Sunday night I attended my first practice with our new team, the Philadelphia Admirals. I recognized a couple players from the games the Galaxy played against them this summer—most notably Lisa, who I'd spotted early on as the only other regular girl in the league (I never saw the amazingly good UW player and the girl goalie again after our first contest against the Admirals). It turns out that Lisa plays for the Philadelphia Freeze B team and is a certified coach, so she ran the practice.
I can't point to any one drill that was particularly strenous or complicated, but TWO DAYS LATER I AM STILL TIRED. Good lord, I need to get in better hockey shape! There's nothing like three rounds of Russian circles (one forwards, one backwards, and one transitioning), followed by a blueline-and-back, redline-and-back, and goal-line-and-back puck drill, followed by several rounds of skating/racing through cones, followed by a two-man-weave passing drill, followed by a triangle drill, followed by a half-ice 4-on-4 scrimmage to wear you out. (I might have missed something in there; the lack of oxygen and water definitely fogged my brain. For some reason, I never remember that I need *more* water for practices than games, not less.)
Yesterday I was probably more worn out from the 1:30am bedtime/6:30am wakeup and from dehydration than from the skating itself, though today I'm definitely feeling the workout in my hips. Although it made walking around the city with the stroller tough, I actually like the ache—it reminds me that I worked hard, and that I still have a long way to go to be a better hockey player.
Of course, my performance in the drills was an even bigger reminder of how far I have to go than the current ache in my hips. I had this illusion that I could skate backwards...until I had to do those Russian circles. That's when I remembered I'd never really learned how to cross over while going backwards. I can get my feet to *almost* cross, but I can't get them to go all the way. Mostly I just end up wiggling my butt to propel myself. (And when I play D, I usually cheat by turning around and skating forwards most of the time, acting more like a backchecking forward than a proper defenseman. It's why I only play D if no one else can, or if I'm playing down a level.)
Any illusion that I'm speedy also went out the window. By the end of the evening, I felt like I was skating through molasses. Heck, by the *middle* of the evening—when we did the relay race through the cones—I found that I topped out at about third gear. I tried to kick it up a notch for the race back to the goal line, but there was no notch to kick it up to. I realize that I really do need the rest periods between shifts to give my all in a game, and that I could be doing more both on the ice and off to get faster (as well as quicker).
I did the forward Russian circles (our first drill) at a pretty good clip, possibly on the assumption that there would be breaks between the drills where I could catch my breath. With only 9 of us at the practice, though, the breaks were short—there was no line to stand at the back of and whoof air. By the time we got to the cone drills, any speed I'd had was utterly gone. I remarked to Lisa that the cones made good stand-ins for opponents, as I did the same thing when I got near them that I did when I got near other players in a game: namely, slow down to 1/4 speed. She replied, "go full speed! It's practice—don't worry about falling down." Sadly, I was more worried about tripping over the cones because I was too tired to cut than about falling because I'd taken the corners too fast. I kinda wish we'd done that drill when I had more energy, because I would have liked to practice hitting the code course at full speed—and trying to maintain that speed as much as possible. I remember trying this using Al as a cone one time, and it took me several attempts before I could skate at him without slowing down.
The two-man weave drill struck me as really useful, though I only seemed to be able to remember to weave once. After that, I would turn it into a standard skate-down-the-ice-while-passing-back-and-forth drill, to the confusion (and I'm sure dismay) of my passing partner. The first of my two favorite drills was the triangle one, where three of us would take off from the boards in the neutral zone, skate a figure-8 around the cones, and then break into the zone, with the first person going to the left faceoff circle, the second to the right faceoff circle, and the third to the high slot. Lisa would pass to one of us, that person would consider his/her passing options, and the last person to get the puck would shoot on net. (See crappy, self-drawn diagram below.) The hardest part for all of us (except Dan, who got it right away) was figuring out which side of the cones we needed to skate on in order to break into the zone properly. :)
My second favorite drill was the blueline-and-back, redline-and-back, goal-line-and-back puck drill, even though I sucked at the redline-and-back part, which required us to skate backwards with the puck. Actually, that's why I liked it: because it forced me to skate backwards with the puck in a way I'd be likely to do in a game.
Our next practice is next Sunday, and I can't wait. I'm hoping to meet some more players next time, and that Al will be able to come, too. (If he does, we'll probably take turns holding Austen—and as long as we're not working on shooting, we might be able to switch off right out on the ice.) In the meantime, I should probably start working on my stamina. I wonder if vacuuming the house while wearing a 23 lb. toddler on my back, as I did today, will help?
Al, Austen, and I went to the second Admirals practice last night. The hopeful (or hopelessly unrealistic) part of me was thinking that Al would start a drill while I held Austen, and then we'd switch in time for me to finish the drill. The pessimistic (or depressingly realistic) part of me was worried all day about how we were going to pull it off.
