Saturday, April 19, 2014

Stanley Cup Playoffs 2014

Now that the regular season has wrapped up in the National Hockey League, it is time for coaches to rally the troops for the playoffs. A team must win sixteen games in order to win the Stanley Cup; however, each team will play a minimum of 16 games, with each series the best of seven. So…..potentially, that could mean an additional 28 games to bag the trophy. Overtime is also a little different in the playoffs, with five skaters instead of four. There are no shootouts. The team that scores first in overtime wins. In the recent St. Louis Blues victory, they player their longest game in history, after more than 100 minutes of hockey.

                                         Steen scored the overtime goal in the Blues' first win 

The coach has assembled his players following the last practice before the first game. He knows what it will take to win. “Guys,” he tells his eager listeners, “I want to share the secrets of our great game, so that you will have no trouble winning the Cup. Listen up.

“First of all, this is the only professional sport played on skates. So you need to skate well, and with good balance. Don’t take any foolish penalties. Don’t retaliate, at least not immediately. We need to use our experience, and our size.”

The rookie raises his hand. “Coach, we are small, and we are young.”

“Yes,” replies the coach, “both good points. But we have young legs, and we are fast. We have great team chemistry, and we manage the puck well. We have great goaltending.

“We match up well with our opponents. We will need to block shots, and make the sacrifices when necessary. We must play with heart. Our power play needs to be effective, and we must kill all penalties to have a chance. Composure is important in these situations. Stay within yourself. Focus is important, too.”

Realizing that he is quickly losing the attention of his audience, he bangs his stick against the wall. “Boys, you will need to play with great determination. You have to give 110%. You must use everything in the tank. Take no prisoners. Finish your checks. Play all three zones of the rink effectively. Communicate with your teammates.”

As they left the dressing room, one of the players murmured, “Did he forget anything else?”

“Yes,” the coach hollered. “We need luck, and plenty of it. We need lucky bounces, and quirky deflections. We will win, with pure unmitigated luck.”

Not as easy as it looks.

James Hurst

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