Monday, December 01, 2008
So yesterday afternoon Capsule took to the ice at the new facility at Upper Canada College. Our opponent was a team that has been one of our biggest rivals for years, a rough and tumble bunch with a terrific goalie who we usually beat after a tough battle. Nicest guys in the world, your man always gives you a little tap on the shinpad before the game and wishes you well and then gives you the stick when your back is turned. At the end of the game its handshakes allround, the pricks.
I scored the goal that knocked them out of the playoffs a few years back, less dramatic then it sounds, it was one of those game winning goals that happened early in the game. We've had our share of runins over the years. They had a particularly dirty player who always got increasingly dangerous as the games worn on. A couple of years back he took a run at one of the few pure athletes on our team, a guy who once played in the CFL. The result was predictable. And last season he was involved in one of my favourite Capsule moments when with less then a minute left in a game he took a vicious hack at our goalie's glove after he smothered the puck. We're a pretty mild mannered group but buddy was grabbed by one of our defencemen and thrown to the ice and was then punched repeatedly by every one of our guys on the ice. There wasn't much room to get at him but I lucked out and got the back of his head to myself.
His plight was so self inflicted that he got the toss from the game and we were assessed no penalty of any kind and his teammates actually stood apart, so ashamed of him that not one came to his aid.
Hard times have befallen our rivals. They used to be good to beat us once or twice a year. They would catch us on a lazy day and outwork us plain and simple, crashing the net for their goals, outmuscling us for every puck. Last season though we began to handle them fairly easily and this season they were getting their heads handed to them in every game to the point where they are being dropped down a division in a few weeks.
So yesterday afternoon we got what might be our final shot at them and it was obvious from the get go that they were a mess. Shift after shift was spent in their zone and we found that if anything we had too much time.
Early in the game we were in our zone for a moment and then we got control just inside our blueline and one of the guys chipped it out and I was off. Now my typical game is that I am always in the right place and I usually get my share of chances but all of my goals are of the crashing the net/bounce off my ass variety. When I have a breakaway whether it is shinny or a game my thought process is something like this:
Wait a second, how the hell did this happen? Wow these guys are shitty if I'm going in all alone. Keep pumping heart. Don't fail me now. OK, take a look, wow, I am home free. All the time in the world. Lots of people here today. There's Jenn and the kids. Watch Daddy show how its done now.
Ok, nice and easy, take a look, this guy always goes down, fake a shot and then put it upstairs or maybe deke to the backhand. I wonder if I score here will I score tonight? Chicks dig guys who score goals. Its a truism. Just make sure to get it up. Heh heh. Get it up. The puck. Get the puck up. OK so we'll go with that, backhand deke it is, here we go, ok, just relax, fivehole fivehole fivehole fivehole FIVEHOLE FIVEHOLE FIVEHOLE FIVEHOLE ... FUCK!
Then invariably the question from my teammmates as to why I stuffed it right into the goalie's pads. Again.
Because that is my signature move.
What made yesterday all the more galling is that I could have skated in backwards I had so much time (if only I could skate backwards) and when I went fivehole the puck actually slid into the net. Somehow the ref did not see this and when it was pointed out to him that the puck was in the net he mumbled something about stacking the pads and net off the moorings and I could just see that I wasn't going to get this goal, goddamnit.
Later on I gave a guy a two hander for old times sake and that made it a little better. That's my other signature move.
We filled them in despite playing our worst game of the season. Its hard to play hard and well when you can essentially do whatever you want however you want whenever you want. Its like when you date somebody with no self esteem. Boredom sets in quickly, you start trying to see what you can get away with and then it ends badly.
The City of Toronto runs all kinds of programs for kids and its really terrific. My oldest daughter played soccer last summer, both of the older kids have taken swimming and in the new year they will take skating. Presently my oldest is taking ballet.
I usually take her to these evening activities and I enjoy it because it gives me a half hour to relax with a book so I was a little dismayed a few weeks back when the boy proclaimed that he was going to go to ballet also. He had gone a few weeks previous and sat on the stage and watched and had apparently enjoyed it immensely but the problem was that that was the only time that spectators were allowed until the big performance of The Nutcracker. We would end up just sitting in the hall waiting for class to be over this time. Trying to explain that to a three year old is impossible; I might as well try to pull a unicorn out my ass. So I told him to get ready and we would go.
So he rushed upstairs and returned in his jeans, sweatshirt and tie. I smiled and asked him if he was sure he wanted to wear his tie and he replied that yes he was very sure, thank you very much, mind your business.
We got our coats on and as he put on our shoes he said, to no one in particular:
I think the girls are going to like my tie.
When we arrived at ballet he gave me his coat and walked over to where a dozen little girls were playing freeze tag. He said not a word, but stood, hands in pocket, tie prominently displayed, so they could be awed by the glory that is he.
Confidence is a funny thing. The boy has it in spades. So do I, truly, with the exception of when its me and the goalie, when I suddenly freeze up every single time.
One would think that professional hockey players would be like the boy but as Oiler fans we only have to look at our friend Raffi Torres to know that this is not the case at all. He is one extreme; Sheldon Souray, I think, is another. When they signed the guy I was flabbergasted at the move but one has to admit that he has really been something else. He has been doing a good job with tough minutes and plenty of them and of course he is producing offensively as well. I have to say I have rarely seen a guy with such immense confidence in himself. A few weeks ago he was talking about his defensive struggles in Montreal and how he was committed to proving the naysayers wrong, that he felt that he could and would do the job and while he makes some mistakes the overall influence he has had this season is overwhelmingly to the good. There are others on this team who seem to have this supreme self confidence, rightly or wrongly - Roloson, Moreau and I would say Hemsky is becoming part of this group. Ales is playing like a man now. Its a beautiful thing to see.
Then there are those who seem to have struggled a bit early on but who have gotten or are getting over their crises of confidence.
Tom Gilbert struggled early on this year as he tried to earn his entire contract in each shift and then you could see his confidence wane as mistakes piled up and he fished a few pucks out of his own net but once he figured it out he began to really come on. Now he is showing why the club decided to sign him to the deal that they did. Smooth with the puck, strong and economical in his own end, his worst games these days are still terrific and pretty well error free.
Shawn Horcoff is another guy who is coming on and in his case I think the confidence that was lacking was more of a physical one. While the play was always moving the right way for him the truth was that while luck was not on his side quite often he wasn't helping things with where he was trying that luck. I think that he is getting comfortable with his shoulder and his fitness and its showing with where he is going to on the ice. And now the points are starting to come. Some of this is luck. Some of it is that its easier to score goals from just outside the paint then it is when you are shooting from just inside the blueline.
Our final example from this past weekend is Brodziak who has taken the job that Cassoulet had a shot at and apparently has decided to make it his own. The youngster had a tough beginning to the season and appeared to miss Glencross terribly. While his old winger tore it up down the highway, playing his game and playing it well against tougher competition, Brodziak, expected to make the same jump, did not and found himself eating popcorn with Stortini, rememebering the good times and wondering what had happened.
Two goals yesterday and a solid weekend overall and I would bet that we will see this young man take off from here. Easy to cheer for this longshot.
As for Cassoulet I would expect that he has had his last shot and young Brule will soon be taking his job, speaking of guys with confidence issues.
Lets hope Brule is more like my boy then like me. ;)
Posted by Black Dog at 2:00 PM