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Six must-watch games for while you practice social distancing.
Since the turn of the century, there have been many great hockey games played. With social distancing well in effect and without current sports to entertain people across the globe, many leagues are making broadcasts of past games available for viewing. This begs the question: what are the best games to re-watch, or see for the first time if I missed one?
Well, there is no need to spend time brainstorming a list of games for each different level of hockey and narrowing it down to one game per tournament or league, because I have already done that for you. Below is my list of the best World Junior, NCAA Men’s, NCAA Women’s, Olympic Men’s, Olympic Women’s, and NHL game to re-watch since 2000.
- Shootouts are boring. Any game with a shootout is automatically disqualified.
- In the same vein, sudden-death overtime is amazing hockey and such games are favored.
- Games that are already replayed continuously are less likely to be considered because it’s more likely one has re-watched them already.
Not every game may be available yet, but some outlets are occasionally announcing when these games will be streamed. For example, the NCAA has announced when they will be streaming some games on Facebook live. One of my picks for the NCAA was already streamed, while one is coming up in the coming week (spoilers). Feel free to comment below with your own picks of which games you think are the best since 2000 to re-watch.
World Juniors: Russia (3) vs. Finland (4), 2016 Gold Medal Game
For whatever reason people latch onto Sweden as the main rival of Finland, but it’s not the Swedes that Finnish hockey fans truly hate. When traveling through Finland, it became clear their neighbors to the east were hated with much greater ferocity.
It makes sense that the Finns hate the Russians in hockey. From the Finnish Civil War, the Winter War, and the Continuation War, the Finns have been invaded by Russia a few times dating back to 1918. That’s not even mentioning border disputes throughout the early years of Finland’s formation.
The Finns hosted the 2016 World Junior Championships and boasted a team captained by Mikko Rantanen with the talent of Patrik Laine, Sebastian Aho (the one who plays in Carolina), and Roope Hintz. Playing on home soil, they marched all the way to the gold medal game where, lo and behold, Russia was the opponent. Former Admiral Vladislav Kamenev lead a team that bucked the stereotype of “Russians don’t play defense,” as they had the talents of current Flyer Ivan Provorov on the blue-line while goaltender Alexandar Georgiev of the New York Rangers defended the pipes.
Russia jumped out to an early lead off a Kamenev goal and, without any scoring in the second period, the third and final frame began with Finland’s greatest rival leading them 1-0 in Helsinki. However, just 24 seconds into that final period, Patrik Laine blasted a shot past Georgiev to tie the game as Aho and Jesse Puljujarvi picked up assists. Barely a minute later, Russia scored yet again to retake a 2-1 lead. Finland picked up two more goals, one apiece for Aho and Rantanen, to lead 3-2. However, with only six seconds left in the game and the Finnish crowd ready to blow the roof off the building, Russia scored with their goalie pulled to tie the game 3-3 and force overtime.
In an arena where tension could be cut with a knife, the Finns and their hated Russians began overtime. Just a minute and 33 seconds later, Kasperi Kapanen got the puck and managed to beat Georgiev, clinching Finland their second gold medal of the decade, all while beating their fiercest rival.
NCAA Men’s Hockey: Cornell (0) vs. Wisconsin (1), 2006 Elite 8
In their road to winning the national championship, the 2006 Wisconsin Badgers played both the best men’s collegiate game to re-watch and the likely runner-up. The second-place game, their National Championship game in Milwaukee against Brian Boyle’s Boston College, was a thrilling 2-1 affair where Boston College nearly scored with 2.1 seconds left in a frenzy at the Badger net. However, the better game was the Badgers’ Elite 8 match-up against Cornell up in Green Bay.
Typically when you hear that a triple-overtime game ended 1-0, you’d think that the game was worth sleeping through. With well over 100 shots between the two teams, not to mention twenty blocked shots by the Badgers alone, there was action galore in this game. Sure, the Badgers were defensively the best team in the country, allowing 1.90 goals per game heading into their tilt with Cornell, but goalie Brian Elliott had one of the best collegate seasons of all-time. Not only was he a shoe-in for the Mike Richter Award as the best goaltender, but he nearly won the Hobey Baker Award.