The answer was, we didn't. We kind of ended up alternating drills and sitting with/holding Austen, which made for a choppy, crappy practice for both of us. After hurrying back to the stroller after my first drill—backwards Russian circles, during which I fell no less than three times—I was angry, but when I realized I was not going to get the idealized version of the practice that I'd been hoping for, I chilled out and tried to look on the bright side: At least I'd done the Russian circles at speed without worrying about falling. I also got to do one breakout drill, although there was some confusion about how it was supposed to work, and it took several tries to get it right. I'm pretty sure the purpose of the drill was to practice breaking out from a standstill, and then in motion/transition. It involved one set of D on the goal line passing to the Wingers on the boards, who then passed to the Center. The whole forward line would come out together and skate down to the other end, where they would then fling the puck back to the D that broke them out and skate back into the defensive zone for a second breakout. This second breakout would be taken all the way down to the other end, where a second set of defensemen would try to keep the forwards from scoring.
Al got to do the rest of the breakout drills, which was good for him; although it would have been nice to practice breakouts with my new teammates, I understood the mechanics of the drills, having done them several times with the Spitfire. I stood on the bench holding Austen while the drills went on so I could hear what Lisa and Jeff (who was helping Lisa run the practice) were telling everyone about what was going right and what was going wrong. Jeff made the point that one of the biggest mistakes you can make (and one I'm usually guilty of) is to try to make the breakout pass too quickly, before you have control of the puck, because it usually results in a turnover. He then mentioned that to make really hard, flat-on-the-ice passes, you should roll your stick over as you release the puck. It was something I'd noticed long ago but forgotten, so it was a good tip.
At a break between drills, I said to Jeff, "you're not going to be playing with us this season, are you?" Lisa responded, "I wish! He could be our ringer." Jeff then said, "I think you'd want someone better than me for your ringer." Um, no, actually, we wouldn't. Or at least, I wouldn't. In my opinion, a ringer doesn't do a team any real good unless s/he can play well with others on the team—and that means s/he has to be only slightly better than the rest of the players, really good at adjusting his/her level of play (like Rob Genovese was), or willing to pass rather than shoot. Either way, the goal of a ringer should be to make his/her teammates better, not just to score. (Again, this is only my opinion, but I've played with many upper level players, and I know which ones made the game more fun and which ones made it less. Winning, IMHO, isn't everything.)
I spent a lot of time holding Austen in the second half of the practice (and consequently got to say hello to several of my former Galaxy teammates as they filed past on their way to the locker room—their practice was scheduled directly after ours); the few times I did get back on the ice, I could hear him wailing on the bench, and when I returned his face was all tear-streaked and sad. Needless to say, it was a good hour past his bedtime, and he wanted Mommy.
I got to work on a shooting drill at the end, though by that time my practice flow was so gone—"what flow? there is no flow!"—that I didn't get much out of it. Jeff tried to squeeze in one more shooting tip before the Zamboni came out: namely, to try to get the goalie moving and then tip the puck in on the side that she can't get back to. No need to shoot hard—or even really to shoot at all—just guide the puck in the direction the goalie is moving away from. I actually did this twice against the other goalie, once during the warmup and once during one of the drills, but I found when I tried to do it as a drill, I couldn't make it work. I think it was partly the change in speed, partly the change in goalie, partly some overthinking... and partly that I could hear Austen crying.
In the end, the practice was too short (though it was the same length as last week's), and the only reason I broke a sweat was because I was standing around holding a hot baby in 20 lbs. of hockey gear. As I said to Al in the locker room afterwards, the experiment of parenting while playing hockey was, on the whole, unsuccessful. Hopefully next week we'll either be able to get a babysitter, or I'll go alone.
At last Sunday's practice Lisa had mentioned that she'd seen the Flyers do that breakout drill that we'd found so confusing, and a lightbulb went off in my head: Flyers practices are OPEN. I've been to a Kings practice, and I'd always wanted to go to a Sharks practice, but I had a full-time job when we were living in the Bay Area and could never make the Sharks' practice times. At the moment I'm a stay-at-home mom looking for fun, inexpensive ways to break up my (and Austen's day), and what better way than to go watch an NHL practice? I figured Austen might get a kick out of it, and I might learn something, so on Monday we drove over to the Flyers Skate Zone in Vorhees, NJ and watched about an hour and fifteen minutes of a fairly intense practice session.
The very first drill the Flyers did was the aforementioned breakout drill, so I got to see how it really worked. I think it would have been helpful for the Admirals if we'd done the basic breakout drill first, because that's what this one was based on. The first part of the drill should not have been executed from a standstill, as I assumed (and as we did it); instead, it was a standard, D passes to D, who passes to Wing, who passes to Center (who was curling down towards the D and then up alongside the Wing) breakout, with everyone moving. The second part involved the forwards turning the play around *as soon as they entered the offensive zone* and passing back to the D, who were not back at the goal line anymore, as I'd assumed they should be, but up between the hash marks and the tops of the faceoff circles. This meant that the second breakout/regroup happened roughly between the faceoff circles and the blueline, depending on which set of forwards and defensemen happened to be doing it.
