Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Let Me Share My Coping Mechanism. . .

So I finally have my answer.

It is not outright hatred for my own team. It's not indifference. It's merely something someone could have picked up in Psych 101. (Note, again, I did not pay attention in Psych 101, but my friend was kind enough to share this theory with me on my way home from the game last night).

A coping mechanism.

My laughing when the Capitals team came back and beat the Rangers last night after being down 4-0 at MSG (for the first time in 30 years), wasn't a fluke. It was nothing more than a coping mechanism. I'm laughing because I wish I could be crying, but it's easier to laugh than to allow myself to be as angry, upset, and frustrated as I honestly truly expect to be as a fan that loves and supports her team. So I laugh, because really, sometimes, what else can you do.

So glad that's been cleared up.

Now, do not get me wrong. When the Rangers went up 4-0, I shook my head. Every goal that was scored, I kept saying, who are these guys? I mean good for Ryan Callahan, who looked remarkably better. And Chris Drury had 3 points on the night? Everyone, for the first 10-20 minutes, looked fast, they looked together. In fact, they looked very much like the team that played the final glorious 10 minutes in San Jose Saturday night.

Then the rug was pulled out from under them. Washington, interestingly enough, although it worked, put back in Jose Theodore after having pulled him in the first. The Capitals gained speed, momentum, and scored goals one and two so fast, it really did seem probable they could come back. And of course, they did. The whole way.

I think of Washington as one of those teams. That can never be counted out. Some may think of the Rangers that way. I think the Rangers have proven they are capable of the step by step, small goal comebacks, like 2-0, tie the game, win in a shootout. I just don't know if I can imagine the Rangers coming back from four goals down to win.

Is that a coping mechanism, or is that reality, I don't know.

Coping mechanism to blame, or not, I felt horrible for Hank. Irregardless of whether the goals were his fault or not, I hate for the one guy who has really been there for his team to be embarassed by this utter team collapse. Again.

But for the rest, it should have served as a lesson. That if you play that amazingly to start, and you sit back, you are going to get your butts handed to you by a team like Washington. Did the Rangers lose all their energy? Are they truly physically incapable of playing for 60 minutes one way? Or did they not even play that well in the first place?

Back to Washington though. It never should have been allowed to happen if the team was being responsible. Even without Federov, Semin, and Green, they are a dangerous, dangerous team. And exciting.

And very exciting.

I obviously like Alex Ovechkin a great deal. So seeing him score some goals was fun, I'm not going to apologize for saying that.

And do you know why?

I started thinking. Ovechkin is the greatest example of it right now in hockey. A foreign, a specifically European player, with moves that can dazzle. That can surprise. Be it finesse, be it grace, or in his case, be it pure strength and a King-Midas-Touch - - those type of players enthrall me.

Bure did that. Jagr did that. Malkin does that.

The Rangers own Zherdev certainly at times does that.

I'm not including Americans or Canadians in this comparision, so you can automatically cross off 95% of the Rangers team. And goalies, because they dazzle in a different way than skaters. And defensemen because, well our defensemen at least, cannot dazzle in the way I'm talking about.

So the Rangers have on a regular basis, of European blood, Korpikoski, Sjostrom, Naslund, Zherdev on their team.

Shootouts not-with-standing, I've only seen Zherdev be that type of player. And I don't think he'll be given (or take) the opportunity with this team to be that kind of player I truly enjoy.

He's had sparks. He's had moments. But, because of the way this team is constructed, and the type of game they play, it probably won't happen. And that's a shame.

My point is, Alex Ovechkin is worth the price of admission. The Capitals were down 4-0! He scores a flukey goal, no denying it, but a goal that he got, frankly, because he is that great. The great players are lucky sometimes. And the Rangers game went down like a house of cards.

We'll never have Ovechkin. I'm going to continue to admire him from afar.

My regret is not that, though. It's that we had those type of dynamic, take control, dazzle-me type European skaters before. Where did they all go?

With that, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Holidays to all.

P.S. Another thought struck me. When the Capitals scored to tie it and when they scored to win it in overtime, the team showed such life. Such life and exhuberance. I was happy to see them be happy, frankly. Happy to see players being happy, showing they are alive, happy, and playing a game they love.

I've seen the Rangers look that happy, that exhuberant, exactly twice this year. When Zherdev scored with 8 seconds left to tie the game versus Pittsburgh. And then Prucha scored with 6 minutes left to tie the game versus Pittsburgh.

Everyone keeps saying this team is "on one page" and "together" and "supportive" and they "get along perfectly." That all might be true. But they apparently are on one page, together, and supportive in their attempt to be complacent, get by with half efforts, and bore those fans that adore them.

If the team thinks they need to take a long look at themselves this holiday break, fine. I think they need to take a long look at San Jose, at Chicago, at Washington. Those are the dynamic teams in the league that look like they are truly having fun. Those are the dynamic teams in the leagues that their fans must really enjoy watching.

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