I would like to say that I'm about to go into one of my usual, sort-of nonsensical (to some of my friends anyway) post-game rant. I would like to say that but I can't and I'll explain why.
First off let me once again apologize for the lateness of this post...just more of that thing called life getting in the way again. This past Friday night, a longtime friend of mine flew in from Arizona (also a Coyotes fan) to host a charity poker tournament for a pretty good cause. That cause was the Arthritis Foundation, specifically the New York chapter. The host was my friend Pete whose sister Barbara was set to run the New York City Marathon today. That is, until she found out she had an injury and won't be able to run. Here's hoping she heals very soon. Both Pete and his wife Alison were diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis early in their childhoods, so obviously this is a cause that's important to them as well as their families. Without going into any long stories, I consider Pete family because we've been friends since 3rd grade.
****Shameless plug alert!**** If you want to know more about this worthwhile cause, please go here.
Pete's younger sister Katherine (Kat) also helped out with the fundraiser. It was a good thing she had a lot of her friends there to spell off us grumpy old men! Mrs. Blueliner and I both were there along with my ex, the former Mrs. Blueliner (someday I'll tell you the story, but not here!) and a lot of old friends of mine from school. Anyway, a great time was had by all, we raised a good amount of money--enough to push the amount raised so far over $8,000. And yours truly ended up the night's big wiener, errr, winner. Check out my prize below, and before you laugh, keep in mind I am from Baltimore!
Ahh, the days when the Orioles were actually, you know...good.
Now what does all this have to with hockey you ask? Well I mentioned that some of Kat's friends were there and some of them just happen to be Caps fans. In fact when I got there, without me asking him to, Pete grabbed the remote and flipped on Comcast just in time for the first period faceoff. Niiiiiiice. Who needs a sports bar? So in between hands I could watch the game, great!
First period goes by and not much is happening. Other than Matt Hendricks got into another fight, this time with some guy I never heard of named Adam McQuaid. Okay well, so far so good--for the Caps anyway. Me? I was losing pretty badly--to my ex. What's the saying? Unlucky at love, unlucky at cards? Mrs. Blueliner of course thought all this was hilarious. But I hung in there. Caps got in eight shots against Mr. Unbeatable, Tim Thomas the Tank Engine with some decent chances. All in all, not too bad.
Second period begins and I've still got my big chips in play. A minute in who should score but Tyler Sloan. All the Caps fans in the room give a yell at seeing this--Thomas finally gets solved first. I'm slowly but surely making my way back, winning back a handful of all the white chips I lost after a losing streak of oh about...an hour. Guess I was taking the Bret Maverick approach to winning at poker. Minutes later Mike Green buries one of patented wicked wristers from the high slot to make it 2-0. Ten minutes after that, Alex Semin played back and forth with Green and knocked one home shorthanded to keep his good run going. Nice fist pound into the ice to celebrate. So now it's 3-0 after two and I'm thinking we're rolling because I'm also starting to win some hands.
But then things got sloppy. This despite the fact that the previously unbeatable Thomas was now a spectator. The Caps were called for multiple penalties near the beginning and just plain got caught not keeping up the intensity after that. It's a problem that's plagued them in the past and they know it. Every time I looked up the Bruins were putting one in past Neuvirth, who looked like he was floundering more than a little bit. Funny thing of it all was, now I was only one of two people left at my table, the other being Pete's friend Bryan (hope I spelled that right, dude). The ex had been eliminated a half hour before. Now if only we were playing for REAL money!
So it's 3 all and I'm in despair..for my team anyway. Our hopes for the game now ride on never-tested Braden Holtby. First time I had seen BOTH starting goalies get the hook in a long time. Ten minutes left in the game anything can happen. The poker game kinda slowed down a bit because both Bryan and I were distracted by the game on the screen. But it wasn't too long when John Carlson wristed one home from the point (love that guy!) off a Boyd Gordon faceoff win and an alert tip pass by Eric Fehr. I'm clapping my hands and shouting with at least a dozen others in the house and I'm loving it.
So we try to finish up our game, going back and forth for about a dozen hands. We tried everything--upping the minimum bet, the ante, wild cards, but we still couldn't get a clear winner. Whenever one of of us would be close, the other player would come up with a winning hand in a big pot at just the right time. I ended up winning when we decided to do a high-card-wins, winner-take-all final hand. But not before the last few tense seconds ticked off as Ovechkin iced it with an empty-netter. Bryan had shuffled the deck and cut it into three piles. I drew a king, he drew a jack and the card in the other pile was an ace! Now all there was to do was face the winner of the other table.
So I'm relieved and happy about the game on the ice, albeit with reservations. More on this later. But now I'm like geez, I could win this tournament. I'm an average poker player at best, so this was something of a surprise. Well, it was getting late and Kat's friends were looking to head over to the local bar. So my old friend Cory, who was a year behind me in school, turned out to be the winner at the other table. I wish I had a picture of him, he's only a year younger than me yet still looks like he just stepped out of his high school yearbook photo. To save time, we did another high-card-wins, for the tournament win. I think I drew an ace and whatever Cory's card was it wasn't close. I was in a mild shock...I had lots of fun all for a very good cause.
So we all said our goodbyes and Cory and I stuck around to clean up. In the back of my mind, I couldn't help but think, "man, they blew a three-goal lead but still won." It's a good thing to win no matter what, but the focus is still on the how, not just the end result. This is a habit they've gotten themselves in many times, and many times it has gotten them into big trouble. I would have hoped that they would have learned by now not to just pack it in when they build a big lead. On the other hand, it is good to see the two things that I saw in the swatches of the action I did see:
1. Braden Holtby held his own in a dangerous situation and coming in cold
2. The Capitals had the fortitude to knuckle down, play smart hockey, and get the tough goal
This is one of those "glass half-full vs. glass half-empty" debates you could have. Kinda like the poker tourney win I had. (I won...but it wasn't real money...but I had fun for a good cause.) They did get the "W" in the end, but the hope is that they also took away a valuable lesson in winning. I'm going to be something of an optimist and count on the fact that they did indeed learn something. I know I did. Never give up on a hand as long as there's cards left to play. Make of that what you will.
One last not-so-shameless plug here. Barbara is continuing to collect donations for the Arthritis Foundation despite her injury. If you know someone with Arthritis, and the chances are very good that you do, please do what you can to donate to this worthwhile cause. Barbara's goal is $10,000 and if you go here you will see that's she's pretty close. Help her out and give to this wonderful cause...trust me, we will all be feeling better for it.