Anyway, that was about the only drill I immediately recognized and parsed; the rest were a bit too complicated for me to follow, mainly because they were being started from both ends of the ice and then crossing in the middle. For example, there was one drill where the forwards lined up along the boards (i.e., on both sides, making two lines of forwards), and the D lined up in the middle. I could see each end of the D line starting the drill by skating backwards into the closest zone and taking a pass from an assistant coach, but I never did manage to track the forwards. At any point in time there were 6 players skating, two assistant coaches passing, the head coach blowing the whistle to send the next two lines, and the each group of three passing the other in the neutral zone. I think. What I ended up paying attention to instead of the paths of the drills were individual player efforts: The way one guy stickhandled, or shot, or skated. That's when I noticed Forsberg.
Somehow I'd missed the news that the Flyers had acquired Peter Forsberg, but his face and style were unmistakable. It was amazing to see how hard he worked during practice—like every drill was an actual game situation. Very inspiring. It made me want to practice more myself, enough that I went out and hired a new babysitter on Wednesday so I'd have time to go to open hockey sessions at Penn once a week.
I went to another Flyers practice on Thursday, but this one appeared to be optional; the first and second lines weren't there, and neither was the head coach. It looked more like a skate-n-shoot session than an actual practice, though that was educational, too: I got to watch a few of the D practice their slapshots (something I'd like to learn to do properly), as well as a few of the forwards work on faceoffs.
On Friday the new babysitter started, and after a few hours of hanging out with her and Austen, I drove over to the Penn ice rink for the open hockey session. Only four of us showed up (none goalies), which is what I'd expected, and why I'd brought four pucks with me. I dumped all four pucks on the ice, adding to the two that were out there, and mostly worked on skating as hard as I could up and down the ice and around the faceoff circles while carrying a puck. I also passed to myself off the boards both forehand and backhand, only shooting on the goal after I'd done a complete loop.
It was HOT in the rink—basically the same temperature as it was outdoors, 75°—and there was a layer of fog covering the ice. It probably would have been perfect for an Ice Capades performance (no fog machine necessary), but for someone doing skating and shooting drills, it was decidedly too warm. I was sweating like crazy, I could feel my face burning, and (probably due more to the cold I acquired recently than the air temperature) my breathing was a bit labored. I ended up passing for a few minutes with one of the two guys who were there and working on my slapshot as well (still feeble, but better than it used to be), but mostly I worked on skating, puckhandling, and shooting on the move. After about 45 minutes I recognized that I could no longer skate at full speed for more than a second or two and decided to quit. Better to quit than to coast.
Apparently those 45 minutes of skating hard were good enough, because I could feel the workout in my butt and legs all day on Saturday, and I can still feel the slapshot work in the crook of my left elbow (I shoot left-handed). There's another Admirals practice tonight, at which we will be scrimmaging against my old team, the Galaxy; hopefully the practices I saw this week and the one I did on my own will inspire me to skate hard, pass hard, and shoot hard—in short, to work hard—just like Forsberg.
Performed fairly crappily in the Admirals practice on Sunday night; for some reason, I couldn't take a pass to save my life. I'd lose sight of the puck every time it got near me, and it would end up going between the heel of my stick and my feet. Fart.
On a positive note, I was able to get some good advice from Jeff (who hurt his back in last week's post-practice scrimmage, which we didn't stay for, and who came to watch this week's practice). After practicing my passing at open hockey last week using his method of turning my stick over to keep the puck flat on the ice, I found I was having trouble lifting the puck on shots. Of course, I'd never really understood what I was doing to lift the puck in the first place; it just happened randomly about 30% of the time (usually during warmups rather than in games). So I asked Jeff if he could tell me what I needed to do to lift the puck. He said something that I'd heard before—namely, that I should point my stick where I wanted the puck to go—but something about the way he phrased it, and the way he demonstrated it, seemed to click this time. I was able to lift the puck immediately and consistently while we stood there shooting against the boards.
Of course, when I got back on the open ice and tried my new technique in front of the net, I couldn't lift consistently (or even regularly). I started to think that my problem wasn't so much in the actual shooting technique, but in the fact that I was slowing down and overthinking my shot. I tested this theory by skating as hard as I could at the net and then, without stopping to think about the puck or the net or the shot, I just let loose in stride. Damned if that puck didn't find the back crossbar of the net, high up. It was also the hardest shot I think I've ever made. So there's something to practice when I go back to UPenn on Friday: shooting with authority, and at speed.
The other thing I learned from Jeff that night came after a shift in our scrimmage with the Galaxy. He leaned down from his seat above the bench and said, "after you make the pass, skate hard and get back in the play!" I guess I hadn't realized it, but I tend to wait and watch things develop for a second or two before kicking it, especially on faceoffs and when passing from the boards. Here's a photo of me doing it in a Galaxy game against the Admirals this summer:
after winning a battle for the puck along the boards, I flip it to Matt Z, who's in motion; I actually remember waiting for a second to see if he'd catch the pass (he did) before I took off myself.
On faceoffs I mainly stand there for a sec to see which way the puck is going to go before committing; I'm still not sure this is a bad thing, but it certainly looks that way in the photos.
the first photo is just before the puck drops; the second photo is just after. notice that the Admirals (I think that's Dan next to me) are in motion already, and I've just made a slight glide backwards.
