Two-minutes and 26 seconds.
Do you know what you can do in two-minutes and 26 seconds?
Well, you can’t get out of the Canadian Tire Centre parking lot in that time, but you can listen to the entirety of Johnny Cash’s cover of ‘Solitary Man’. You can also write a heinously bad hockey haiku. You can get through almost two and a half sets of 60-second abs. If you’re @brian5or6, you can masterfully design your logo in MS-Paint. Assuming you already have an account, you can post a hilariously lopsided trade proposal on the Hfboards.com forum. Or, if you’re Chris Neil, you can spark a referendum on how much of an impact you can have on your teammates.
Two-minutes and 26 seconds of ice time or in other words, five shifts, one hit, an accrued 12 minutes in penalties – which not only negated an Ottawa power play with the Senators already down two goals but literally brought noted shit-stain Tanner Glass to his knees.
The Senators would go on to win game five in thrilling overtime fashion, but rather than fete those responsible for producing the goals that culminated in a come from behind win, the 37-year old was showered with accolades for the role he played.
In his post-game interview, game-winning goal scorer Kyle Turris described Neil as possibly being the Senators’ “most important player” in game five.
It’s comically lavished praise, but since that light behind Henrik Lundqvist flashed red for the fifth time on Saturday afternoon, the Ottawa area has been flooded (topical SEO word drop) with opinions on how impactful Chris Neil is, was or can continue to be.
It’s groan-inducing to watch another instance that fuels a debate involving the diametrically opposed old school versus the new school, but here we are.
On one hand, Neil’s presence within the lineup is being credited for raising the tenacity of his teammates, who have been roundly outworked, outhustled and outmuscled in the series.
Game four’s lasting image of Tanner Glass laughing it up as he left the ice was engrained in the mind of Guy Boucher. Rather than let the Rangers agitator continue to get away with taking liberties against his players, Boucher elected to dress Neil and let him play the role of judge, jury and executioner.
There’s no question that the crowd rallied upon the actions of the popular enforcer and it’s impossible to refute how much of a stark contrast there was in the performance of his teammates.
Perhaps most importantly, if his teammates and coach are crediting Neil for elevating the performance of his teammates and having them believe that their skill guys are protected from liberties, who are we to argue with that?
In the same article that I linked to earlier, Turris characterized Neil’s penalty on Glass as being ”the best penalty I’ve seen anybody take in a long time. We’ll take that any day. It gives us such a boost. It gets the crowd going.”
Of course, when you’re posed a question by a reporter on how important the presence of a well-respected 15-year NHL veteran is in a pivotal game, what else are you going to say?
Many believe that Neil’s impact is being overstated.
The argument for that is pretty straightforward. It seems pretty convenient to believe that his presence was responsible for rallying the Senators from a 2-1 deficit without acknowledging that: 1) the Senators were in that hole to begin with; 2) the Rangers dominated the second period territorially despite the momentous Neil/Glass incident occurring three minutes into the period (note: the Rangers were undone by the uncharacteristic goaltending of Lundqvist); 3) after serving his 12-minutes in penalties following the Glass incident, Neil did not take another shift; and 4) most importantly, the Rangers took the lead back in the third period and were one minute and 26 seconds away from winning this game.
If Derick Brassard does not score that game-tying goal, nobody is even talking about Neil’s presence in this series and had the Senators lost by one goal, the outcry for Neil nullifying a power play opportunity in a pivotal game would be proportionate to the praise he’s receiving now.
More than anything, it’s pretty damn sad that Tanner Glass of all people can negatively impact the performance of the Ottawa Senators. It’s an indictment of the players and their performance in game four that necessitated making room for Neil. It’s not as sad as a Postmedia scribe’s developing a story on how badly the Senators need to acquire grit this offseason because of one playoff game, but here we are.
Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.
It’s the playoffs and with the added day off between games, everything is put under the lens.
In one of the few sports where the rule book is put away and there’s this romanticizing of playoff hockey wherein lesser players are enabled and put on pedestals for taking liberties on their more skilled counterparts, we shouldn’t be surprised when a player like Glass repeatedly gets away with things and the opposition tries to take matters into its own hands.
Even as blissfully cathartic as Neil’s beat down on Glass was, it really could have worked against the team. From the mitigated power play to dressing a lesser player in a game where one injury to a forward would have essentially relegated the Senators to ten forwards, things could have gone sideways easily.
Fortunately it didn’t, but if the Senators truly believe that Chris Neil made a difference, awesome. Hell, if all of the Senators players believed in wearing vials of Erik Karlsson’s blood around their necks because they thought it made them better players, I’d be all for it too.
I just don’t know if I’d continue to go back to the Chris Neil well at the expense of some of the alternatives. It may have worked in one game small sample size, but that doesn’t mean it will continue to.
Filled in Glass’ face
Chris Neil credit for the win?
Sure, whatever works.