In front of him were the likes of Joe Pavelski, Jack Skille, Adam Burish, and, although he only played 47 games in the NHL, Robbie Earl. A legend in Wisconsin Hockey, Earl was kind of the Badger equivalent to P.K. Subban, a rock-star in the collegiate hockey world. The previous season, Earl posted 44 points in 41 games for the Badgers and, in this 2006 season, scored 26 goals and 50 points in 42 games. No Wisconsin Badger has been celebrated like Earl since he left to sign a deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Cornell’s team lacked the star-power of the Badgers but, lead by Head Coach Mike Schaefer who just this last season completed his 24th year behind the bench, the Big Red from Ithica were up to the challenge. Lead by senior Matt Moulson, Cornell gave Wisconsin everything they had for three periods. With the game still tied 0-0, continuous overtime ensued. With no goals in the first overtime, the second frame began. Players began visibly cramping up on the ice. You could visibly see players with blazing speed lose all strength in their legs. Entering the third overtime frame, even climbing the boards became a challenge. Fatigue became the true opponent of each team. However, they still played with the same fever and intensity that kept fans glued to the edges of their seats.
However, a fatal error by Cornell goaltender David McKee would ruin his otherwise impeccable performance. Skating out behind the net to play the puck, McKee rung the puck around the boards. Perhaps if the Cornell defenders weren’t exhausted, a normal breakout would have occurred. Before Cornell could reach the puck, Badger defender Josh Engel jumped into the offensive zone, picked the puck off, and fed it to Jack Skille to send the state of Wisconsin into a frenzy as the Badgers punched their ticket to the Frozen Four in Milwaukee.
NCAA Women’s Hockey: Wisconsin (3) vs. Colgate (4), 2018 Frozen Four
Forget USA vs. Canada: the best rivalry in women’s hockey is Wisconsin vs. Minnesota. It’s not even close. I was watching the All-Star skills competition this season and, when the women took the ice, I remembered “Wait, aren’t Minnesota and Wisconsin playing right now?” I immediately reached for the remote and changed the channel.
Now, obviously Minnesota isn’t in this game. In fact, they failed to even make the Frozen Four in 2018, with Clarkson and Ohio State playing in the other semifinal game. I make the point about Minnesota to establish that they and Wisconsin are absolute powers in women’s collegiate hockey, nearly untouchable. Clarkson and Ohio State have stolen games here and there, but their programs still pail in comparison to those of Wisconsin and Minnesota.
If you polled people in the collegiate hockey world on who would win this game, nobody would say Colgate. It would be insane. A tiny school like Colgate going up against a perennial power in Wisconsin? No way.
However, as sports have shown us time and time again, the games are played for a reason. In a back-and-forth game, Colgate never trailed but, at most, only led by one goal. Leading 3-2, the Raiders of Colgate conceded another to the Badgers with just over three minutes remaining in regulation, forcing overtime.
While there was no scoring in the first overtime frame, the Badgers took what would be a fatal penalty in the second overtime. Colgate converted, winning 4-3 in double overtime to pull off the stunning upset and advance to the National Championship game. Additionally, their four goals were the most scored on the Badgers by any team in the country all season. Colgate was the perfect David to Wisconsin’s Goliath.
Olympic Men’s Hockey: USA (2) vs. Canada (3), 2010 Gold Medal Game
Memories can be painful but, outside of the Miracle on Ice, is there another sporting event in the last 40 years where nearly every American can tell you exactly what they were doing during a specific sporting event? It’s magical how great games can draw a nation together.
To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot that I can say about this game that hasn’t been said. There was the base USA and Canada rivalry. There was the revenge factor for the USA lighting up Martin Brodeur in group play. There was home ice for the Canadians. There was Roberto Luongo, replacing Brodeur, playing for gold in the same stadium where he wore his Canucks sweater. There were last-second heroics. There was Sid the Kid’s golden goal. Even though the United States lost, this was the perfect capstone to the 2010 Winter Olympics.
If one were to create a Mount Rushmore of greatest hockey games of all time, this game would be chiseled into it for all of eternity. Well done, script writers.
