A Fine Line at Playoff Time
The regular season gave way to the playoffs this week for the Boy’s team. They finished the season in third place in the league which netted them a series against the sixth place team. In their league all the teams, save for the bottom two are pretty evenly matched. From second place to sixth place there is only a seven point differential. The first place team has a sizeable lead on the pack, but even they are beatable as the Boy’s team proved earlier this year. After a thirty game schedule good rivalries are established with pretty much every team. A playoff series winner is the first team to record six points with a win counting for two points and one point awarded for a tie.
From the Boy’s perspective, a series with this sixth place team is particularly intriguing because they represent a town where the Boy first started to play hockey. He’s even played with some of the boys on this team. Off the ice, he considers many of them his friends. Hell, they even play Call of Duty on XBox Live together. But on the ice, this is the one team the Boy really wants to beat.
The team goal, in general, is to obviously proceed to the next round and one step closer to the finals. There are actually two levels of playoffs, with the primary goal being the provincial championship. If a team is eliminated from the provincial playoffs they drop down into their regional playoffs, which some perjoratively refer to as “The Toilet Bowl.” No one is particularly interested in dropping down before their time and without a good fight.
And so, I hesitated to begin this post as the Boy’s team has not fared well in their first two meetings with their sixth place rivals.
They lost game one at home 4-1 after coming out flat and falling behind 4-0 after two periods. The team looked much better in the third period, but were not able to muster enough scoring opportunities to get back in the game. Before the series started, we all had some fear of how the boys would play after finishing their season with wins of 6-1, 18-0 and 9-2 against the lowly, winless last place team. Game one definitely felt and looked like a hangover. We hoped a remedy would be in the offing for game two.
In the second match at the rival’s rink, our boys came out strong off of the initial puck drop. However, as fortune would have it, a wild shot thrown from behind the net in the first minute of play by an opponent would ricochet off the back of our unsuspecting goalie’s leg and into the net. This one flukey goal lead would be upheld by a strong goaltending performance at the other end of the ice. The bad guys eventually scored a second goal with only a couple of minutes left in the third period. The Boy and his mates were arguably the better team in game two, though neither team was particularly sharp and the scoreboard told a different story.
Game three is tomorrow night; one of those must-win affairs you always hear the pros talking about in pre-game interviews. Down four points to none, the boys all know the task before them. Win to stay alive. Passes will need to be a little crisper. Shots will need to find their mark. Hustle will be tantamount. There’s no reason to think this series is over by any stretch of the imagination, as a win puts them right back in it, with momentum swinging back on their side. I am fairly confident the lads will give it their all, while we in the stands will also implore ye old Hockey Gods to come through with a couple preferable bounces.
To take this back to where we started and put it in some perspective, the second place team is also down and within a point of dropping their round-one series against the seventh place team. They lost both of their first two games and tied the third. In short series like these, anything can, and usually does, happen. That’s at least part of what makes this game so much fun.