My first comment:
"I follow tennis quite a bit. In singles tennis, you can see a
player's mental state pretty readily. There have been numerous
hard-fought five set (mens) matches, or three set women's matches, that
were battles through the first 4 (2) sets, and which then turned into
laughers, like 6-0 or 6-1, in the final set. Because in a hard-fought
battle, every thing is razor sharp. Every point counts. The stress level
is incredibly high when so much is riding on each swing of the racket.
But then... something goes wrong for one of the players. A call
they thought was surely out was barely in. A fan yellls in the stands at
the wrong time, disrupting a serve that turns into a double fault. They
mishit an easy volley. SUDDENLY, in the player's mental state,
everything is against them. Shots that were an inch in now fall an inch
out. First serve lasers now are just long. They can't make that last
step to make a return. And against them is an opponent that senses the
desperation, the weakness, the errors creeping into the game, and their
confidence soars. They blast away, and the opponent's weak resolve
collapses. Match over.
Over and over in this series [Capitals vs. Rangers] we heard "hold serve" for the home
wins. But we also heard "clinch in 6" when the Caps went back to NY.
Yeah, even from Barry Melrose [ESPN hockey commentator]. They had the big MO, the confidence. Does
anyone forget the nail-biting game 5 win? [Overtime win] Wasn't that mental toughness?
However it happened, the refereeing in game 6 affected the outcome.
The obvious interference on Perreault - not called (even he asked
"Where's the penalty?"). The slew foot on Green. As one writer put it,
were the Rangers such gentlemen? And the Caps lost a very close one,
1-0, creating an edgy mentality for Game 7. And when things started to
go wrong in Game 7 (including an almost "I'm going to be a hero" moment
for Wilson), it snowballed. They collapsed. Mental edge - pfft.
Bos, remember the Cubbies? The Bartman ball? What happened after that?
My second comment:
said all that, what can be done differently? When does bad karma
reverse itself? You never can know. The Red Sox [pro baseball team], famously, tantalized
their fans with occasional World Series appearances - which they
famously, heartbreakingly lost. They kept trying to build a team with
skills and mental toughness not to give up. When you have that,
sometimes luck finally lends a hand. Like Mariano Rivera walking Kevin
Millar, 9th inning, Game 4, down 3-0. Like Dave Roberts making a steal,
just barely beating a tag from an incredible Jose Posada throw. Winning
that game, just introducing enough doubt into NYY [New York Yankees] that suddenly a team
that always lost couldn't lose. And finally, after decades of infamous
Certainly, personnel-wise, Caps have a lot to think about. Cap
space, age, prospects (or lack of them), injuries - all of these will
figure into what they do going forward. There are no easy answers. I
personally think that the main thing they really lacked this year was a
true reliable second scoring threat. At times in the season I thought
Brouwer was that (pardon me, where was HE in the playoffs? - I thought
he filled the big body tough guy in front of the net role). We never
will know what a healthy Erat might have contributed, but the second
line of Ribeiro-Brouwer-Fehr didn't seem to be much of a factor.
After their horrid start, this team could have packed it in and
gone home early. They steadied and got some puck luck to get into the
playoffs, and whatever is said about why, PK-ed a lot of minutes in the
playoffs to get it to a game 7. There was one factor that was true the
whole season; when they had a lot of PKs early, the offense rarely got
on track during the game. I saw that happening against an effective
Rangers shot-blocking D.
Final thought: did Rangers crash the net and play tough around the
net to win game 6? As I recall, it was a fortunate shot from the point
that fell in that made the difference.
No magic for the Caps. [I'll write a bit more about magic and the Stanley Cup later this month.]