HIGGINS BAKES BEANS WITH LESS THAN 2 MINUTES LEFT...
For all the battling the 2 teams did in a 60 minute span, the game itself would be settled in the last 5. After giving away their 2-0 lead, blues jerseys began scampering and scrambling in an effort to not yet again, become the victim of the same brainfart that’s become a pastime when leading a game and trying to close it out.
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After a flailing and floundering Rosival when sailing into his how crease and dislodged his own goaltender, everyone at the garden held their collective breath and gripped the arm rests and slid to the edge of their seats. Either that or they did the same thing I did; screamed out the expletive of their choice and muttered out a “f*ckin’ figures…” amongst a heavy hearted sigh. There would be no second place last night though as…. Out of the shadows of obscurity and shattering the silence, arose Christopher Higgins to swoop in and save the efforts of Henrik and the rest of the team by charging the net and jamming one short side. Ok so maybe it wasn’t quite that epic, but for Higgins who’s been struggling to find his niche and define his role on the team… I’d dare to say it was big.
In fact, aside from the PP goal of a Kotalik rocket, I would say there were a few standouts on individual efforts; including some of the breakaway/shootout magic we heard about from Christensen, when he was acquired. Therein lays the problem.
While a player like Christensen has grown on me and a player like Callahan has been a favorite of mine from day one, the hard workers and grinders on this team either stand out way too much for their hustle and attempts or are lost in the shuffle when we can’t covert anything into a goal. Gaborik aside (I am impressed with his multifaceted game), too many players on this team play like an individual trying to separate themselves from a everyone else on one shift and another anonymous fly on the rotting carcass of a lazy team, the next. We seem to be digging ourselves out of another rut so I don’t want to be too hard on this team (You can stop reading here if prefer to just be happy with the win or just plain sick of hearing me),
the majority of fans (myself included) spend time ragging on the usual whipping boy d-men or the owners/ GM/coach. They do deserve part of their blame, but in the end it boils down to the players. The diva syndrome, the stupid mistakes, the backwards no look passes (a la Gomez), the shuffling around the boards just trying to get the puck to a place with some shooting room… all of it jumps out as symptoms of a team and players that don’t want any responsibility.
The owner wants big draws and starpower at any costs, that means the GM spends big on his behalf and forces a show out of yesteryear’s headliners, which in turn handcuffs the coach in terms of who he can discipline and play. All of it results in the players knowing they have the advantage and only playing hard when they feel their stock dropping or it’s easy. Powerplays and games against teams we should beat, seem to be the only time our team gets hellbent on imposing their will and winning wars by attrition. Or perhaps it’s the only time our team doesn’t wind up paying for not being aggressive with the puck, not passing accurately and bullsh*ttin’ around the perimeter. Now it’s often theorized that because we’re playing with a bunch of kids, reclamation projects and “defensive specialists”… that we can’t expect them to be skillful… until they’re a brought along properly and gain experience. Under who? There are no role models on this team. No Leetch’s, Graves’ or Messiers. Noone guiding or playing alongside these kids that says when in doubt, just do what I do. I think that only leaves us the option of repetition. If the coaching staff can’t guide these kids with a fair bit of freedom and the occasional soft touch, I say steer them with a hard stick before it’s too late. The same goes for vets on this team. Stop giving them so much credit and telling yourself, “they know the game and are seasoned pros” and put them through the embarrassment of the fundamentals until its second nature and running like a machine. All of them. Passing drills, shooting drills, run them end to end, spread them out and cover the entire ice (that includes the middle too) and for Cripes sake, outlaw that damn 1 foot tap they do to get the puck off their stick into the skates of one of their teammates. We’ll find out what everyone’s made of and weed out the ones that are afraid of hard work or don’t want to lower themselves to do it. If we don’t have the resources to polish, fine tune and mentor this teams future, at least replace the negative influence with strong fundamentals. Ones that will last till we can mentor this team and do it right. The last thing we want over the next few years are d-men duplicating Girardi losing the puck in his skates and trying to pass the puck when it’s not even on his stick… or interfering with his own goaltender like “Rozi palms” or enforcers that won’t fight, or guys that are thinking “why shoot when I can send it around the boards?”
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