Commenter Rocket writes about the NHL every week because we used to ignore it. Rocket?


December is a sticky, gooey, sloppy month. It is a month that is covered in maple syrup and candy cane bits and the kind of good cheer that tastes like the wax lips you used to be able to buy back when you were dumb enough to put something like that in your mouth and society was dumb enough to let you do it. December is a gross month that oozes the sort of saccharine confection that doesn’t wash off easy and will make you as sick as one of the multitude of Clarence Swamptown stories that begins, “When I was in my twenties…”

December is an artifice where many of us like to pretend that a month’s worth of “Seasons Greetings” and checks to charities absolves us from the previous 11 months of general inhumanity. It is when we tell ourselves that the “magic” of the season culminates when a fat man in a red suit breaks into our homes and drops consumer goods off and then leaves the mess and the credit card bills behind. Just where exactly is this “jolly” fat man when the rent is due and the kids need raising and the wolf is at the door?
That’s right, I’m calling Santa out as a deadbeat dad. I’m also calling December out for what it is: a time more apt to depress rather than uplift, no matter how many times we watch George Bailey and Ebenezer Scrooge make out. Anybody who didn’t get what they really wanted or couldn’t afford to give anything or was excluded because of their religious beliefs or was alone for the holidays (i.e. almost everybody at some point in their lives) knows this to be true.
Thus, it is in December and December alone when two rookie goaltenders could make their debuts on the same night, not give up a goal, and yet have one of them tagged with a loss.
Of course, anyone perusing this particular website is likely familiar with the rookie goalie who represents the December in which most of us would like to believe. Last Tuesday, 21-year-old Matt Hackett was unexpectedly thrust into his first NHL action just over a minute into the game against the San Jose Sharks when starter Niklas Backstrom suffered an injury. Hackett was only on the big boy roster because the regular backup, Josh Harding, was already out with an injury. So, Hackett entered the game under the only circumstances in which he was going to see any action. And he was brilliant, yielding no goals to a somewhat struggling Sharks team that – to use the type of pun that would appeal to the smarmiest of sportswriters – undoubtedly smelled blood in the water. When it was all said and done a rookie goaltender was unexpectedly put in the line of fire and pitched a shutout when his team was at its most desperate. The whole scene was out of the type of movie that you might only be willing to put up with during this time of year.
Then, on that very same night, there was Mike Murphy, who represents the December that is more realistic. Murphy was similarly situated with Hackett. He was only with the Carolina Hurricanes because regular backup Brian Boucher was hurt. Although starter Cam Ward did not get injured, he did get rightfully pulled after giving up a sixth goal 11 minutes into the third period to the Calgary Flames. Up 6-3 at that point, the Flames went into a defensive shell and Murphy did not see any shots during his first eight minutes of play. The Hurricanes did get one goal during that time to make it 6-4, but were desperate towards the end, pulling Murphy for the extra attacker. Jerome Iginla scored what should have been an extraneous empty-netter with just over a minute left, putting the score at 7-4. However, the Hurricanes scored two quick goals in the last minute, with Murphy making his only two saves of the game in that minute as well. The final score was 7-6, meaning that Murphy became the goaltender of record for the game since his team technically gave up the winning goal while he was part of the action (even though he was on the bench for the extra attacker). Thus, Mike Murphy made NHL history.
February is probably the bleakest month of the year and August is just plain stupid. But December is the most shallow, insipid, and most-likely-to-get-plastic-surgery-and-move-to-California-to-become-a-model month. Only an airheaded [redacted] like December would do something like that to a guy. Both Hackett and Murphy got their presents early this year. And both succeeded to the greatest extent that was possible in their professions. But only one got the present that he had hoped for; the other got a cruel reminder that the holiday season isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Also, Stu is a jerk.