Ironically, I did the opposite of waiting to see which way the puck would go when I was playing Center for our breakout drills early in the practice. That is, I curled too soon to one side or the other. (We three forwards were lined up at the blueline, with the two D at the goal line. Lisa would pass to one of the D, and we'd skate in, with the Wingers going to the hashmarks along the boards, and the Center curling to whichever side the D passed to.) I thought I was going straight and deep and watching to see which way the play would go, but Lisa said I wasn't; after telling me not to commit so soon a couple times, she finally halted the drill and demonstrated for me. I had thought I was doing what she demonstrated already, but I guess not.
The only way I could think to change what I was doing was to skate in slower, so the D would have time to figure out what they wanted to do, and to make sure I stayed between the two faceoff circles. When it was our turn again, I took off slower from the blueline and skated MUCH deeper into the zone than I thought I should really go (almost into the crease), but it seemed to produce the desired effect: I curled around parallel with the Winger just as the pass came to him. So there you go—I guess there was room for improvement.
Unfortunately, now my mind is back on passing. I was hoping to send this post in a positive direction, but I can't stop thinking about the hole in my stick. Why oh why was I missing so many passes on Sunday? Why did so many passes go between my stick and my feet, or require me to skate over to the boards to pick up the puck? Why can I not vary my speed properly so as to take the puck on my stick every time, regardless of how accurately it was passed? (I know it can be done: I've seen not only the pros do it, but the Drexel men's hockey team do it, too.) <sigh>
I've now played two games with the Admirals, and we may not be winning, but we are all learning—and BOY, AM I HAVING A GOOD TIME. The enthusiasm of my early hockey career is totally back. It's fun to be figuring out the fundamentals on the one hand, and playing all-out and feeling like I'm contributing on the other. I've yet to score any goals, but I feel like I *could*; in Saturday's game against the Moose, for example, I had a couple shots on goal and at least two passes through the crease. The speed of the game was also totally within my limits (my three-line limits, anyway—too bad we only had two :).
Some highlights from our first two games:
Some thoughts for next time:
Last week's game against the Shock was less satisfying than our first two, for a number of reasons—not least of which was that I hardly sweated at all. (Last game I skated so hard that my hips and butt ached for three days, and my hair and gear were soaked when I came off the ice.) In this game I did the most skating in the first period, when Jeff's absence (he had to go buy a half shield before the refs would allow him to play) left us with two forward lines and five D. In the second and third periods, however, a couple wonky line changes, a penalty kill, and the fact that we had three Wing pairs meant that I skated significantly less.
Of course, when I *was* skating, I wasn't really skating that well. I was back to being tentative and wobbly instead of confident, agressive, and relatively accurate. I'm pretty sure I know the reason, but I've been reluctant to talk about it because it's embarrassingly self-centered (as if the rest of this blog isn't!) and, I think, probably demonstrates a decided flaw in my character. It's basically the same factor I described in The Psychological Impact of Passing: namely, that if it appears that my teammates have confidence in me, *I* am confident, and I do everything I can to prove that I deserve their confidence. If it appears that I *don't* have their confidence, I'm tentative and useless.
When the "standard lines" for the season were first distributed early in the season, I must admit to a bit of heartbreak when I saw that I was on the 4th line. Hardly the vote of confidence I was looking for, even though our captain suggested that sometimes the first line would get more ice time, and sometimes the fourth line would. Even if I were able to follow this logic, ice time isn't really the point for me—although I do admit in this game against the Shock it *was* an issue, since I sat so much in the second and third periods. Rather, value and purpose are. Better to say, "we're really counting on the fourth line to be the checking line/to tire our opponents out/to score/whatever" than to pretend that in some games we'll get more time on the ice than the first line. At least then I could view my spot in a positive light: "I'm on the fourth line because I'm a good checker!" or "Wow, I can't wait to get on the ice and WEAR MY OPPONENTS OUT!" I'm being totally serious here; I know that this kind of management-by-inspiration works for me both on and off the ice. I've also seen it work with kids: When my mom and I used to coach girls' softball, we'd make sure to tell each girl why we wanted her at the position she was in, so she'd (a) understand her job, and (b) realize that her position was incredibly important to the team. Right field wasn't the place we dumped the worst fielders, for example. It was where we put the best fly-ball catchers when the other team had good left-handed hitters in the lineup.
So anyway, back to the impact of... well, confidence on my confidence. :) In our second game, we were relatively short on players, starting the game with two forward lines and a floater. Surprisingly, I was placed on the first line. I took this as the vote of confidence I was looking for, and I skated my heart out. I didn't score, but I played quite well, and as I mentioned, I came off the ice exhausted, sore, and soaked—not to mention exhilarated. I probably shouldn't have taken my move to the third line (of three) in our latest game as a demotion; it probably just made more sense to put me there given the players we had available. I couldn't help feeling my shoulders slump, however. See what I mean? Character flaw. I should be giving my best all the time, regardless of where in the lineup I am, what position I play, and with whom I skate. If the captain or my teammates won't say, "Lori, you're on the third line, and we really need you to go out there and give 'em hell so that they can't use their deeper bench against us" or something else equally inspiring, I should be inventing my own personal mission instead of feeling sad and sorry for myself.