Olympic Women’s Hockey: USA (2) vs. Canada (3), 2014 Gold Medal Game
Picking yet another game where the United States loses to Canada, I would like to assure all of you readers that yes, I am American, and if you did a background check you’d know I was born in Baltimore, moved to Nashville at 1, and, just before first grade, was put on waivers to Milwaukee. No, I’m still not sure why I was in Trotz’s doghouse back in 1999.
That aside, while fresh memories of Team USA winning the 2018 gold medal swirl around people’s minds, that game is eliminated from consideration because it ended in a shootout. Although it was an otherwise excellent game, it’s ridiculous that gold medals were handed out not because of a hockey result but because of a skills competition.
Hockey is the ultimate team game because even the worst line nearly plays half a period every game. Teams are as strong as their weakest parts. Shootouts completely negate the team element of hockey. They’re terrible for the sport, the 2018 gold medal game shouldn’t have been decided by one, regular season NHL games shouldn’t be decided by them, and the Junior Goodwill Games shouldn’t have been decided by one (as an aside, there’s no way a cold goaltender would’ve stopped Gunnar Stahl’s triple-deke. Fix your writing, Disney).
With that rant out of the way, the USA vs. Canada 2014 gold medal game provided all of the same excellent drama of the 2018 game, except this time, instead of a shootout, it was decided in overtime. The United States jumped out to a 2-0 lead but, heading into the third period, their lead crumbled. Canada snuck one goal past USA goaltender Jessie Vetter before Marie-Philip Poulin tied the game with less than a minute to go, forcing overtime. Poulin then scored the golden goal for Team Canada after Hilary Knight took a needless penalty on Hayley Wickenheiser. At least for the time, Canada remained the unmatched queens of the hockey world.
NHL: Chicago Blackhawks (2) vs. Nashville Predators (3), 2017 Western Conference Quarterfinals Game 3
There are a lot of excellent NHL games since 2000 that could have qualified for this final winner. However, this is a Nashville Predators site and, more importantly, we are picking the best game to re-watch. This is not simply the best game since 2000, despite some other games in this list qualifying for that category.
Many people miss this game when stating the moment that the Predators surpassed the Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Divison. Game four cemented the sweep, but it was the trial of game three that truly decided that the Predators were the better team.
After holding the Blackhawks scoreless through the first two games, Pekka Rinne was forced to make a number of incredible stops on Patrick Kane in the opening frame of game 3. There was additionally a bizarre bounce off the boards where Rinne had to dive across the net. He saved it, saving the Predators faithful from flashbacks to Nicklas Lidstrom scoring from his own blueline on Dan Ellis in the 2008 playoffs.
However, in the second period the Blackhawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead and, entering the third period, it felt like the clutch gene in the Blackhawks’ DNA was insurmountable. Teams simply did not come back in the playoffs against the Blackhawks. If the Blackhawks were known for anything, it was that their will to win overcoming whatever came their way. The Bridgestone faithful knew it too, because the building was silenced by the Blackhawks’ two goals.
Nonetheless, the Predators got a little bit of luck in the final frame and managed to force overtime. Another bizarre bounce from a Viktor Arvidsson shot landed in front of Corey Crawford, right in the vicinity of Filip Forsberg. Quickly corralling the puck, Forsberg tucked the puck away to make it a 2-1 hockey game. Reviving the energy on the bench and igniting the crowd, Nashville pushed with intensity the rest of the period, finally grabbing that all-important tying goal with just under six minutes to go as Forsberg scored again. Coach Joel Quenneville challenged for goaltender interference, as it looked like Arvidsson made contact with the stick of Crawford, but the goal stood.
As both teams survived the remaining time, overtime was on the docket for the Predators. Two seasons prior, the Predators lost two overtime games in the playoffs to Chicago, one in double overtime and another in triple overtime. In fact, despite losing that 2015 series, the Predators outscored Chicago. The Blackhawks always survived the Predators’ best no matter how well the Predators played. Kevin Fiala, in his rookie season, flipped the script.
Breaking into the zone as the first overtime frame drew near a close, Fiala faked picking up a dumped puck, letting it roll back to James Neal behind him. Kind of like a give-and-go, Neal then fed it to Fiala right as the Chicago defense bit on Neal, opening Fiala up to drive to the net. Deking through the lone defender and Crawford, Fiala reached the far side of the goal unscathed and gently ushered the puck into the net for the game-winning goal.