us with a period of hockey we’ll never forget. And they probably won’t stop complaining about it for years. Which will only be a reminder for how glorious it was. It’s a true legacy.