I think the remaining reason this game was less satisfying were some comments made, both to me and by me, on the bench. I snapped at Chip unnecessarily at one point when he screamed at me to get off the ice—and I was already at the boards right in front of him, doing just that. I should have kept my snippy comments to myself; sorry about that, Chip. Two comments made to me I think were meant to be constructive (and might even have been a vote of confidence in that the commenter obviously thought I'd know what to do with the information), but still served to make me feel like crap in one case, and confused in the other. One was made after I took a very nice pass from Rich as I skated into the zone and then wasted it by firing a shot a little wide; the comment was, "You have to control that! You had plenty of time to skate it in!" Yep, I probably did, and I'd already excoriated myself for not taking another stride and shooting as well as I know I can (I've been practicing!). I think I just panicked a little, since in seasons past I tended to skate in *too* close and never get the shot off at all.
The other comment happened after the Center on our line (it rotated, because we only had two Centers for three Wing pairs) chased after a puck in the corner on the left, which would normally be my job. When I saw our Center go, I immediately went to the slot and looked for a pass (as I said I would do). Apparently the Right Wing also did this, lining up a bit behind me. The comment to me on the bench was, "When I go to the corner like that, you have to go to the other corner behind the net and look for a pass. You can't both go to the net." Well, OK, fair enough: If you want to set up a low triangle, I have no objections. I'm not sure it was the most constructive comment to make to me on the bench, however, especially if you're not also going to make it to the Right Wing. The triangle only makes sense when there are THREE people to execute it. Two players do not a triangle make. That said, if I see that Center go to the corner again, and I'm the second player into the zone, I'll set up behind the net and look for the pass (and fervently hope that the Right Wing goes to the net). Given that in our game against the Moose we almost never had anyone in front of the net, I kinda think that getting someone there should be our priority, even though I know that the triangle is a good play and can lead to scoring opportunities. I guess I just don't have a lot of faith that we know how to execute it properly yet.
OK, enough moaning and groaning. In summary: I need to shut up, perk up, and put up the points—and not let the lineups or the fuckups get me down.
While I was busy agonizing over the underlying reasons for my crappy performance in our game against the Shock, my teammates were busy mulling over more specific failures of their own. Josh claimed credit (or blame?) for the fourth and fifth goals against us—and thus the entire loss—but Dan wouldn't let that stand. He wanted at least a share of the blame for the fourth goal.
I didn't talk much about specific game events in my last post, so I neglected to mention that Dmitry scored a goal* (yay, Dmitry!), and that I was at least partly responsible for one of the goals scored against us (and this is where I join in the self-flagellation that Josh and Dan initiated via e-mail). The incident I'm thinking of was one in which I had an excellent opportunity to steal the puck from the pointman and have a breakaway in the other direction. In lieu of that rosy scenario, I instead failed to execute a proper poke-check and, in the process, left the point both uncovered and in possession of the puck. Because of my failure to clear the zone (much less get a breakaway), the puck stayed in, and we were scored on a few seconds later. Do I get a 2nd assist for that?
* It's important to note that this goal, and at least three others in this game, were scored AGAINST OUR OPPONENTS. I want to make this clear because we have a dismaying—but nevertheless somewhat hilarious—habit of scoring goals on ourselves.
I know I'm a few games behind on my updates; I really did plan to write about the last three games, and I even had post titles and partial paragraphs in my head. I just never got them down, and now I feel like those game summaries are blocking all future ones. Luckily, Jeff is in Iraq for work for a couple weeks—well, I guess the being in Iraq part isn't very lucky, but the part where he asked me for details of last night's game is, because it made me sit down and write a summary. Here it is:
We got our first real snow of the season last night, and although the roads were pretty clear (well-salted), only 7 of us plus our backup Goalie, Brian, showed up. Mifflin called Freeland from the locker room to see where he was, and it turned out that he'd thought the game was on Tuesday. He showed up about halfway through the first period.
We got two referees to come out, but there was no scorekeeper, so we did 20-minute running periods instead of 15-minute stop time. With such a limited bench, people just yelled out their position when they came off the ice and whoever was rested enough went back out. As expected, Lisa was on the ice a LOT, trying to make up for how tired the rest of us were.
The score remained 0-0 for most of the first period, despite the fact that we were in the defensive zone for most of the time. I think because we were all tired and trying to conserve energy, we tended to play position more rather than chase the puck as usual. By the end of the first period, however, the score was 2-0 Galaxy. I believe one of the goals was a weird one that ricocheted off several pads before going in.
We didn't get very much going in the offensive zone for most of the game, though we did have several chances at good breakouts... most of which we didn't capitalize on. I felt like I was open, in motion, and with my stick on the ice several times but never got a breakout pass; instead the D would fling the puck to an empty spot in the neutral zone or Lisa would turn around and skate the puck behind the net before passing to one of the D, who passed to the other D... etc. Maybe I wasn't as open as I thought I was? Maybe I didn't look like a viable target? Maybe I'm not trustworthy as a pass receiver? I'm not sure—I should ask. I know I need to turn towards the boards instead of the slot when Mifflin passes up the boards; as a lefty who likes to face the passer, having my stick toward the slot feels more natural, but Mifflin always sends the puck behind me. Perhaps glueing my skates and legs to the boards would help, as I could stop the puck with my body if not my stick.
