We played Game One about as poorly as we could have, and it was certainly one of our worst games of the season. Thankfully, our goaltender was the polar opposite of our team as he made more than his fair share of spectacular saves to keep us in a game we had no business being in. Down 3-2 with less than a minute to play in the third period, we somehow found the back of the net to send the game to overtime.
The five-on-five overtime of one five-minute period was highlighted by a rather weak tripping penalty called on yours truly, so I wanted the last two minutes of overtime from the sin bin. My team, however, saved my bacon to keep the game knotted at 3-3 as time expired. If this were any other league, we'd be off to another overtime period, but this league can't afford to spare the extra time, so it was off to the shootout.
Yes, the shootout. In a playoff game. Just as they do in international games.
I will tell you upfront that we lost the shootout in the sixth round. It's not the loss that bothers me, but how a tightly-contested game that featured some glorious scoring chances, some good defensive plays, and some great teamwork was decided by the most individual component of the game. Our goaltender, for all the saves he made, deserved a better fate than to have to stop a few breakaways while hoping we could be one breakaway goal better than our opponents. And we weren't.
Honestly, the shootout deciding games is the worst way to lose. The IIHF should change their rules to ensure this doesn't happen any longer, and the NHL should NEVER consider this option. Regular season games are important, but they are far less important when it comes to the playoffs. We've voiced our opinion to the league on this matter, but we assume it will fall on deaf ears. That's what happens in little leagues. But for the big leagues? You're better than this, and the players competing deserve a better fate.
You'll be happy to know that Game Two saw us play entirely better as we built a 4-1 lead before eventually downing our opponents 4-3. It should have been 4-2, but a late goal made it closer than it should have been. It was like that shootout loss woke us up. And that leads to Game Three on Saturday with an asterisk.
Game Three should be fine. No one is complaining about that. It's the asterisk that a lot of us are scratching our heads over since it makes no sense again. The other playoff series was decided in two-straight games, so the league scheduled the first game of the final series to be played immediately following our third game in our best-of-three series. Um, what?
How is it fair to schedule the start of the final series immediately following the deciding game of the previous series? If we are to win on Saturday, we would then face a fresh team that has a full gas tank in Game One of the final. How does any league schedule stuff like this?
Anyway, the path has been drawn, and we now have to walk it. Saturday will either see us live to play another game, literally, or go home with nothing to show for our efforts all season long. If we play like we did in Game One, we'll be going home. If we play like we did in Game Two, we'll be setting up for the final.
The only question to ask is how much will we have left in the tank?
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!