It’s typically this time of year when the phrase “play-in games” is tossed around. The sneakers hit the hard floor and two mediocre teams squeak it out to see which one can get in the actual tournament. This is commonly met with terms such as traveling, points in the paint, and “awesome baby,” but tonight was not that type of night. Tonight was a night of put up or shut up, on ice.
The Detroit Red Wings, fresh off their 0-1 loss to the worst team in the league; Toronto Maple Leafs, on Sunday night, traveled to Philly, where the Flyers had their eyes set on where the Red Wings currently were. At the time of puck drop, the Wings sat in the last Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers by 3 points and only trailing the Pittsburgh Penguins by 1 point for the first Wild Card spot. Needless to say the Wings needed to come out swinging and hope the Islanders did them a favor by knocking off the Penguins.
So since we all know how hockey works, we all know what happened, right?…The Wings would come out hot and take control of the pesky Flyers while the Penguins would flop against the surging Isles, making the playoff picture less murky and everyone can sleep at night….right?? Nope. Quite the opposite.
Let me fill you in on a little something, when you think you know the NHL, and even hockey in general, you might as well throw all those thoughts into a blinder and buy a lottery ticket. Chances are you’ll wake up a millionaire more so than you’ll wake up looking like a hockey God.
Before the Red Wings could even buy a lottery ticket, they were getting out shot 23-3 and down 2-0 to the Flyers at the first intermission. They came out like a team who expected to make their 25th straight playoff appearance with ease while Philadelphia came out like a battering ram; ready to knock that record into last year and and the Wings the same. With two goals from Michael Raffl in the paint and timely saves from Steve Mason and his friends, this battering ram fended off a strong second half effort from the now spiraling Red Wings, winning 4-3.
Now, handcuffed with a 2-1 shootout win for the Pens, the Wings are on the edge of the cliff, looking into a heaping pile of doom. They now only have a 1 point cushion on the flaming hot Flyers, and have played two more games than Philly. Also, they are looking even farther up at the Penguins who have 3 points on them, not to mention a game in hand as well.
Right now you’re wishing you had bought that lottery ticket. But how much fun is standing in line at a creepy local gas station to have the snotty teenager pick out random numbers for you when you can plop down in front of the TV and watch this all unfold. Hockey is addicting and unpredictable, and with under a month until the playoffs get underway, every team is going to face their fare share of battering rams and snotty teenagers. Because, it’s awesome baby. Because its Hockey.