Thursday, July 15, 2010

This week in hockey crimes and misdemeanors

I almost don't know where to start, other than saying my team had a 2 to 1 lead midway through the second period in a playoff game against the best team in our league and we couldn't hold on. The end result: a 4 to 2 loss.

Wow -- the guys on my team played their hearts out. And wow -- I wish I could have joined them. I didn't just play bad. I played stupid.

Bad to the point that I really should have done the team a favor and sat down on the bench and stayed there once it became apparent that I had nothing to contribute. If there's five guys on the ice and one of them is skating around with his head wedged at an unlikely angle up his ass, you don't have to be a NASA scientist to figure out the team is at 80% strength.

So let's get right to it and piece together what I can still remember about yesterday's game.

THE CRIME: I'm at right wing. From behind the goal, someone on my team bangs the puck up the right boards. It gets past me -- I'm out of position and not up against the boards -- and it also gets past the other team's defenseman. So we're chasing it up the boards and he's in front of me and I give him a shove in his back to get him out of the way. He falls, I get whistled for roughing.

THE RESULT: Did I mention we were on a power play at the time? Our one-man advantage turns to a minute of four-on-four followed by the other team going on the power play -- which my teammates manage to kill.

THE LESSON: It's good to play aggressively. But it's dumb to be aggressive when you don't have to be -- and in this case, there was no reason to be. I know what I was thinking at the time -- if I can pick up the puck, I've got a clear line of attack into the other team's zone and we're on a power play and we gotta get the puck out of our own end.

THE CRIME: I'm at right wing. The other team has possession in their own zone, the puck somehow goes sailing all the way to the right side boards, 20 feet from the nearest players -- me and one of the other team's defenseman. We race to get it. He slows to grab the puck, I barrel on through, hoping to pick it up and continue on the boards. He goes down hard against the boards and threatens to "hit me next time," leaving me puzzled why he didn't hit me this time. I'm whistled for roughing. Again. The ref tells me I have to at least try to stop.

THE RESULT: My teammates kill the power play, but we're now down 3 to 2 in the game and we lose two minutes of catch-up time.

THE LESSON: The ref was right. It was good that I skated hard and intended to skate through the other guy and win the puck, but bottom line is that this is a no-check league and I just can't plow a dude into the boards for the sake of making an aggressive play. Especially because as team captain, I bitch about it when my guys get plowed needlessly into the boards.

So what's the smart play here? First, and I've written about this before, but I have had problems stopping with my right foot on the outside. It's my weaker foot and while I've improved greatly in recent months, I need to be able to skate hard and then stop on a dime against the boards. In this case, I didn't stop because I was hoping to skate through and/or around the guy, but if I had a good stop in my hockey toolbox, I could have gotten there and either dumped the puck into the corner or tried to pick it off the boards and make a pass.

As for the guy on the other team, I chatted with him after the game after he cooled down and I apologized despite the fact I've been told no apologies are needed in hockey. Nonetheless, I'm going to keep my head up because I have no doubt he's going to give me a shot when our teams play next season.

THE CRIME: I'm skating up the right boards with the puck through the neutral zone. The other team is out of position and I've got open ice ahead. My center is a couple of feet ahead of me and enters the other team's zone -- without the puck -- and we get whistled for offsides.

RESULT: I can't recall what happened with the ensuing faceoff back in the neutral zone, but we lost the chance for a two-on-one as a result while trailing 3 to 2.

THE LESSON: I thought my center was going to hold up at the blue line but he was being yelled at by some of the guys on the bench urging him to skate hard into the other team's zone. This was at the same time that I was being urged to skate hard into the other team's zone -- with the puck. In other words, classic miscommunication here. That said, if I wasn't watching the puck so intently, I had two options as soon as I realized my center was going into the zone: 1) I could have tried to pass it to him -- even though we didn't have a great angle, the puck would probably have ended up deep in the other team's zone, or; 2) I could have dumped it quickly into the right corner and then chased it down. We would have been onsides

This could be a much longer list. Among some of my other sins: I was out of position a lot on defense while freelancing -- costing us some chances for either a breakout or just to clear the zone. I lunged at the puck a few times (unsuccessfully) instead of playing the player. And, as team captain, I didn't manage our shift changes very well as we were trying to rotate in a seventh guy on offense and deal with numerous penalty kills and power plays.

Anyone know a good sports shrink? I could spend a lot of time on the couch talking about this one and, yes, those roughing calls are all my mommy's fault...


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