Anyway, Josh was a maniac on the ice and totally deserves the Molson #1 star for his speed and determination; he probably accounted for 80% of our shots, and he definitely accounted for our only goal. That one was phenomenal; Chip had just come on for Lisa when the puck floated out to the blue line, practically at his feet. He kept it in, saw Josh down low, and fired the puck at him. Josh one-timed it perfectly and sent it over the goalie's far shoulder and into the net. So beautiful.
Chip deserves star #2, IMHO, for getting over his fear of D and playing the position quite well. He went from avoiding it at all costs to volunteering to go on for the next D who came off. He also had a couple shots on goal while playing up, including a breakaway. Lisa was probably star #3 for managing to be everywhere at once.
One ugly note: Freeland, while playing D, did a great job of standing Eric Day (Galaxy Center) up along the boards when Eric carried the puck in, but Eric felt like he was being held and tried to push Freeland off. Eric ended up hitting Freeland rather hard in the face cage, and what looked like a fight ensued. Both players were sent to the box, but Freeland argued the call rather vehemently and was ejected within moments of sitting down. He continued to argue, and one of the refs said that the game would not continue until he left the ice (keep in mind that the clock was still running). Freeland eventually skated off, arguing all the way. He says that the ref who escorted him off told him to "shut the fuck up", which I didn't hear; all I heard was his response, which was, "YOU shut the fuck up, ya douchebag!" At that point he was given a game misconduct and a suspension for abuse of official, and we were back down to 7. I couldn't hear Eric from where I was on the bench, but I did hear one of the refs say to him, "keep that up, and you'll get another 2 minutes." Of course, at that point there were only 2 minutes 43 seconds left in the game, so it's not like it really mattered.
We ended up losing 5-1, with Adam (Galaxy Right Wing)
cherrypicking being benignly opportunistic right to the end. I was doing a bit of cherrypicking myself in the third period, but as I mentioned, I never got a pass, so it didn't do much good. The forechecking did, though; I managed to knock a couple guys off the puck, and I caused an intentional offsides once when Bill (Galaxy D) shot the puck on net from the neutral zone to avoid having me steal it. I'd blocked enough of his view that he apparently didn't notice that two or three of his teammates were still inside the blue line.
So, even though we lost, we actually acquitted ourselves pretty well considering our limited numbers. Chip gave a good summary in the locker room after the game: "Here's what I learned tonight: Play tired if you can -- you're more likely to conserve your energy and play position!"
In an effort to get a certain former teammate to stop harrassing me over AIM, I promise never to use the term "cherrypicking" or "cherrypicker" to refer to anyone or anything other than (a) my fantasy football league (which is called cherrypickers), or (b) myself. Since said former teammate seems to think the word "cherrypicker" is a slur, I will stop trying to convince him that unless the context indicates otherwise, I'm using the term synonomously with "benign opportunist" and just use the term "benign opportunist" instead.
Of course, all bets are off when I finally start my own team, probably sometime after my 40th birthday. At that point, everyone on the team will justifiably be called a Cherrypicker.
I'm sure the format of this post will only be amusing to the product management, marketing, and PR types at my old company, none of whom are likely to be reading this, but I'm going to press on anyway.
+ I was put on a line with Diaz, with whom I felt I had chemistry from our first practice together, and it resulted in some great passes. He has a knack for being exactly where I hope he'll be.
- I was minus like 100. (OK, maybe that's an exaggeration; I think the final score was something like 8-6, and I was definitely on the bench for one power play goal).
+/- I walked onto the ice with one terrycloth skateguard still on, causing a spectacular fall on my part and much hilarity on the parts of my teammates and the referees. The funny part for me was that I saw the black skateguard covering my skate as I stuck my foot out, so I knew the fall was coming—I'd just already shifted my weight and couldn't stop it. I immediately rolled over and stuck the offending skate into the air so Watson could pull the skateguard off for me; I felt him tug and thought he'd gotten it, but apparently he was laughing too hard to get a good grip on it. When I tried to get up, of course the guard was still there, and I fell AGAIN. This time I waited on my stomach while Mifflin (who is on the IR but came to watch—and keep score) pulled it off for real. I've watched many a player come onto the ice with one skateguard on, and I can testify to how wonderfully hilarious it is, so I'm glad I was able to entertain.
+ My teammates FINALLY caught on to Adam's style of play (why it took them so long, when I've been talking about it here, in the locker room, and on the bench since I first joined the Admirals, is beyond me; I know I'm considered the worst player on the team, but I can still offer some useful scouting information, guys!) and formulated a Plan for dealing with it.
- Despite The Plan, Adam was still open most of the time.
