If you're a fan of the shootout in the NHL, then Thursday night must have been like Mardi Gras: Four shootouts, all of which had playoff seeding implications (depending on how you feel about the Tampa Bay Lightning as a playoff contender at eight points off the pace).
There were some intriguing storylines, like Linus Omark vs. the Lightning and rookie Jaden Schwartz given a top three assignment by the St. Louis Blues. There was some controversy, like when Brent Sutter left three of his top offensive players on the pine in losing a shootout to Minnesota. And there were some nifty moves: Bryzgalov's still looking for the jock he lost against Matt Hendricks.
As the leading exporter of bile towards the skills competition, I'll admit to a passing interest in much of that drama, undermined by the complete and utter inadequacy of the shootout as an equitable and satisfying way to end a hockey game.
Except for one game, that is. There was one game on Thursday that I watched until the final shootout attempt and then admitted, 'You know what … that's a totally appropriate and satisfactory way for this thing to end.'
I blame it all on Brian Elliott and Jonathan Quick.
If you missed the St. Louis Blues vs. the Los Angeles Kings, then you missed two of the NHL best goalies this season dueling to the finish. Elliott stopped all 37 shots he faced in the first 65 minutes of the game. Quick stopped 35-of-35, but might have been the more spectacular netminder of the two.
For example, this glove save on Jamie Langenbrunner, late in the third, was one of the best of the season:
"It was a lot of fun. That was a great game there. Tip the cap to (Brian) Elliott. He played unreal down at the other end. He made some big saves to keep them in it, and at the end of the day we got two points here that we need.
"… For no goals scored, I think that was a pretty exciting game. There was a quick pace, a lot of hits, you got a fight there in the second. It was an exciting game.''
Yep. And on top of that, you got something else: Elliott and Quick facing off in the shootout, which Quick eventually won.
One of my primary gripes about the skills competition is that it's not hockey: There are no passes attempted, no defensemen playing their positions on the ice, nothing resembling the team play of the previous 65 minutes.
Yet last night, I considered the alternative take: Here were the two most important players in the game, the goalies, facing off without any support. Just them vs. the shooters in a 0-0 game. Save or be slain.
So I'm considering a special dispensation for goalie duels when it comes to my hatred of the shootout. But otherwise, it stinks.