Thursday, June 15, 2006

Point of no return

It's crazy how the media do 180's after each of these games. We go from "Canes have a stranglehold" to "Momentum with Oilers" in just two days. It's hyperbole in overdrive across the US and CA media. Ditto the networking fan experience. The depression that was the Oil fan experience on Monday night-a desolate Whyte Ave, select Oilogosphere bloggers avoiding the broadcast of game five, has now given way to 22 pages of ranting and group therapy in the Canes forums.

Teams cross a threshold once they win the conference championship. It's the threshold between a nice season/trip to the playoffs and that crap shoot for either ultimate glory or ultimate heartbreak. By now the Sabers and Ducks are probably deep into golf and planning for next year. But for the two that remain, there's just so much at stake going into game six. It's a grueling affair that might of-could of ended last night. That would have made my wife and kids happy. They've had enough of hockey.

Using the marathon analogy again, we're at the 18-20 mile point-the wall. You'd be lying if you want to deny that the Hurricanes hit a wall last night. Injuries, frustration and fatigue are now a big part of the equation. AWard and Weight may or may not play Saturday night. I think AWard suffered a shoulder dislocation or separation. Reason I say that is that he came back. The crazy thing with shoulder injuries like that is that once somebody puts it back in its socket, you feel Ok. But the damage is done to the labrum and connective tissue making a subsequent injury more likely and potentially more damaging. If Aaron plays, he's made of sterner stuff than the rest of us. Weight might have a rib or shoulder wound. He looked awful pale back on the bench at the end of OT.

I think losing AWard for game six would be much more problematic. Tverdovsky has shown that his mind is elsewhere these playoffs. Babchuk is still a nugget, and Hutchinson would probably shatter under the clobbering he'd take. My guess is that Tverdovsky would get the call. If he plays like he's wants a job next year, maybe we'll be pleasantly surprised.

The potential loss of Weight is not as big a deal. Staal, Roddy, Cullen, KAdams and Vasicek are all natural centermen. If it means the Hurricanes activate LaRose again, so be it. We'll have some feistiness back on our 4th line. I'm more worried about Roddy's invisibility last night. Chris at PK thinks he might have a hand or wrist injury.

Stillman goes from hero to goat in the course of two games. His forecheck created the chance for Staal and Recchi to combine for the game winner in game four, but his weak and tipped outlet pass last night gave Pisani a steal and clear shot to the goal. And Pisani did his homework-high and glove side for the winner.

Everybody is probably nursing some kind of injury. Now with potentially two games remaining to determine a champion it's time to see who has the mettle to fight through it. Like a lot of you all, I was up until after 1 am last night laying in bed and replaying the Pisani steal and goal over and over in my head. I also pondered the many ways one might wipe that snotty snear off Craig MacTavish's mug. Yeah sure, you knew it would go that way all along. I seem to remember you holding you head in your hands after game four.

But it's now time to get over it and move on. Time for Caniac Nation to regroup, restore a little faith in this great team and look forward to two more opportuntites to win this mother. It might be all the more sweet to win it in their house after their bit of vandalism in our house. The white jerseys look better anyway.

One of the qualities of great athletes is the ability to compartmentalize-the ability to put away the bad and move on with focus and confidence that a lesson has been learned and won't be repeated. Brett Favre kind of has that. He can throw a bad interception and come right back and throw another one in the next series, and never lose his swagger. Brett's a great compartmentalizer, except he forgets to include the lesson learned part.


macndub said...

Since the series went 3-1, I figured the Canes would win it. Especially after the Oiler's efforts in games 2-4. They couldn't get past the loss of Roli or game 1.

All I asked for was that the Canes not win at home in game 5. Now, I hope that they not win on the road in game 6. Wouldn't a win at home be so much sweeter? {grin}

But the simple fact is that these guys are all pros, on both sides. I think intangibles are impossible to quantify, but let's give it a shot:

1. Oilers scored first and last. +2 at ES. Kept Canes PP to <50%, and Canes +2 only on PP. Oil +1 on PP, infinitely better than before the game. Canes gotta travel now, and they don't seem to like it. (Living in the Arctic has done some good for the Oil).

2. Canes PP still freakin' amazing. Great PK. Never lost two in a row in the playoffs. Coaching will set up adjustments. Conkannens will crash eventually (though I hope that it's in training camp).

End result is that it's even, in my books. No excess momentum for the Oil, although an arrest of Canes momentum. So it's still better than even money that the Cup will be in the South for the first time ever. (Since only Canadians think Tampa is the South).

CasonBlog said...

I dig your "arrested momentum" angle. I think that's a better descriptive than we're getting from the tabloids. I still believe. There's Hockeytown, Hockey Bay, and there will soon be Hockey South.

Chris said...

These guys are warriors. They know that they have to pull it together for 60 minutes. People need to step up. Staalsy stepped up big time last night - he needs to keep that up and he needs some help.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

no such thing as momentum now, as much as I wish there was

losing weight and/or ward hurts the Canes but its small comfort for the Oilers - while it is obviously better for the Oil if they do not play guys always step up - look at Buffalo (injuries) and Edmonton (illness) in the conference finals

I would be interested in knowing the "true" story about Canes' injuries - everyone has bumps and bruises but I would think that there are a lot of Canes who are really hurt - Williams, Wesley, Hedican and now maybe Brindamour too.

Here is a question for the Caniacs - why is the Canes' PP so deadly at home but Oiler like when on the road? Is it just a weird statistic?

CasonBlog said...

I think we'll know within days after the end of the series. Don't have an answer on the PP front. I think the Canes tend to play more conservative on the road. In baseball the old adage is that you play for the tie on the road and to win at home. Maybe that carries over to hockey. Since Peca says the Oil own 5-5 play and will play disciplined to keep it so, we may not get a chance to see much of the Hurricane PP tomorrow night.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

well, the Oilers will take penalties - they always do but with last change they will keep their third pair hidden a little which will help and also we may not see Matt Greene again - he tends to take 2 or 3 a game

Yep - in hockey you have what they call the "perfect road game" - tight to the vest. Whats funny is that usually teams can struggle at home on the PP because they tend to get too fancy, trying to put a show on for the fans.

It may just be an anomaly but its funny because the numbers are so completely out there - at home they run around 30% I believe, on the road its, as I said, Oiler like (although not that bad)

The Oilers have found their game 5 on 5 - the Canes only had 12 shots ES in G5, I think.

But as I posted today all of the stats etc etc mean absolutely nothing tomorrow.

The crowd will be crazy - here's hoping the Caniacs get a chance to match it on Monday night for G7 :)