NHL Roundtable: Best game, player, moments and zany quote of 2015
Every Friday, a trio of SI.com staffers will sit down for a discussion of the hockey world’s hot-button issues. This week, Sam Page, Michael Blinn and Al Muir discuss their personal favorite moments of 2015. First up:
• So many great memories from this past season, boys, but we’re going to put you on the spot to name only one in each category. How about starting with your favorite game of 2015?
Michael Blinn: Blackhawks vs. Ducks, Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, May 17. This triple-OT game had a little bit of everything, mostly because the teams played almost two full games before the Hawks finally pulled it out, 3–2. It went 116:02, featured 118 shots on goal (not including the several that rang off the posts and crossbars), an absurd 49:51 of ice time from hockey-playing robot Duncan Keith, and a disallowed goal that Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw tried to head into the net. If it weren’t for Marcus Kruger’s game-winner in the wee hours of the morning, a lot of us never would have gotten to sleep again.
Al Muir: Yep, that was the one. Best, most exciting game of the year, hands down. But since you grabbed it first, I'll take Canada’s white-knuckle 5–4 win over Russia in the gold medal game of the 2015 World Junior Championship. Anthony Duclair scores 23 seconds in, then Nick Paul makes it 2–0 three minutes later and chases Russian starter Igor Shestyorkin. Then they really pour it on. Connor McDavid, Max Domi and Sam Reinhart make it 5–1. Canada is coasting ... and then Russia starts pecking away at the lead. It’s all Russia in the third and the Air Canada Centre crowd is in panic mode. The Russians pull to within 5–4 and get two amazing chances in the final 10 seconds to tie it up, but Zach Fucale (finally!) closes the door, allowing Canada to hold on for its first championship at the tourney since 2009.
Sam Page: Predators vs. Wild, Jan. 10. I’m a simple guy with simple tastes. I like Preds games in which someone prods Shea Weber one too many times. See: Lilja, Kesler, Roussel, and Burrows (which I assume YouTube pulled for its violent content). In this one, we had Matt Cooke on the receiving end of Weber’s wrath. Good, clean fun!
• Favorite player of the year?
MB: Carey Price transcended elite goalie status in the last year, winning the Vezina, Jennings, Pearson and Hart trophies. From January 1 through December, he posted a 39-15-5 record (playoffs included), including a 10-2-0 start to the 2015-16 season before getting shelved with a lower-body injury. Undoubtedly, 2015 was the Year of Carey Price, and unless your team was playing the Canadiens, he was a lot of fun to watch.
SP: Tyler Johnson. He’s an easy guy to root for—is that too obvious a euphemism for “He’s short?” He scored his 13 playoff goals in basically every style imaginable. Johnson was like The Lord himself in this year’s playoffs—we knew neither the period nor the minute, but we did know he would score.
AM: Patrice Bergeron. I have so much admiration for his mastery of the details. I can’t tell you how many times over the past year I called my hockey-playing sons into my office to point out a small but effective play he made in hopes that they’ll learn to think the game the way he does. I’m sure they’re sick of hearing me talk about him, but he had a heck of a year. Another Selke Trophy to close out 2014-15 and a great start to 2015-16, where’s he’s top-20 in scoring and on pace for the best offensive season of his career.
• Favorite moment?
MB: Let’s go back to Duncan Keith, who really stepped it up as part of the Blackhawks #WhatsYourGoal campaign in teaching his biggest fan how to skate. Try keeping it together when little Cammy literally shrieks with joy after scoring her first goal. You can’t. Really… what can’t Duncan Keith do?
SP: Kimmo Timonen lifting the Cup. Retirement seemed like the natural move after his blood clots diagnosis. Talk about going out on your own terms.
AM: Jamie Benn’s Art Ross-clinching assist with 8.5 seconds remaining in the season. It looked like John Tavares had salted the scoring title away with two points against the Blue Jackets earlier in the day, giving him a three-point lead, but Benn grabbed a share with his third goal of the night with two minutes on the clock, then clinched it with an assist on Cody Eakin’s insurance goal as time ran down. The joy on the Dallas bench and in the AAC ... it made for an electric, unforgettable moment.
• Favorite quote?
SP: “I like to share with the people my thoughts.” — Ilya Bryzgalov after he showed up to a Flyers game in November, this time just watching as a fan with his son. Despite not being the most popular Flyer of all time, he still lives in the area and watches the Flyers on TV, which is both sweet and characteristically odd.
MB: That Bryz interview deserves a damn Emmy. As far as late entries go, P.K. Subban’s “Just start calling me Denzel” is pretty incredible, but for my money Phil Kessel’s elevator joke still gets me. Every. Single. Time. For a guy who is too often chided about his lack of personality, this pun was such an incredible in-your-face moment.
AM: "Sorry, I thought you were [Brad Marchand]" — Subban apologizing to Patrice Bergeron after punching him repeatedly in the back of the head. If there’s a mic on, that guy is spewing gold.
• And finally, favorite off-ice moment?
SP: Nobody wanted to see the Edmonton Oilers win the Connor McDavid sweepstakes. I actually think onlookers—Gary Bettman excepted—would have preferred that the prodigy had gone to the Coyotes. But it happened—hilarious, inevitable, and infuriating all at the same time. Now we’ll get the pleasure of watching Taylor Hall and McDavid play together for a long time. So all’s well that ends well, I guess.
MB: Subban’s $10 million donation to Montreal Children’s Hospital. It was a long, arduous off-season dominated by some very terrible things (the Patrick Kane investigation, the Slava Voynov case, the arrests of Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll). Along comes the Canadiens’ defenseman with the electric smile and Norris Trophy skill set to remind us all that there are still a lot of good guys out there. You can hate him because he’s not on your team, but he makes it awfully hard to.
AM: Both excellent choices, but let’s not overlook the majesty of Jiri Hudler’s Lady Byng Trophy acceptance speech at the NHL Awards show. The guy salvages the most boring night of the hockey year by walking up on stage in his stocking feet, taking shots at teammate Johnny Gaudreau and then sticking the landing with a touching tribute to his new daughter. Pure greatness.