GDB 64.0: PERFECT STORM
I started the last GDB with a confession and I feel the need to do it again. Mustering the energy to write another GDB is getting more difficult as we creep near the finish line. There are some days that are easier than others and of course I still love hockey. I still very much enjoy going to the games and I wouldn’t still be doing the writing thing if I didn’t… it’s just that finding the time and energy to do a good job with these previews and reviews is growing more difficult. 72 games is allot! I’ve been thinking about writing a full article on what this very topic, but for now I will simply say it’s a grind.
I have been experiencing conflict when it comes to writing these previews. On one hand, I want them to be informative and actually help readers feel like they know a little more about the opposition. I want them to be consistent in a manner that you, the reader, can always rely on similar information on game day. On the other hand… I’ve been feeling boring. Plateaued. Predictable. It’s really a grind to write about topics (or write in a manner) you find dry. When you are spewing numbers about some teams home power play percentage vs. their road, you start to wonder… “Does anyone really care?” – “Is this information that readers actually find meaningful?” – “Do I find it meaningful??”…
Last night I sat down to write our traditional pregame… and frankly… I just couldn’t. In that moment, it became work. I had just finished running around the city doing chores, making dinner, doing my dishes, laundry, and gotten out of a relaxing shower. “Time to turn on the TV and unwin… oh right, tomorrow is a game day – cool – I suppose I should spend two hours doing that instead.”
I say this not for sympathy, but because it feels really good to talk about. I’ve brought the blogging thing upon myself after all. It would be pretty self indulgent to throw a one man “pity party” for a situation the man put himself in willingly. I love hockey. That’s pretty much all there is to know. The struggle comes when I remember I always said I would quit the day it became “work”.
It’s easy writing when it’s about your feelings, opinions, or experiences. So today’s GDB isn’t our usual version. There is no talk about the Warriors… or the game…. and let’s be honest – the vast majority of you who read these previews don’t actually tune in to the road games via the online stream. You’re busy. You have things to do that don’t involve watching a sub HD internet broadcast from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan on your Wednesday evening.
Today’s preview is simple. There are no graphics. There’s nothing but words. It’s just me talking about the Hurricanes recent streak and a jumble of thoughts associated with it. I’m calling it a a Game Day Monobloug – and you know what – it was fun to write.
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It’s been awhile since this Hurricanes team last headed out on a substantial road trip, and while the road hasn’t been as friendly as the Enmax has, I can’t help but think this trip is coming at a good time. It’s been over a month since the team last went on a long swing outside of Alberta, and thanks to a strong effort Saturday, they are doing so with some positive energy.
The last few weeks haven’t been the greatest for the Hurricanes. It’s been discussed here, on Twitter, as well as this past week’s 100 Percent Podcast. The team was in a funk.
Before the recent struggles – the Canes had not faced serious adversity this season. Sure there were a few bumps in the road, but they (the bumps) never seemed to shake the core foundations. Lethbridge lost five straight games prior to winning Saturday, the majority of which were on home ice (a building in which they seemed almost undefeatable), and I couldn’t help but feel things were sliding a little. Tension was in the air. There was a visible frustration and exasperation on the part of the players and to a degree the coaches as well.
The offense turned streaky, they were getting out shot, out chanced, and in virtually all five losses, out played. Things started to slide around the time the team lost Giorgio Estephan and clinched a playoff berth. Justified or not, you could see them lose their winning edge. The will to win wasn’t what it had been and part of me feels as if they were waiting for Estephan and Gutierrez to come back and fix things. When you start getting scored on in the opening minutes of consecutive games, it illustrates a lack of initial intensity and that’s exactly what we saw.
I believe Peter Anholt did a good job of summarizing these things in a few recent interviews. Pete talked about the team needing to find it’s game again before the playoffs and stressed that that was more important than anything else right now. He noted that this is a young, inexperienced team that is still in need of seasoning. In other words, they are still learning to be true winners and the recent slide has potential to be a great thing… or a bad thing. It’s all what they make it.
I couldn’t agree more and said as much in GDB 63.0 on Saturday.
“Cracks exist in their team game. Cracks that can be fixed, but cracks that exist none-the-less. Those cracks can either be a good thing or a bad thing. They can work as a galvanizing force that pulls the team together and helps re-elevate their game ultimately bringing them to another level – or – they can be divisive and pull the team apart.”
The team is only one game separated from a losing streak so I think it’s fair to ask, are we out of the woods? Were we really in the woods to begin with? IF we were in the woods, how do we keep away from them moving forward?
I don’t necessarily have the answers to those questions, but I do have thoughts on what to look for in the final 8 games of the season. To me, it’s time to really examine the methodology and gameplay the team exercises. Are they able to implement and execute a gameplan for 60+ minutes? Are they able to lock things down in the final moments of close games? Are they out chancing and outshooting their opponents? Are puck battles being won along the boards? Can they remain committed to a defense-first gameplan if the situation calls for it?
If we see good signs on those fronts, I will have no concerns about the team heading into the first round. If, however, we see the team play easily excitable, undisciplined and uncharacteristically “loose” hockey down the stretch (think the Regina game), then the red flags will be waving.
The beauty for the Hurricanes is I really believe they control their own destiny here. Even without Estephan or Gutierrez in the lineup, I’m confident they have the horses to play a consistent, structured team game – the kind of play-style that equates to wins in the postseason.
Let’s put aside the “ends” (wins and losses) and look closely at the “means” in the coming week.
As far as the injury front is concerned – it’s a mixed bag. The good news is that Estephan is slated to return on this Eastern road swing. Anholt has twice mentioned the 8th as a target date and sooner is a possibility. If that’s the case, Giorgio should find himself in roughly 6 or more regular season games – plenty of time for him to regain any lost “sharpness”.
The bad news is the long suspected concussion that Gutierrez has been suffering from was also confirmed by Anholt. Gutierrez has no time table for a return and it’s something that he and the team are monitoring closely. The players, coaches, management and fans can do nothing but wait and hope Justin is able to make a full recovery. At least for the foreseeable future, it looks like Lethbridge will need to learn to accept life without their second line centre.
That brings me to my ultimate point for today. All of the factors we mentioned up to this point have combined to hit the team as a “perfect storm.” Some of them are of their own design and others are as straightforward as being dealt a bad hand. They clinched the playoffs, took their foot off the gas, and lost their top two centres. Additionally, they have also been dealing with a multitude of minor injuries that the general public isn’t aware of. This team is battered and bruised. Taking a step back was probably a foregone conclusion.
I think it was/is the manner of the backwards step that has put pause in the minds of some.
All that, combined with their relative lack of experience when it comes to winning, culminated in a rough stretch of games. The win Saturday isn’t enough to tell us how they will weather the rest of the storm, but another tonight would surely help restore any shaken confidence.
Game time is 6pm. Join us on Twitter as we stream the game via WHL Live.
What do you think? Who are you excited to watch tonight and what will be the outcome. Comment below.
Don’t forget to check out the sponsor of all this season’s game day articles, Graham Reimer of Dominion Lending here in Lethbridge. I personally know and vouch for the amazing work he does. If you need any advice or help with a mortgage or want to look into getting one, I cannot say enough good things about Graham and the Mortgage Crusher team.
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