Jackets against the wall

Discussion in 'HFNHL Talk' started by Ohio Jones, Jun 1, 2006.

  1. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

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    CD - Buffalo

    "He couldn't believe his eyes", a source reports of Columbus Head Coach Mike Babcock's reaction during last night's loss to Buffalo. "He worked up new lines to challenge the Sabres' shooters, and they practiced them that morning, but come game-time the players went right back to their old combinations.

    "He was calling across the ice, talking to the players on the bench, his assistants were physically forcing new combinations over the boards. Nothing helped."

    The source was speaking about it because Babcock refused to field questions about the lineup problems when he spoke to reporters following Columbus' third consecutive loss in the Stanley Cup final. Down 3-1 in the series, The Jackets' backs are against the wall.

    "It's deliver time, there's nothing else to say", Babcock declared. "This is what these players have spent the whole year working towards - this is what these players have been preparing for their whole lives - a shot at the Cup. Some may never get this chance again. The pressure is enormous, but so is the opportunity. We have yet to play up to our potential in this series. Now there's no other choice: we play our best, or we go home."

    "It felt like we were programmed", a chastened Jeremy Roenick offered. "we'd spent most of the last two months of the regular season, and all of the playoffs, skating with the same guys. It's like the new lines just didn't compute. Maybe we got into a rut, and needed things shaken up. Well nothing's shaken us up like that loss - you'll see a new Columbus Blue Jackets (tonight)."

    Veterans like Roenick, Keith Carney, Mattias Norstrom, Geoff Sanderson and Adrian Aucoin have carved out solid NHL/HFNHL careers for themselves, but this is the first time any of them has made it to a Stanley Cup final. After so many years in the league, they recognize that this may be their only shot at the ultimate prize.

    "It comes down to who wants it more", Roenick told reporters. "There's some kids who get here with stars in their eyes, thinking this is easy, that they could have lots of chances at this. I know better - a guy can go his whole career and never once get a sniff at the Cup. It almost happened to me. Thankfully I got to play here, and now I have that chance. I'm not going to let it slip through my fingers."

    The team is looking to proven winners like Mike Modano, Brendan Shanahan and Martin Brodeur to provide leadership at this crucial moment.

    "We've got to win three games," Captain Shanahan considered. "That can be intimidating for some guys, especially when we haven't been able to play our game so far. But you can't look at the next three games - you can only look at the next game. The next shift. Win that faceoff. Win that battle in the corner. Your focus has to be on the moment, because the moment is all you've got, all you can control. Win the moment, and before you know it momentum starts to shift. It's happened before, and that's how teams have done it. Win the moment."

    Kirk Maltby, another Cup winner, put it this way: "There's a lot of pride in that room. No one is going to accept just slinking away. We've got to play the best hockey of our lives. The fact is we won 18 games in a row this season. We know three games is very doable. We just have to go out there and do it."

    It's interesting to note that the HFNHL-record string of wins Maltby referred to was broken by a 4-2 loss to these same Sabres, ironically the same score by which the Jackets fell yesterday. A foretelling?

    Tonight, at least, the Jackets have the numbers on their side: they are 3-0 in game 5's in these playoffs, although they headed into each of those wins sitting in the position the Sabres are now enjoying, up three games to one and looking to close out the series. Columbus took each of those games at home, whereas Buffalo will be trying to win on the road. Buffalo won each of its previous series in 6 games, at home.

    The prognosticators might be calling for a Jackets win tonight, but even if that comes to pass, the odds would have to heavily favour Buffalo going into a game 6.

    "Win (tonight)", Shanahan reiterates. "That's all that matters right now."

    * * *

    Buffalo Captain Scott Hartnell continues to earn his "Giant-Killer" nickname. He scored his 6th goal of the series last night (also his 6th consecutive game with a goal), on his only shot of the game. Hartnell and teammates Dick Tarnstrom and Jocelyn Thibault are the leading candidates for Hart trophy consideration. Only a monumental individual performance from a Columbus player in actually managing to come back from the 3-1 deficit to win the Cup could challenge these players for the trophy.

    * * *

    The Sabres' offence was led by Tarnstrom, Daniel Briere and Rick Nash, who combined for 15 shots. Columbus' attack on the night was led by Aucoin, Carney and Phillippe Boucher - all blueliners - who combined for just 10 shots. The Blue Jackets forwards need to step up and be counted, as does Martin Brodeur, who has played well but has yet to carry his team in this series. The alternative is spending the rest of the summer - and quite possibly the rest of their lives - reflecting on what might have been.

    Milo Minderbinder
    Columbus Discoverer
     
  2. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

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    Turns out it helps if one refreshes one's browser before thinking that lines did not get loaded. They were loaded (thak you, Drew!)... they just didn't help any. :shakehead
     

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