When a blowout is building, sometimes there’s just no way to stop the snowball from becoming an avalanche.
On Saturday, the Chicago Blackhawks put the boots to the Vancouver Canucks 7-1 – one night after those same Hawks took a 7-2 licking from the Calgary Flames.
A two-goal deficit is always within reach, so when you get down three and start falling into that rout territory, the next goal becomes absolutely massive. You can feel the life being sucked out of the bench the instant the next one goes in to make it four.
The game’s over, only you have to keep playing…and it’s time to board the Minus Train.
Most people are aware plus-minus can be a misleading stat. While it’s not the most precise indicator of effectiveness, it’s at least somewhat relevant – and, as a player, you never want any of your numbers to look bad, regardless of which ones they are.
So, when you take a “dash” for something you had nothing to do with – say a teammate makes a late change, you hop on the ice and start backchecking and your opponent scores – it can be a touch frustrating.
Some nights, it seems to keep happening no matter which way you turn – those are the nights you put your knuckles through your bedroom door, as a certain player-turned-writer may or may not have done one night after a blowout loss.
You can’t just quit before the game ends, though – that’s a sin as bad as any. But man, would it be nice to hit the reset button and go back to the drop of the puck. It’s like the goals are coming easy for your opponent.
Then again, you know what it’s like when you’re on the other side of that score.
It does come easy.
You feel patient and confident with the puck, you make nice little decisions and you start playing to boost your stats. You try to run up your numbers on a team that’s clearly sans mojo, which only serves to further dig the statistical hole for the players on the wrong side.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville apparently sent out some of his top players on a 5-on-3 power play with the game already out of hand and Vancouver bench boss Alain Vigneault took that as an affront to his team and his players. But hey, those Blackhawk stars want to pad their numbers too, especially since those numbers had gone the opposite direction the night before in Calgary. And let the facts state it was fourth-liner Fernando Pisani who scored Chicago’s fifth and sixth goals.
When you’re getting smoked, all you can do is play to cauterize the wound – to stop the bleeding. Just get this game to the final buzzer so you don’t take another dash.
Those last five to 10 minutes are painful – guys are hollering on the bench about pride, coach is trying the “I’ve never been so embarrassed” routine and everybody just wants the game to friggin’ end.
Coach shuffles the lines. Then he does it again. He picks a whipping boy and loudly pronounces him benched. All of a sudden, the kid who usually gets four minutes of ice per game is getting Duncan Keith minutes. Of course, that only makes your team worse, because that guy only plays four minutes for a reason.
It happens with regularity in every league on the planet. Heck, it’s probably happening now – some team, somewhere, is getting whooped so bad the players just want to go home. There’s a guy on the ice thinking, “If I can just get through this one more shift, it’ll be fine…”
Once it starts, there’s just no stopping it.
Justin Bourne last played for the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL and is currently a columnist for USA Today. He excelled with the University of Alaska Anchorage before going on to spend time in the Islanders organization with Bridgeport and Utah. His father, Bob, spent 14 years in the NHL and won four Cups with the Islanders. Justin will blog regularly for THN.com and you can read more of Justin’s blogs at jtbourne.com. Follow Justin on Twitter.