At the beginning of the year, when all things were possible, we wondered how far we could go in the playoffs. Then Armageddon arrived and knocked us all for a loop. And if it wasn’t the end of the world…well, you could sure see the end of the world from where we sat.
So then we used up our injuries excuse, then we used up our rust excuse and finally we ran out of excuses. And still we lost. It was clear that some goals came too easily, like the game against St. Louis, and we lost. Then we didn’t get the bounces, like against Minnesota, and we lost. And we even played well enough to win…like against San Jose…and we lost. We lost every which way.
Until Alexander the Great bust the slump with a goal that had every Canuck fan across the nation leaping out of their chairs. And we won. Deep breath.
Ah yes, sweet Lord, we won.
It didn’t matter that it probably wasn’t our best game. Hell, we kept letting the Carolina kitties out of the bag…and when we took that stinking penalty with about three minutes to play, well, we weren’t that confident that our boys could pull it out. Particularly if you considered the previous eight games.
And if we the fans weren’t confident, how do you think the players felt? And confidence means so much in sports. Not just hockey, all sports. When you are confident, when you believe, the puck hits your stick and stays on the tape because your hands feel soft and you give a little with that hard pass. When the puck is put on the tape and you look up at the goal, you see the back of the net, not the goalie. When your confidence is up, you hit the breaking winger, you don’t circle back because the circus is all noise, not clarity. When your confidence is up, you time the hit perfectly, and don’t grab air as you plow uselessly into the boards. And even if you go down a goal or two, when your confidence is up, you know, you just somehow know, that you are going to come back because preparation and hard work will meet opportunity and you will win.
And I still say we were not wrong about this Canuck team. This is a good team, not just on paper, but on the ice.
I repeat, this is a good team.
There is talent and there is character, there is leadership and there is skill. All teams face adversity. A lot of people have handed the Cup to Detroit again this year. An elite team, they say. But if you’ve been a hockey fan for more than a couple of years, you can remember the times this elite team got bounced in the first and second rounds. They tweaked after those devastating losses, but they did not panic.
So was our confidence restored after last game?
Well, geeze, don’t ask me. I used up my one gaze into the crystal ball before the last game when I guaranteed a win before the game. Chicago is a good young team. But we are at least as good and I believe we can be much, much better. The Hawks haven’t lost in Canada this year and we have just one win in 2009. We need to stick to basics and make sure, above all else, that our PK and our PP are operating at the highest level. Stick to basics and work hard. That’s the path to confidence.
Random thoughts on the first period: when I was confident in this team, I would always think, after an early goal, that all Roberto has to do is close the gates now and we win. Automatic. I don’t think that so much anymore. Secondly, Mats Sundin is a finisher…and by the way, he suddenly looks totally natural in a Canucks uniform. Third, Kesler deserves every lucky break he gets, because he is the hardest working man in hockey. Fourth, Roberto means everything to this team. If he is on his game, he will not be beat.
But it’s only one period. That’s the problem with confidence. Do you think the Hawks have had their confidence shaken? Nope. To a man, they are thinking that just one goal gets them back in it. We need to stomp that feeling back into kindergarten. Crush it like a bug.
Random thoughts on the second. We needed to score on the two man advantage. We are up and in control, but if we don’t score, it is a momentum changer. And I am watching the clock, because I figure well, if we can score five goals in the first half of the game, they are capable of scoring five in the second half. A quick tribute to coach AV here. The timeout called when we are thirty seconds into the two man advantage was brilliant. We took a breath, re-focused…and scored. Huge goal. And shortly after that, Edler’s powerhouse decides it for me. We can take two from the Hawks tonight by simply not panicking.
But now a significant disagreement with coach AV. When you have a team down, you don’t put the C team out there for the PP. Yes, I know the arguments. Classy teams don’t run up the score. Reward the guys who don’t get a lot of PP time. Well call me classless, but I say that when you have a bug heading towards your picnic basket, you crush it. We are punished with a shorthanded goal against us.
And if there’s any doubt about my feeling here, just look at the scoreboard halfway through the third period. The Hawks have suddenly cut the lead in half and ooops, we aren’t so comfortable anymore. We can’t sit back. We have to put the foot back on the neck. If we don’t, one senses big trouble.
As good as our PP has been tonight, it is our PK that we needed to come up big. And when the Hawks had a glimmer of hope after Havlat’s goal, it was our PK that snuffed them out. And then we drove a stake into the Black heart of the Hawks with a goal by Kesler that will be up on YouTube before I post this tonight.
Two final thoughts. I loved the fact that Kesler tried to set up Demitra on that two on one instead of going for the hat trick. That’s team play. That’s two points. And secondly, Lou still doesn’t have his A game…but he’s getting there.