Saturday, 7 February 2009

Two Games, Two Wins

For a team that played .500 hockey all season, I thought it might take a bit of a miracle for us to advance through the playoffs. We never had a problem scoring goals, but we never really did a solid job in stopping teams from scoring either. Odd-man rushes and occasional zone breakdowns resulted in a number of goals-against that simply cannot happen in the playoffs. Especially when playing in a one-and-done tournament. While it looked like we might struggle, all we needed was a big effort in terms of backchecking - something we've been preaching all season long. Our goaltender, Dave, is a capable, solid stopper, but he can't be relied on to stop every odd-man rush.

With this in mind, we squared off against the Dumb Pucks in the first round. They were another team that played close to .500 hockey all season in the other division, ending up with two more wins than losses. The Pucks did have a solid season in terms of scoring goals, so we knew we had to play well to win. After all, I called a 5-2 victory last night, so I was determined not to let my prediction go to waste.

Well, in what has to be our best game of the season, we came out and played suffocating defence in a 3-0 victory. By far, this was an example of how good we can be when the forwards backcheck and aggressively forecheck. They were a large reason why opposing forwards in the slot had nothing, as well as shutting down the point men. With the puck along the boards in our end, we really only had to clog up passing lanes and shooting lanes. Active sticks and good communication gave us a distinct advantage.

I can't stress this enough: if you want to play forward at any level, you can't just play hard in one direction. Honestly, we didn't play this way for most of the season, thus our standing in the league, but we've turned a new page in the playoffs. When the second season starts, all the statistics and standings go out the window, and all bets are off. Anyone can beat anyone, and that's the beauty of this sport.

With the win, we advanced into the second round against a team we played twice this season in the GoodFellas. They were a divisional rival, and they play with a bit of a chip on their shoulder. They like to muck it up and play a little on the dirty side, but they have an explosive offensive team who can score goals like they're going out of style. The early afternoon game looked like a good old-fashioned, old-tyme hockey game.

This game was played exactly in the same fashion as the night before. We played a tight-checking defensive game in our zone, and took advantage of some timely mistakes to jump out to a 3-0 lead. Again, a huge credit to our forwards who didn't take a shift off. They pressed and caused turnover, resulting in a couple of tap-in goals.

After I was whistled for a phantom interference call (absolutely ridiculous penalty), the opposition responded by scoring a backdoor powerplay goal to cut the lead to 3-1. However, we went right back to task, shutting down the middle of the ice and playing a tight-checking game. Two more goals, and we ended up ousting another team with a better record from the playoffs by a 5-1 score.

We play tomorrow afternoon in the third round at 1:30PM CDT, so more playoff hockey to report about after that game. This team is pumped, and we're looking to string together three wins for the first time all season. I'm thinking we can do it. Although we have to wait to see who we play, we're fairly confident that if we continue to play as well as we have, we'll be successful.

Just wanna throw this out: how about Philly coming back to beat Boston this afternoon by a 4-3 score? The Flyers are only the second team to rally after being down by two goals against the Bruins this season. Perhaps this is exactly what Philly needs to get them back on a winning streak.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Tony said...

Congrats, buddy! You're right, playoffs are "the beauty of the sport!"

Well, outside of well-groomed faces of the goalies. THAT'S beauty of the sport. :)