Game Fours in the NHL Playoffs are more pivotal than you may initially think. If the series is 3-0, one team is on the brink of being swept (case in point: Tampa Bay Lightning). If the series is 2-1, they can either be pushed to the brink of elimination and go 3-1 or successfully rally the troops and tie everything at 2 (Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago Blackhawks).
Tonight, the Detroit Red Wings face the Boston Bruins in Game Four, down 2-1 in the series. Since Game One, the Red Wings have looked… well, like they have this entire season.
With Pavel Datsyuk‘s late game-winning goal in Game One, fans raised their hopes, whether we meant to or not. Games Two and Three, however, were a completely different Red Wings team.
We shouldn’t be so surprised. After all, this entire season has been just that: A dominant game or two that gives us the hope that the team is getting to its proper form followed by four or five follow-up games where the team looks uncoordinated, out of sync, and jumbled.
It’s hours before game time and we wonder what Red Wings team will show up tonight. The one that plays just as competitively as the Bruins like in Game One, or the one that has frustrated us beyond belief the last two games?
How Do We Mentally Prepare?
1. Keep Expectations Low. It sounds stupid and isn’t the way you should watch your hockey team. But think back to this whole season. We kept our expectations low until after the Olympics when other teams started to falter and our team started to get hot. You can ride that wave of joy and think it will get you far, but at the end of the day, this is a team still struggling with injuries, their ranks loaded with rookies who have barely played a handful of playoff games. We can’t expect them to suddenly know everything.
2. Don’t Point The Blame At One Particular Player If Things Go South. It’s easy to pin all of the Red Wings troubles on one player. Like last game, when Twitter jumped at every opportunity to blame Johan Franzen for everything that went wrong in the game. Look back at Game Three and notice that it wasn’t just one player sucking; it was the majority of the team.
We like to blame players (Brett Lebda, Andreas Lilja, Mikael Samuelsson, Robert Lang, etc.) for shortcomings of the team.Yes, Franzen hasn’t done anything. However, the only players to have scored this series are Pavel Datsyuk (who made a baby appear out of nowhere yesterday) and Luke Glendening.
3. Pray To Our Lord And Savior Gustav Nyquist.
His Holiness (okay I’ll stop) Nyquist hasn’t scored a goal since Pavel Datsyuk returned to the lineup. Maybe he needs to be thrown on a different line. maybe he needs to crash the front of the net, or sneak in behind the opposition. Something needs to happen. Nyquist has the ability to score, that we all know, we just need him to get back in form.
4. Don’t Put All Your Hope In Henrik Zetterberg. If early reports are to be trusted, Zetterberg will be back tonight, playing limited minutes. UPDATE: He still has to be OKed by doctors to play, so it looks as though he will be a game-time decision.
What does this mean? And why do I feel wary? Zetterberg has never made a rash decision in his entire life (probably), and if he believes he is ready to play, then by all means, let him play.
If anything, Mike Babcock has the idea in his head that Zetterberg will be a veteran presence on the bench. With no Daniel Alfredsson in the lineup, having the captain back may help bolster the spirit of all the rookies and Grand Rapids Griffins. It could be enough to kick their butts into gear.
Just don’t expect him to score a hat trick or anything.
5. Eat During The Game. Namely snacks. I may abstain from this, however, because I’ve been snacking during Games Two and Three and ate nothing during Game One. Curse you, hockey superstitions!!
6. Don’t Let Hockey Superstitions Get To You. This is so much easier said than done. (Did you not just see my comment in #4?) I’m sitting here wondering what jersey to wear tonight because my Franzen has lost a game, my Nicklas Lidstrom has lost a game, and my Steve Yzerman lost last game. The only one left is Valtteri Filppula and his team was just swept. Do I wear nothing?
Okay, calm down. We all know that it really doesn’t matter if we sit in the same spot on the couch or watch the game with the same people or wear the same jersey. Don’t let it get to your head, as easy as it is.
7. Remember That No One Had Us Making The Playoffs. So really, these five or six or seven games are all extra hockey we get to watch. Keep that in mind and enjoy every moment, as frustrating as they may be.
Perhaps it’s best to listen to some advice by Pink Floyd: “Breathe, breathe in the air. Don’t be afraid to care.”