+/- I made it my personal mission to stay on Adam whenever we were on the ice together, even if it meant getting out of position. (I did try not to foul up the D, however.) This generally translated into *not* setting at the faceoff (because Adam stands back about 5-10 feet from the hashmarks and also does not set) and never looking for a breakout pass myself when he was on the ice. I didn't care if my team had possession; if Adam was forechecking, I stayed in defensive mode—and tried to stay between him and the puck carrier. On the plus side, this dedication meant that I was around to lift Ad's stick and bump him out of the slot when our D were busy with the other two forwards. On the minus, it meant that when the puck popped out to my side on a faceoff in the neutral zone and I could have had an easy breakaway, I let it go and waited for someone else to pick it up (no one did, at first; everyone just stood around and yelled, "Lori!"). There was no way I was going to go for the puck and then have someone knock me off it and pass up to Adam, who I'd left standing up at our blueline. (I guess for me this is still somewhat of a positive, though I'm sure my teammates thought I was totally nuts, negligent, or just plain stupid.)
- I got called off the ice by Lisa (so that Rich could go on) in the final 30 seconds of the game, when we'd already pulled the goalie and had 6 men (including Jeff) on the ice, and we were down by 2. It wasn't as annoying as when Mattias SCREAMED at me to get off over the summer, but it was disappointing nonetheless. It's true that Rich did not get enough ice time during the game, but that's mostly because Lisa and Jeff killed most of our penalties, and for some reason we rested the D when my line was penalty-killing. IMHO, we should have gone with three forwards and 1 D whenever the first line was on the PK—and especially when a D was in the box.
+ Diaz scored a great goal off a pretty pass (which, sadly, didn't come from me, but given the way we'd been passing in the rest of the game, I took comfort in the knowledge that IT COULD HAVE).
- Diaz got ejected at the end of the game when Derek managed to provoke him (by harrassing him and then admittedly diving—twice—when Diaz finally lost his cool). I'm not sure what the official call was, but there was much yelling and name-calling between Diaz and Derek.
+/- One of the goals scored against us was by Kitson, who I'd never seen score before. (He probably has, and I just wasn't there to witness it.) I know it contributed to our defeat, but I couldn't help feeling happy for him.
- On my first shift, the opposing Center completely flattened me (first by running into me, and then by falling on top of me) when he turned his head to look for the puck carrier while continuing to skate forward at full speed. Serious case of whiplash resulted. I also have a very deep, very sore stick-shaped bruise on my left arm, but I'm not sure whether this came from the collision with the Center or a later check.
I've been sitting on this post for a couple days in hopes that I'd think of a positive note to end on, but nothing has occurred to me, and I'm too lazy to restructure the whole thing so that it ends with a +. Maybe the plus is that if the Galaxy is starting to play more like a team, so are we—and I think we're more equipped than ever to compete with them. A couple more tweaks and improvements, and we could definitely win.
Posted by Lori at 03:31 PM | Link to This Entry
I should have saved the title "D Girl" for this post, because that's what I played last night: D. Of course, I didn't know when I wrote the actual D Girl post that I was going to be playing D; Josh told me a few minutes before announcing the lines to everyone.
It came about because there was general consensus that one player who occasionally played D would be more useful as a Forward, and with Mifflin out with a knee injury, that left us short on D. I mentioned to Josh that I might be even less useful on D than I was as a Forward, but he said, "no problem, you'll play with me, and you'll be fine." As it turned out, I often didn't play with Josh (because when you're in your own end a lot, it's hard to change both D at once), but I was still fine.
Only one really dumb move comes to mind, and that's when I took the puck back around the net, skated up to the left faceoff circle, looked up, saw three opponents on that side, and still passed up the boards on that side. I should have realized that the right side was probably open and skated toward the middle before scouting out a suitable passing target, or I should have looked up sooner and flung the puck around the boards to the right. In any case, my pass up the left boards resulted in the puck popping out right onto their pointman's stick, and he was able to get a shot off (and, if I remember correctly, either that shot or a subsequent one went in).
There were other minor mistakes, including one where I stepped in to poke check a breaking opponent and missed, which allowed him to beat me handily—something Jeff had just told me on the bench never to do unless I was 100% sure I could get the puck. I said to him when I came off, "did you see me do that thing you'd just finished telling me not to do?" He smiled and said, "yep, but you learned your lesson, didn't you?" I think so, yes. Although my instinct is probably still to try to knock the puck away, I understand now why that's not a good idea when your opponent has momentum in the other direction. If the puck is loose and you both have an equal chance at it going sideways towards the boards or even in the same direction (i.e., back in toward your offensive zone), it's probably worth trying to keep it in. But if your opponent is coming at you—headed toward his offensive zone—the results of not being able to knock him off the puck could be catastrophic. This is why Jeff said only to attempt the poke if you're 100% sure of success. (I knew I had already internalized this, but I'm glad I'm writing it down: it really does cement the idea in my mind.)
I don't think any of my mistakes (other than that first big one) resulted in goals against, which is good; at least I wasn't a total disaster as a Defenseman. And I know I prevented at least one goal at the end when I blocked a slapshot from the point with my ankle. I was (successfully) tying up a Forward in front of the net at the time of impact, so I didn't even see the shot coming (and thus I can't really take credit for a brilliant play). I had another "WHERE THE HELL WERE MY PADS???" moment and had to come off as soon as the play turned around, and I sent Josh out to take my last shift when Dan came off with a minute to go in the game. My foot was swollen this morning, and I can feel a small knob just above the ankle bone, but there's no sign of injury other than the pain.
Oh, and we won 4-3. Yay, us!
