The title of this post is what the announcer at NHL games in San Jose would say (with a growl in his voice) when the visiting team was called for a penalty. It's what keeps running through my head as I think about our game against the Sharks on the 26th (mainly because of their name, rather than the number of penalties that were called on us... though if I remember correctly, there were a few).
I was supposed to be the floater in this game, but Derek volunteered to float instead. That left me, Doug, and Gerry for the second line. Since Doug likes Left Wing and Gerry likes Right, I said to Doug while Gerry was out on the ice warming up, "I guess I'll play Center." I don't win many faceoffs at Center, but I'm fairly decent at standing the other guy up (leaving the puck for one of the Wings), and I'm actually very good at skating end to end—going in strong on O and getting back on D—as Centers should. When Gerry came to the bench, I leaned over to tell him my faceoff strategy so he'd know that the puck would often just be sitting there, but before I could open my mouth, Gerry said, "I'll Center this line," and Doug replied, "I should hope so!" With that settled, I moved to Right Wing.
The Sharks are in the upper division, and playing them reminded me of playing the Toasters in the Monday night league at Ice Oasis (well, if the Toasters had ever had a full bench). They were fast and good and really knew how to use their points—which meant that I actually had something useful to do as a winger when we were on defense. I think on the Galaxy there's a bias towards having the wings drop down low to help out the D, but since the teams I played on in Calfornia preferred a zone defense (and an unclogged slot), I'm more used to staying between the blue line and the hash marks when we're in the defensive zone. If the D I'm covering dashes in, I follow him only up to a point—the point at which our D picks him up—and then I get back up high to cover the forward who's taken his place. The score might not have reflected it, but I felt like I disrupted a lot of plays and challenged the Sharks a bit when they were on O, especially in the second and third periods. (Except for a goal that was scored in the first 30 seconds, the second period was scoreless.) The Sharks seemed to expect that someone would cover them on the points and didn't make me feel like I was irrelevant, which was another confirmation that I was doing the right thing (and doing it at least middling-well).
I had lamented the sorry state of the ice (apparently caused by the high temperatures outside) in the middle of the first period, mainly because I couldn't seem to get any momentum going in the slush, but Derek said he thought it would hurt the Sharks more than us. By the middle of the second period I knew he was right—the slow, slushy, deeply-rutted ice frustrated them to a greater degree than it did us. As Derek described it, it was like the Celtics installing new nets to throw off the timing of teams known for their fast breaks (because the ball would drop through the new net more slowly). The slower ice definitely seemed to be interfering with the Sharks' timing; forechecking really started working in the second period, and we were able to break up several passes. Eric (who was playing Left Wing on the first line and whom I ended up on the ice with due to a weird line change) even got a scoring chance from a successful forecheck of ours.
No matter how right Derek was, by the third period I was back to lamenting the condition of the ice. In that period I found myself melting an indentation in it twice—once because I was tripped (but didn't get a call), and once because I was so aggressive on the forecheck that I collided with the guy whose pass I was trying to break up—and I couldn't get up because my socks stuck instead of sliding. Talk about throwing off your timing! I ended up causing a teammate to go offsides when it took me several seconds to get back on my skates.
Even the velcro ice and the 9-0 loss couldn't dampen my good mood at the end of the game, however. There's something about feeling like you're just a half-step behind a faster, more skilled team that's exhilarating rather than defeating—for me at least, and apparently for a few others who also said they had fun and thought we'd played well. It really did remind me of playing in the Monday night league at Ice Oasis, where I certainly was one of the less-skilled players, but where I felt like just playing against better players raised the level of my game, too.
Posted by Lori in Galaxy ~ Summer 2005 | August 4, 2005·10:07 PM