If you haven’t already guessed, we lost our championship game this past week. This is the second season in a row we made it to the finals only to fall short in our quest for supremacy. When you lose, the inevitable question of “Why?” attacks your mind before the final buzzer has even finished reverberating off the walls. This all too important question is swift, deliberate, and MUST be answered. So, why did we lose? Well, let’s have a look at the game...
Since the dawn of sports, no one has ever been more hated than the guys in black and white stripes. The one thing even the most notorious of rivals can always agree on is that they actually hate the officials more than each other. The principle is simple: when they make a call against us, it’s a bad call. When they make a call against our rivals, it’s a good call. Any questions?
Our team, which lost this game 4-3, definitely drew the attention of the refs all evening. I’m not sure of the actual number, but I believe we fell victim to the dreaded 2-minute minor penalty about 8 times during this contest. Our opponent, just twice. Some of these calls were justified, some not. It’s important to note, however, our opponents didn’t score on the power play (which included two “5 on 3” opportunities). Initially, you might think that the penalties didn’t affect the outcome of the game. But I argue that even though we weren’t scored against during those man-down scenarios, we were still made to penalty kill - thus keeping us from launching offensive attacks. So, while the penalties may not have helped our opponents score, they certainly hurt us regardless. But the question remains, did these penalties cause us to lose the game? Better yet, by making all these calls, did the referees actually determine the outcome of this game? Absolutely not. Personally, I’m a firm believer in the idea that if you allowed the game to be close enough that a referee’s call (or calls) could determine the overall outcome, you didn’t play well enough anyway. The penalties certainly didn’t help. But it’s not like we hadn’t earned at least a few of them.
So if it wasn’t the refs, then what?
They’re just TOO GOOD!
This season was a little different then last. In our previous championship appearance, we were over-matched. The team we lost to in a deflating 6-0 rout definitely fielded more talent and played much better hockey. We didn’t play our best, but even our best probably wouldn’t have matched their stellar performance that night. Tough to take, but at least we knew we were beaten by a better team.
This time that was simply not the case. I certainly don’t want to take anything away from our opponents. But statistically speaking, we were the better team. We had the better regular season record. We scored a lot more goals throughout the season. We had fewer goals against (in fact, our goalie finished with the best goals against average in the league). No doubt, we were the favorite. Of course, as they say, “that’s why they play the game”. After 2 periods, we found ourselves down 3-1. How could this be? We had no idea. Though not happy, we got ourselves together and battled back. At the end of regulation, the game was tied 3-3 and headed into sudden death overtime. We didn’t know why this game was so close or so tough. What we did know was the stats didn’t matter. Neither did the score. Someone needed to step up and win this thing for our team or for theirs. The question was who was it going to be?
Unfortunately, after a 5-minute overtime period, the score remained tied. So, the rulebook says we must turn to a shootout to decide a winner. I’m sorry to be anti-climactic, but you already know what happened. What I can tell you is it was an excellent goaltenders duel. It took a total of 10 shots before one finally found it’s way into the net. The previous 9 shooters were stoned by two stellar goaltenders that just didn’t want this game to end.
Why We Lost
So, why did we lose this game? Was it because we took too many penalties? Did we get outplayed? Did we not want it bad enough? Honestly, I believe we lost because somebody had to. It’s as simple as that. It was a close, hard-fought game. I concede that we didn’t expect such a tremendous battle. Perhaps that was a critical mistake which eventually helped lead to our demise. But the penalties, the gameplay, the bounce of the puck, and the will to win - all of it contributed to the outcome of this game. Congratulations to our opponents. They played a great game.
The bottom line is somebody has to lose. This time it was us. Maybe next time the puck will bounce our way one more time than theirs. The good news is there’s always a “next time”. So until then, all we can do is push on, get better, and work to be the best we can be as a team. Winning’s nice, but you don’t learn much from winning. Losing makes you better.
My Only Gripe
I am not a fan of the shootout being used to determine the outcome of a championship game. I don’t think it’s right for teams to pour their guts out on the ice the entire game, only to have the winner chosen by a shooter and goalie. When you’re playing for a championship, the game should simply continue until the winning goal is scored. Now, I realize this isn’t the NHL. I also realize the referees don’t get paid overtime. And I know the schedule and ice maintenance must be considered. I’m not unreasonable. I don’t expect we be allowed to play all night if that’s what it takes. But a compromise shouldn’t be out of the question. Perhaps 1 full overtime period (15 minutes, not 5) played in sudden death with 4 on 4, rather than 5 on 5. At that late stage of the game, and with the extra space on the ice, I imagine it wouldn’t take long for a goal to be scored.
So I ask you, should the shootout stay? Do you think it’s a good way to decide playoff and championship games? You know what I think. Now I wanna know what you think! Please post your responses below.