Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Definition of Clutch

In hockey there are plenty of numbers that mean things.

- 894g-1963a-2857p (Wayne Gretzky’s career totals)
- 50 goals in 50 games or less (done by 8 players, the first being Rocket Richard)
- 551 (Patrick Roy’s all time wins total)

And now, the number eight means something.

As in Joe Sakic’s career total, and all time record set with last night’s overtime game winning goal against the Wild. There can’t be a more important and significant individual number in playoff history.

Forget about the Conn Smythe. A panel of writers and experts didn’t vote on Joe’s record, it was earned.

Let it sink in for a minute. Sakic has now single handedly won eight games for the Avalanche in the playoffs, in overtime when it has meant the most. He now holds the record by two over Rocket Richard. And you thought Chris Drury was clutch? Please. Who do you think was feeding him pucks half the time he was an Avalanche?

This is a number that is going to stand for a while. Dare I say, it might be…unbreakable?

After a short week of contemplation, most writers and pundits, including myself, were pointing to Peter Forsberg as the answer for the Avalanche against the Wild. And in a case of realizing the obvious, the Wild did everything they could to contain Pedro and his band of misfits, holding his line to zero points on the night. They trapped, they hit, and they forced shots on net that required Roy-like saves from Jose Theodore. But once again everyone seemed to forget about one of the greatest players ever to set foot on the ice.

How is it that Joe Sakic has made it through a career as one of the best players in the history of the game, yet he always seems to play in the shadow of newer, flashier players?

Shame on us for taking our eyes off of Captain Clutch. Shame on Minnesota for seemingly forgetting about him during the biggest game of their season.

This may be Sakic’s last year with the Avs. He is old for a hockey player at 38, and he spent much of the season in the infirmary with a hernia. He has won every award and accolade hockey can provide. Joe has nothing more to prove. But every time we count him out Joe does something to make us realize that this is his game. That this is still his time.

Last night it was his eighth overtime game-winning goal…hopefully he sticks around long enough to go for nine.

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