Hello again hockey fans (hope some Caps fans are out there as well!!)
Been a while I know, but I couldn't stay away for too long. Hockey, like life, does go onward. And it's gone onward to what has been what has been a surprisingly competitive Stanley Cup Final series. No, I haven't forgotten about my team's meltdown against Tampa Bay. And let us not kid ourselves folks, it was a meltdown. More on this later. Now that the Vancouver Canucks have proven to be the team to beat all season long we have to ask--is this their time to fulfill their destiny? I say yes.
And why is this? Because they have the one thing that other teams haven't seemed to hold on to, at least not long term--tenacity. Want a better word for it? Look here. Trust me, if it's one thing I've learned, you've got to have it to succeed both in hockey and in life. You can even call it resiliency if you want, given that they've now had two different teams come back to either tie or be within one game after being up 2-0. Not an easy thing to do.
What is this quality? Simply the ability to make the adjustments necessary, be they mentally or physically to correct mistakes made coupled with the fortitude to get up one more time. No matter how mundane and annoying things tend to get for you. Sound like a motivational speech you might have heard at work? Maybe. But at least here you don't have the guy next to you drooling on you because he's asleep!
But seriously it is a quality that, while it gets its due, it doesn't get the glory until all is said and done. Toughness is a great quality but unfortunately isn't measured by goals, assists, or plus-minus. That shouldn't diminish its worth, however. Because it is a quality that leads to winning. It is the building block you have to have underneath you if you're to get anywhere. You cannot point to one Stanley Cup winning team that didn't have some element of toughness on it. Some of these teams may not have had the type to bring Don Cherry out of his suit, but it was there. I'm not exactly an expert, but I've seen enough hockey to know that much.
Now the Capitals seemingly have this resiliency, having been through an eight-game losing streak, a spotlight brighter than Venus on them, and all kinds of changes, good and bad throughout the year. Lest we forget Alexander Ovechkin turning in his usually astronomical season numbers for more modest (for him anyway) figures in a team-oriented game. All in a march towards what we hoped for to be more playoff success. And we all saw what happened. The first round could not have gone any better, it was like a dream. The second round was morel like a nightmare. Certainly we all knew Tampa wouldn't roll over, but a sweep? Even if the Caps had only won one game the discussion would be different . We wouldn't be all talking another year of: Fire Boudreau! Trade Semin! Trade Whoever!
As I always do I'll leave the deep analysis to others--although I plan to do my own analysis in a different way later on. Some of those close to me already know about this. But my point is that, while yes, we should demand more of the team top to bottom, we were in fact beaten by a better team. A team that the Capitals nonetheless had a chance of beating, but didn't adjust to very well as the series went forward. My observations looking back is that it was the late-period collapses that cost them. Not a sign of a lack of toughness for sure. But while a lack of mental toughness may have been what cost them against the Canadiens 2 years ago, a lack of general focus may have been what cost them this year against the Lightning.
Alan May on the last episode of Japers Rink Radio said a good slogan for this year would be "Crack the Whip!" He may have been only half-joking at the time but I don't think he was too far-off. More focus at just the right times by everybody and who knows? I will take into account that this does not take into account several previously unknown injury issues unbeknownst to us but knownst to the team at the time. Even so...the core was still there, all the key players. One spark earlier in the series, like a fight or a goalie change--SOMETHING--and things may have changed. As it happened, the team was beyond help and it was too late by game four.
Which brings me back to Vancouver. You see, even with their injury issues and sometimes questionable goaltending--they still manage to find a way to win. Do they have a world-beating coach leading the way? Not especially, though Alain Vigneault is no slouch, winning the Adams (coach of the year) award once. And I think they'll find a way to close out the series tomorrow night. You know me and predictions, I hate them, they're useless. But a lot of people had the Canucks as a shoo-in. A lot of people were wrong. Doesn't matter because they'll find a way to win, whether it's Ryan Kesler with his presence in front of the Boston goal. Or Alex Burrows just plain being a pest. Or Henrik and Daniel Sedin creating havoc from red line to goal line with their dazzling pass-shoot-and-score show.
And when these haven't worked they can always rely on the stable play of Christian Ehrhoff and Kevin Bieksa on the backline. Or a Raffi Torres hit to swing the momentum the other way. And say what you will about Roberto Luongo...he's been good when he's been needed most--in overtime. Which don't be surprised if that's where this game ends, because the Bruins have hung tough. There's a lot to like about this team. So much so that I'm going to make a confession....
Yes I'm a fan, though the Caps are still my number one. If you've read the blog regularly you know that one of my all time favorite hockey people is Roger Neilson. Well the year he helped introduce Towel Power into the hockey world was the year he led the Canucks into their first Stanley Cup Final. That was 1982. And while I was a fan of the Caps first years before that, I've held a special place in my heart for the Canucks ever since.
(This one's an inside joke for fans of the Puck Podcast)
So yes....I have to admit it...publically <sigh>. I have a girlfriend....................team.
Now like all men who have been caught, let me explain, though on the surface it seems simple enough...a "girlfriend" team is one that, openly or whatever, you root for, just not as hard as your "wife" team. Sooooo, had it been that the Caps wound up in the Final against the Canucks there would have been no question whatsoever of my allegiance. Sorry Caps (and fans)...but at least now you know.
Going to be a good one, hate to see hockey end for another year, but there will be plenty to talk about I'm sure...
Aw hell....Canucks 3-2.....on a Daniel Sedin goal......in Overtime.
See you at the Draft.