NHL’s Frozen Frenzy – make it happen more often!
Last night, the NHL provided its fans with a buffet of beautiful puck bliss. The League scheduled all 32 franchises to play 16 games at staggered times, starting at 6 p.m. EST with the last game beginning at 11 p.m. And from a longtime lover of the sport, it couldn’t have been a more immaculate slate of pure chaos. The stars showed up, knucks were chucked, and questionable calls were made. All in a normal night’s work for the National Hockey League – with the delightful twist of STAGGERED START TIMES. It’s been the clamored sentiment of the general hockey public for what seems like decades.
The first tilt featured the Maple Leafs and Capitals, and it wasn’t as competitive as we’d have hoped but Auston Matthews and Alexander Ovechkin both tallied goals. And boy did Ovi look like a man that was starving to put a biscuit in the basket. His 7 first period shots were a barrage on the Leafs goaltender, and it paid dividends later in the game as he notched that first tuck. The Leafs managed to look like real Cup contenders, however, emerging with a 4-1 victory.
The fans were then treated to the 7 p.m. and onward assault that was the true “Frozen Frenzy” (as so coined by ESPN) and man, it did not disappoint. The reason it was delayed an hour was due to Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio losing power – pushing the start of the Blue Jackets v. Anaheim Ducks game to an 8:30 puck drop – and giving the aforementioned Leafs v. Caps game 45 minutes to themselves.
The Sabres’ Jeff Skinner and Tage Thompson scored twice apiece, as their team held off a spirited comeback attempt from Ottawa late. Brady Tkachuk seemingly injured his shoulder then subsequently came back in the 3rd period and pummeled Alex Tuch. Tampa Bay collectively prevented the Hurricanes from scoring even once in their victory. Tyler Toffoli had one of the night’s many hat tricks, against his former club no less, and Jack Hughes added 4 helpers in a Devils’ 5-2 victory over Montreal. The Dallas Stars soared into Pittsburgh and took care of business, and the Florida Panthers ensured the San Jose Sharks remained winless.
All the previous games began within 15 minutes of each other, in chronological order. And it was just the tip of the iceberg.
The Colorado Avalanche forced the Islanders to play their style of game, and took down the Long Island Fightin’ Lous 7-4. Then Seattle and Detroit decided a seesaw game in regulation wasn’t enough, and Jordan Eberle buried the OT winner with 4.9 seconds remaining, preventing a shootout. The Bruins handled the Blackhawks for the second time this season, and an absolute pizza from Charlie Coyle that was beautifully slotted home by Connor Bedard – with an absolute gem of a celly afterwards – was waved off due to a marginal offside rule. Adam Fantilli’s 2 point night for the CBJ was overshadowed by Frank Vatrano’s OT winner in Columbus as Anaheim took the 2nd point, and the Winnipeg Jets zipped up the Blues in a 4-2 victory,
But wait, there’s more! The McDavid-less Oilers couldn’t maintain the pace nor defend the Minnesota Wild, and Ryan Hartman had his first hat trick since 2017 in a 7-4 win over Edmonton. Vancouver snuck out a 3-2 game over the Preds, with 5 very unsuspecting goal scorers tallying on the scoresheet. The Rangers had no problem in Calgary, as Shesterkin stoned 24 of 25 Flames’ shots on net. The LA Kings used 6 different goal scorers to bury the Yotes 6-3, and to tie a ribbon around the whole frenzied present the Vegas Golden Knights used a pair of 3rd period genos to overcome their deficit to the Philadelphia Flyers and walk out winners.
The NHL needs to do this more often, plain and simple. It was a scintillating night of non-stop hockey action. I don’t know about the other puckheads, but I couldn’t look away. Bathroom breaks were scarce. Beers were chilled way ahead of time. The food was laid out like a Thanksgiving feast, and the microwave be damned if it got a little cold. My eyeballs were glued to the television as if I was 12 years old and one of those late night Comedy Central ads popped on the tube. My suggestion: The NHL should consider doing this monthly. Maybe break it out into 2 groups and play 8 games per night for 4 consecutive nights, with a Friday recoup day and everyone playing on Saturday (as we come down the regular season stretch) because Holy Mother of Puck Line Jesus would that be an enthralling precursor to the battle for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Oh, and I want royalties if this comes to fruition.