Monday, April 13, 2009

The Special Nature of Playoff Hockey

The playoffs truly are a special time if you're a hockey fan. The difference in intensity from the last game of the regular season to the first game of the playoffs is palpable. The crowds at US Bank Arena last Thursday and Friday got a taste of it, even if both were losing efforts by the Cyclones.

I was reminded about how special the playoffs are by watching John, the new operations manager at the arena. He has a background in stage and theatre, but no experience in hockey. Since starting in January, he's been learning the sport. During Friday's game, he commented to me about the difference he felt in the building. It was his child-like enthusiasm and observation that reminded me to appreciate the playoffs, regardless of the outcome.

Those games were disappointing in outcome but the hockey played was great. The Cyclones are a young team, some still learning how to be professional athletes and how to deal with advsersity. Wheeling brought a good game, and a hot goalie.

The playoffs are, obviously, the best teams. They bring their best games because every game matters. The result is that all strengths are subdued and all weaknesses are magnified. Game outcomes are often the result of one team making the most of the other's mistakes.

For example. Thursday night. I think the Cyclones are a better team than the Nailers. The Cyclones played a decent game. They spent more time in Wheeling's zone; they won the small battles for the puck; they made the extra effort nearly every play. But they made two mistakes in the first period and both resulting in Wheeling goals.

The Cyclones scoring prowess was subdued by Wheeling's stepped-up play, and their weakness was then exploited by the Nailers for goals. They were never able to recover.

Friday night's game was basically the same. I think the Cyclones slipped a little, maybe the Nailers got in their heads a little. Clearly, however, Saturday was a different story.

It took them two losses to get there, but the Cyclones turned the table on the Nailers and brought their own A-Game as they CRUSHED the Nailers.

It's going to take more games like Saturday and less (or no) games like Thursday and Friday for the Cyclones to go deep in the playoffs.

Here's hoping they have it in them. I believe they do.


Blogger WendyB said...

The playoffs are a different animal entirely... That's for sure. To be honest, I worry about the team more during this time of year. Emotions are running high, and people can get hurt. Granted, people can get hurt anyway, but during the regular season, a loss is just a loss. It doesn't have to mean EVERYTHING. But yeah, this is a special time of year when the hockey being played is really revved up and passion is just as important as skill. Good luck to the Cyclones, and may the best team win. :)

4:31 PM  

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