I have composed SO MANY hockey blog entries in my head over the past few months, and I've written exactly 0 of them. What the heck is my problem? I honestly had *tons* of observations to make about my skills (which seem to be declining rather than improving), my attitude, the attitudes of my teammates (and how those were affecting my play and my enthusiasm for the game), and the differences between playing here in Philadelphia vs. playing in Northern California.
Here are a few brief summaries of things I'd planned to write about:
The Joy is Back!
Sadly, it only lasted for one game, but on Feb. 4, I came home EXCITED and gabbling about everything that had happened on the ice that night. I felt like I'd really made a difference in the game—even if no one else noticed, *I* knew I'd contributed—and I couldn't wait to tell Al about it. I remember literally jumping up and down as I related the following accomplishments (which I happened to write down):
An Overdose of Exasperation
This post was going to be about how one of my linemates (who isn't particularly talented either) kept getting *extremely* exasperated every time I flubbed a play or didn't do what he wanted me to do, even if what I *did* do was perfectly reasonable. It was so wearing on my psyche that I eventually just stopped doing anything. I would literally stand still while the puck went by me, sometimes even with a flourish of the hand. Of course my passive-agressive point was lost on him; he just assumed I *couldn't* do anything, not that I just wouldn't. He also seemed completely unaware of [a] his own ineptitude, and [b] how much his annoyance was ruining the game for me. [I finally called him on it during the last game of the season—in a rather dramatic fashion—but I'm still not sure he understood why I was so freakin' mad.]
Collision -> Concussion
In a game against the Shock, I had just executed a nice breakout pass and was turning up ice to follow my teammates when I saw an opponent barrelling toward me along the boards. EVERYONE else (except our goalie) was now skating in the opposite direction this guy was, so all of my teammates and the two referees had their backs to us when this speeding hulk of an idiot crashed into me. He knocked me sideways, into the boards, and then kept coming—could he really not stop???—hitting me again in the chest as I fell. (He must have brought his arms up or something.)
In any case, the back of my head hit the boards on the way down. I didn't hit the actual ice very hard, probably because I was still somewhat entangled with the big goon, and I sat up immediately. I had an instant headache, and I couldn't see straight. The goon said, "Are you OK?", and I replied with an emphatic "NO." When I still couldn't see straight after a couple seconds, panic took over and I started to cry. My head hurt SO MUCH, and something was obviously wrong. Finally the refs realized I was down and blew the whistle, and everyone came back to see why I was sitting on the ice.
Everyone had a theory about what had happened, but since none of them had seen the collision or my head hit the boards, only I and the goon knew for sure what had gone down. What *was* clear was that I had a minor concussion. I ended up sitting out the rest of the first period and all of the second, but I skated the third because—and I know this sounds completely illogical—the nausea was so bad that I needed some cool air in my face to keep from barfing. I obviously didn't go full-steam out there, but the cool breeze *was* soothing.
The next morning I woke up with only a slight headache and some stiffness, but otherwise I was OK.
My parents were in town for this game, so they, Austen, and Al all came, and Al videotaped some of the game. I still haven't watched the tape, actually, and I'm not sure I really want to. We were playing the Galaxy, and not one but two fights broke out. Lisa, for some reason, took offense to the usually-inoffensive Gavin, and she ended up jumping on his chest and swinging freely at his (caged) face. WTF? She got ejected, of course, and then a couple plays later, Watson attacked the often-offensive Derek for something I didn't see. Watson then got ejected, and I think we were down to 7 or 8 skaters. Stupid.
Al and I splurged on a sitter (Hannah came for about 6 hours) and participated in an open hockey session at the Igloo in Mt. Laurel a few Saturdays ago. It was SO GREAT, not just because we got to play together, but also because we ended up talking about hockey for the rest of the weekend. We each made observations about our own play and each other's, and we made a few connections we hadn't made before. For example, I noticed that Al was always a little ahead of the person with the puck and going full-speed when looking for a pass. He said he'd been working on kicking it as soon as a pass was in progress—either from himself to a teammate, or between two other teammates.
I realized that this was the reason for the problem I have with everyone always passing behind me: We'd always known that it happened because I kick it, and the passer passes to where I *was*, not to where I'm going. What I didn't realize until I saw Al's moves and discussed the pickup with him afterwards was that I wasn't kicking it until after the passer looked up and saw me, whereas Al kicked it as soon as the puck got to the now-passer. We talked about it for a while, and I also realized *why* I don't kick it until the passer sees me: It's because I'm not used to being passed to. I've been hung out to dry at the blueline so many times that I don't really start skating until [a] the passer decides *not* to pass and takes off up-ice; or [b] I see the passer's clear intention to pass to me. Why bother skating full speed if I just going to have to come to a screeching halt at the blueline anyway?
I realized that Al wasn't the only one kicking it immediately; it's what I see the pros do, other players at pickups do... in short, men do. I think playing with guys who don't pass could have fucked up my timing a little, and that it's time to take charge of the situation. I should be kicking it right away, and making it obvious that I'm OPEN and READY and ALREADY AT SPEED. If the goobers *still* don't pass to me, at some point hopefully it'll become obvious to everyone else as well, and I won't be the only one complaining.