The task of being a hockey fan can best be summed up as constantly balancing on a needlepoint between total elation and total deflation.
One moment, all hope is lost as your team is on the verge of elimination from the playoffs and is playing Michael Hutchinson in net, all the while praying for divine providence to come through. The next moment, your team has tied the series with two phenomenal performances from their star players to coincide with competent performances from Michael Freaking Hutchinson. Now with game seven on tomorrow's horizon, room on the needlepoint has dissipated further as one this game will determine whether the Dallas Stars or Colorado Avalanche advance further through the West and still get to keep playing for the Stanley Cup.
But whether Cale Makar continues being a wizard and the Avs win 6-1 or Jamie Oleksiak scores in quadruple overtime to send the Dallas Stars to the Conference Finals (note: author knocked on every piece of wood within five miles after writing this sentence), I can only be thankful that this game seven will be played at all. Whatever happens next, I know that every moment of the game Friday night will be well worth the eleven month season that has come before it.
How do I best describe a game seven of playoff hockey for those of you who unfortunate enough to never experience such a thing? In a word? Passionate. All sixty minutes played matter. Every shift, shot, hit, and stride matter. Emotions for players, coaches, and fans swing faster than a supercharged pendulum as even the simplest decision could have season-changing consequences. There are few moments in any sport with as much pure beauty, poetry, and urgency than a game seven in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It is the encompassing of everything that makes sports exciting. It is a sure-fire way to increase the blood pressure of all parties involved.
Game sevens mean a lot to me because of how magnetic they are. Few of my family and friends care about hockey the way that I do (note: the word the author is looking for is excessively), but game sevens matter to them. One of my fondest hockey memories is when my mom stayed up past midnight to watch the Avs get eliminated in OT by the Minnesota Wild in 2014. She by no means had to do that, and that was a rough time for all parties involved, but she was there. Last year, when the Avs lost to the Sharks thanks to a resurrected Joe Pavelski and ahem questionable officiating cough cough my family was there celebrating the highs and lamenting the lows with me. Even when I doubted in this series, when the Dallas Stars seemed most like an inevitable force of nature, my wife and family were still cheering and confident than I could even pretend to be. There could still be a game seven they said. The Avs still have a chance. Now that game seven is here and there is no one I'd rather have cheering with me than them.
One of the running gags of this past year is that every time something strange happens, we can just blame 2020 and its weird aura. But believe me when I tell you, this entire series between the Avalanche and the Stars can be blamed on 2020 and its weird aura. The usually offensively-challenged Stars scoring goals at will, the Avalanche get injured at a higher rate than WWI soldiers, Michael Hutchinson winning games? In this economy? None of these things make a lick of sense. Nathan Mackinnon being good is the only thing that makes sense to me anymore. So of course, we've reached game seven. Of course, the series defined by weird bounces, weird calls, weird heroes, and weird villains will be determined on a platform where all of those elements will be exaggerated tenfold.
The 2019-2020 season began for the Stars and Avs almost exactly eleven months ago. Both teams have been through so much to just get here, the second round of the playoffs. Now they've expended so much energy and emotion in this series just to get here, a coin flip of a game where literally anything can happen (note: author had a small mental breakdown remembering the prospect of a Jamie Oleksiak 4OT goal). But this is why you play every other game. This is why you train so hard. This is why go play hockey in a bubble for a month with no exposure to the outside world. To give yourself a chance. When the stakes are the highest, all you need to leave an impact forever is one measly chance. And for these teams, that chance will be here soon.