It was the morning after the fifth longest game in Stanley Cup final history and the Chicago Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa was feeling every one of his 34 years. Marathon playoff games will do that to you, and so will a short night’s sleep.
Hossa reported Thursday that he didn’t get to bed until around 3 a.m. following the Blackhawks’ 4-3 triple-overtime victory over the Boston Bruins and then woke up early because a neighbour had to do some drilling.
“That was unpleasant,” Hossa said, to laughs all around. “I feel a little tired today. We are lucky we get an extra day to recharge the batteries before Game 2.”
Officially, it was 7:22 CDT on Wednesday evening when they dropped the puck to start the opening game of the Stanley Cup final. It was midnight by the time the Blackhawks’ Andrew Shaw scored the winner to end a 112-minute and eight-second epic fight to the finish.
Naturally, on Thursday, after such a physically and emotionally draining encounter, the Blackhawks and Bruins both went into triage mode. Practices were cancelled. A handful of Chicago players, including Hossa, gathered at the United Center in the early afternoon, and an hour later, a few hardy members of the Bruins showed up at their downtown hotel to share their thoughts.
It made one of those benign and meaningless questions that get asked at these gatherings pertinent for a change: How did everyone feel after such a long and taxing ordeal?
According to the Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane, a lot better than if they’d lost.
“It’s one of those games being down 3-1 and you come back to tie it 3-3, you’d feel like something was left on the table if you didn’t come back and win it,” Kane said.
It brought to mind some of the other marathon overtimes that create Stanley Cup lore. The longest game in finals history took place between the Bruins and the Edmonton Oilers on May 15, 1990, and is known in NHL circles as the Petr Klima game, for the little-used Oilers player who was on the ice mostly because he had the freshest legs. Gary Galley, the Hockey Night in Canada analyst was there too, one of the Bruins’ defencemen caught up the ice because a clearing attempt ricocheted off the stanchion into open ice and sent the Oilers off on their winning rush.
Multiple overtime games can gut you when you’re on the losing side, according to Galley, and energize you when you’re the victors.
“Even that summer, when I look back at it, I felt that whoever scored in that overtime game was going to win the Stanley Cup,” Galley said. “The only difference with this one is that Boston is a very recent Stanley Cup winner. Because of the players they have there and what they’ve gone through, they may be looking at it differently and be able to shake it off better than we did. I know in Game 2, we got pummelled. We had to pull Andy Moog, we couldn’t play in our end, everything was going in. It was as if we were still reeling from Game 1 and Edmonton, of course, was feeling great.
“The psyche of the Bruins may be different. They may have the mettle to let it go.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien and defenceman Andrew Ference agreed on Thursday, that Boston has shown enough resilience with the current core group to shrug off the loss, no matter how difficult it may be to do so psychologically. Ference had more than just the loss to forget – the tying goal by Johnny Oduya deflected in off his skate, a bad break that happens more than ever now that the game is half skill and half pinball.
“Honestly, it was out of my mind the next shift,” Ference said. “At this point, you almost shake your head at it and say, ‘What can you do?’ And you hope the next time, you shoot one in off their feet.”
In the dressing room between periods of a long overtime game, the players are trying to stay hydrated and eat a little, but not too much. “You’re constantly trying to get things dry and you’re trying to keep the chills away,” Galley said. “Some guys sweat more profusely than others. Some guys’ socks get so wet you can feel the bubbles in your skates from the wetness. For some guys, the trainers had to drill holes in the bottom of their skates to let the water seep out.
“You’re trying to get hydrated, but you can only drink so much. You try to eat, but you can’t eat because there is still a sense of anxiety in your system. I remember trying to eat a bagel and it not going down so well. I was nervous that it would just sit in my stomach like a brick.
“When I watched last night, the first overtime when Boston missed all those chances, I thought, ‘This is not good for them.’ The longer it goes, the more your skill level diminishes. You’re just tired. So when a guy with a chance like [Kaspars] Daugavins had last night, normally he would come across and flip that upstairs, instead of trip, fall and lose the puck. It gets harder to complete plays at the high level you’re used to and you get more mental lapses.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he monitored his players on the bench and if he detected any fatigue in their faces, he would give them an extra shift to recover. For the most part, though, he thought they were fine.
“On the playing days, you have to make sure you prepare yourself, drink lots of fluids and maybe don’t try to extend your shifts, because that can really ruin you for the next couple,” Quenneville said. “You want to make sure you go short. That’s something we try to reinforce on the bench and between periods.”
The science of recovery is far more advanced than it was during Quenneville’s playing days. Or as Hossa put it: “Everybody in overtime was running for us whatever we needed. It was unbelievable. It seems like we had more trainers than the players in the dressing room at that time. Basically anything we asked for we got. So we are pretty lucky.”
In college, Galley won a national championship at Bowling Green by winning in quadruple overtime in a game when his team was widely outplayed.
“I’ve been on both sides of those kinds of games,” Galley said. “I like the winning side a lot better.”