You can try to explain hockey to someone else, but you’re liable to end up with a headache and one less friend. You’d save everybody a lot of time by saying that the biggest cliché in the sport — that the puck does funny things — is also the truest thing about the sport.
It’s why the second biggest cliché — shoot the puck at the net often enough and good things will happen — is also true. Do that consistently and even a “hot goalie’’ (Hockey Cliché No. 3!) will bow down in surrender.
Make no mistake, the Blackhawks were the superior team in a sweep of the Wild in their Western Conference semifinal. And this might seem like an odd time to be talking about hockey’s fluky ways.
But I keep coming back to Game 1. It would be overstating things to say that Teuvo Teravainen’s fluttering game-winner changed the series. When you have as much talent as the Hawks do, there are no turning points, only screw tightenings.
But Teravainen’s wrist shot from above the left circle was so ugly it needed self-esteem counseling. It did not have much power behind it, and the puck wobbled like a knuckleball. It went on wobbling right past Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk, the very definition of a “hot goalie’’ at the time, off a post and into the net. That second-period goal ended up being the difference maker in a 4-3 victory.
That’s hockey. A shot made with no intention other than getting it near the net for someone else to deflect or rebound ends up fooling the man who was the league’s best goaltender during the second half of the regular season. You know, just how you draw it up.
This is my advice to hockey fans who are knee deep in the sport’s subtleties: Enjoy all the expert analysis and break down the numbers to your heart’s content, but you’ll be as knowledgeable as anybody else by saying, “The pucks weren’t bouncing our way today.’’
There is no reason to apologize for it. The players certainly don’t.
“Sometimes you shoot, sometimes good things happen,’’ Teravainen said. “You never know. It’s playoff type of hockey. You just kind of shoot everything and hopefully get a lucky bounce or a rebound or something. Maybe there’s some screen (Dubnyk) didn’t see or something. Of course, I was a little surprised it went in.’’
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville didn’t apologize for Teravainen’s wiggler of a shot either. When I asked him a day later whether the goal was beautiful or ugly, he said: “We’ll call that one ‘beautiful timing.’ Those are kind of the goals that you’ve got to score in the playoffs because the pretty ones aren’t there. So I’d say borderline ugly.’’
The irony of the Hawks’ three-goal, first-period barrage on Dubnyk in Game 1 was that it came on eight shots. That would seem to go against the cliche of solving a hot goalie by peppering him with as many shots as possible.
Hockey Cliché No. 4: You never know.
There are few more feared individuals in hockey than the “hot goalie.’’ Coaches and players speak of him with such awe and reverence that you would think a shaft of light follows him wherever he goes.
The hot goalie stops everything that comes his way and knows not why. That’s how this whole mythical thing goes. He does jumping jacks on the ice and stops pucks at the same time, the crazy multi-tasker.
Until he doesn’t.
Dubnyk became a Vezina Trophy finalist on the basis of 39 games with the Wild after being traded by the Coyotes during the season. His 1.78 goals-against average was the biggest reason Minnesota made the playoffs.
But then Game 1 happened. The Hawks’ Brandon Saad scored one minute, 15 seconds in. A trickle became a river.
And eventually came Teravainen’s whatever-that-was.
“That’s why they say there’s no such thing as a bad shot,’’ Hawks forward Andrew Desjardins said. “I think that’s a pure example of it. You have guys converge on the net and you wrist one there and it finds a way. That’s the way it goes sometimes.’’
The Wild had plenty of opportunities to score against the Hawks in four games but didn’t. A lot of that had to do with Corey Crawford, who came into the series as not hot at all. But you can’t look at the save he made during a mad scramble in Game 3, the one in which he dropped his stick and stretched out his glove to stop a puck just before it skidded across the goal line, and not think: Crazy sport.