For the first 30 seconds, it was amazing. It was Lake Placid 1980 all over again. We took the opening faceoff, drove down the ice, and forced their goalie to make a good save before smothering the puck. Offensive pressure! Putting another team back on their heels! Old Time Hockey! Eddie Shore!
30 seconds later we were down 1-0.
Before I get into the details of our latest outing I should report that this game featured the stupidest play of my short hockey career. Not the most comically hysterical to watch, nor the most embarrassed by the skill of another player - those are separate categories. This was just pure boneheadedness. Playing right D, I outowrked one of their guys for a puck along the board near the circle in our zone. He was still between me and the blue line, so instead of doing almost anything else that would have been better, including curling into a ball on the ice and hugging the puck until it hatched into a bunch of little baby pucks, I did the dumbest - I made a blind backhand pass to the center of our zone, trusting that my defensive partner was there.
He was not. A guy from the other team was, though, and he blew a slapshot through poor Charlie from about 20 feet away. Ugh.
The final was 9-0, but I find it difficult to hang too much of this on us. The Titans are in 2nd place but to me seemed better than the team we played last week and thus vastly superior than us. They had several guys who were superlative skaters and would weave their way through our zone while we closed ranks and did what we could. I'm not happy with my outing at D, but then again I faced more 2 on 1 and 3 on 1 breaks than I can remember against guys who were literally skating circles around me. It helped that Goalie Alex (who will be just Alex today as Winger Alex was a no show. Jeff was out as well, exhausted from being in California to be presented with an award stating he's the best salesman since Ron Popeil. Trevor was out too, and we missed his steady presence as well) insisted we get a goalie to split games with and was there for advice the latter 20 minutes or so. It's good to know whether or not I did the right thing, regardless of the outcome. To wit:
- racing back on a 2 on zero break, I cut off the pass instead of making a late dive that might or might not have gotten me there in time. Ruling - RIGHT THING even though the guy roofed the puck for a goal
- going for the big rebound on another 2 on 1 after denying the pass - RIGHT THING but be a better player because I just missed it and the guy fromt he other team rammed it home (it was a BIG rebound)
- make a blind pass behind your back in your own zone WRONG THING STUPID
- try to lift one of their sticks and accidentally bury mine in the guy's groin, sending him to the ice in a heap RULES WRONG, BUT KINDA OKAY BECAUSE FUCK YOU FOR BEING IN THIS DIVISION, GUYS
And so it went. They were way too good to be in this division. We'd catch them deep and be on a 2 or 3 on 1 and by the time we got to their blue line they had 2 or 3 guys back, usually all over the puckcarrier. Our goalies (we brought back Charlie) did a fantastic job, and I don't think we took much of a step back, if any. As we had only 4 defense I played about half the game, and combined with a morning clinic I expected to be much more worn than I was. Whether it was a comment on my play or not one of the guys shifted to D for the last 5 minutes and I took a shift at left wing, which was fun and found me in the curious position of having dug the puck out of the corner in the offensive zone and . . . having everyone just kind of look at me. I think I checked for options for a good 5 seconds before trying to hit a cutting Tom (one of their D just deflected the pass) and maybe I should have tried to skate out and shoot, of toss it back to the point - it's kind of lost in the fog of memory. My teammates are amazingly patient with me as a defenseman, because it's got to be frustrating to see me make so many mistakes.
When the game was over a few of their guys were skating by and one of them said, 'Those guys never gave up, man. They kept going to the end.'
Fucking right we did, chief.
Final note: It might be nothing. It may have been a fluke. But, armed with confidence from a backwards crossover step last week and a fancy new edge on my blades, I hit the circle after the morning clinic but before the ice was flooded with 5 year olds who all skate better than me and dammit, I did a front crossover step. More than once. they weren't pretty but they were there. Before the other teams hit the ice for the game after us I did it again. Baby steps. Baby crossover steps, anyway.