Hockey-Here-There

Posted by on June 2nd, 2015  •  0 Comments  • 

There’s nothing as sudden, nor as final, as losing a Game 7-on your home ice, 1-game away from the Stanley Cup finals.  The ache, the melancholy, the frustration is something that will last an entire summer.
 
As one season ends, another about to begin, the cup finals, but the reality is, Game 7’s are always ‘win or go home’…
 
The NHL Stanley Cup finals begin tomorrow night when the near dynasty Chicago Blackhawks meet the Tampa Bay Lightning.  You don’t think of the words dynasty when you talk Blackhawks, at least you don’t confuse them with the iconic Montreal Canadiens (Beliveau-Richard-Plante), or the Philadelphia Flyers (Fred Shero) or the Oilers (Gretzky-Messier) nor the Islanders (Potvin-Bossy)
 
But Chicago is back going for another ring, shooting for their 3rd Stanley Cup in a six year window.  About as close to dominance as you can get, especially in the NHL salary cap era, where player turnover is a constant every July.
 
The season is over for the Anaheim Ducks.  An awful ending for what we thought would be a return trip to center ice to try and get another ring.  Made even worse by losing at home, in another Game 7-decision.  In a sport where home ice is so huge, it is unimaginable that the Ducks could be elimiated three straight years, at home, in the 7th and final game of a playoff series.
 
As exit meetings occur today with those players, you wonder if they will be exiting that building a final time.  And you wonder if the coach may exit too, for as bad as the Ducks end of season runs have become, coach Bruce Boudreau has a (1-6) career record in those exit games, and those games were marked by really poor emotional play by his team, wondering if they were mentally focused to go get it done, again, at home.
 
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are fabulous power players.  The Ducks were complimented by a deep line of forwards who could score goals, from the ex-Canuck Ryan Kesler to role players like Matt Beleskey, Andrew Cogliano to Patrick Maroon and more, each important in their own say..
 
The defense has such a cross section of talent, from an old warrior like Francois Beauchemin, to young studs like Cam Folwer and Hampus Lindholm.
 
The goaltending gave you flights of fabulous play, from Frederic Andersen to John Gibson, but also frightful nights, with Andersen giving up 19-goals in the last 4-playoff games at the most important time of the year.
 
In retrospect, maybe the Blackhawks just had too much talent.  Once you take Perry-Getzlaf off their game, others didn’t really have the talent level to step.  There was no Marian Hossa on the Ducks 2nd-3rd lines.  The dropoff on defense in Anaheim was significant once Fowler or Lindholm were done with their shifts.  Young legs sometimes can’t keep up with experienced firepower.  That plus the Hawks will to do it every shift.
 
So close, but still so far away, because the Ducks aren’t playing tomorrow nite against Tampa Bay, like we thought they might.
 
Maybe we were misled, for the entry series against Winnipeg and Calgary were not as challenging as to having to play say the LA Kings or San Jose or St. Louis in early rounds.  But this was a team that was in a pressure tank full of games in March and April, fighting the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay for the point total race and overall home ice advantage.  They won when they had to win in regular season.
 
You don’t fire coaches who drove their teams to 100-point seasons, but you don’t get gold medals either for just trying to win.
 
Maybe this is a learning curve season for lots of young guys.  The torch was officially passed a couple of years back from the Kariya-Selanne-Neidemayer era, to Getzlaf-Perry.  They still have time left on the clock, gas in the tank.  Maybe the experiences of all these enormous ‘pressure games’ will serve the kids well, and this experience will make them better the next postseason go-round.  Maybe this was more stagefright, or mental exhaustion, or just getting overwhelmed by the talent level of the guys wearing the tomahawks on their crest.
 
Ducks hockey, a pretty bright future, even if this week is an emotional downer.  No practices to go to, no game to look forward to.  It’s as empty a feeling as you can have.
 
Like I said, the finality of getting knocked out in the 7th game at home, is about as severe a jolt as a roster can have.  A year from today, maybe they will be better for it.

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