A couple of quick musings on the Detroit/Dallas series. Dallas came out of the 4 overtime game with little rest, and proceeded to hand Detroit three games before getting their game back and making it a series.
Sound familiar? And both Mike Modano and Brendan Morrow were quoted in the press about how that overtime game took it out of them.
A lot of this is biology; it takes a certain amount of time to flush out the lactic acid and replace the glucogen. It doesn’t matter HOW GOOD your conditioning it, if you don’t have time to rest up, you simply can’t perform at a top level. Detroit only had 1 extra day of rest over Dallas, but that one extra day was enough for the legs to recover.
And it wasn’t until about game four that both teams got back to equivalent levels of physical exhaustion.
So it’s really safe to claim that even though San Jose beat Calgary in 7, Calgary making the series that tough was the key factor in losing to the Stars. And the Sharks series was a key factor in the Stars losing to the Wings.
That’s why killer instinct is so important. That’s why you need to put a team away and finish off a series when you can. It’s because a four game series gives you the ability to play full out in the next series, where a seven game series leaves you worn out and easy (easier) pickings in the next round.
And the Sharks lack of a killer instinct against Calgary cost them a chance at Detroit. And that lack of killer instinct (which fluttered in and out of view all season like a butterfly, kicked in hard for that 20 game run, and then wandered off again in search of nectar…) is what ultimately cost Wilson his job.
Crash Davis points out that the difference between a AAA catcher and a major league catcher is a hit a week. Figure out how to go 2-4 one game a week instead of 1-4, and you’re in the bigs. the problem is: it’s just not easy to DO. But the ones that make the majors are the ones that do find a way. Not the most talented guys — the ones that find a way to make it happen. Talent helps, but it’s not the prime determiner of success.
The same is true in hockey in its way.
An example I like to use is goaltending. Take a goalie that lets in four goals in a game. For each goal in isolation, you may look at it and go “man, I don’t know how he could have stopped it”.
But taken in the larger view, the top goalies will find a way to stop ONE of those pucks. or two. That’s what makes them the top goalies. It’s easy to look at any one goal and think “tough save” — but look at a series of them, and you start realizing that the goalie needs to make SOME of them, or they shouldn’t be your goalie.
Same for teams. You can look at the Sharks playoff run (and I have), and find reasons why, if a bounce went this way instead of that, if Pavelski didn’t blow a tire, if this penalty wasn’t called, if that penalty WAS called, the results could be very different.
All very true. And I did exactly that. but sitting back and thinking on it a bit more, and talking about it with others, I started to realize the same thing about the Sharks that I did about those goals: yeah, the breaks went against the team, but the team needed to find ways to win anyway in some of those games. And it only would have taken a game or two to fight beyond those bad breaks to change the calgary series or the dallas series, because they really were that close.
Good teams have three attributes taht are relevant here:
they make their own luck through hard work and execution. Many times “luck” is nothing more than battling to be in the place you know you need to be at the time you need to be there.
they don’t let a bad break beat them. They find a way to overcome it.
And where possible, the top teams — and just look at Detroit here — make sure that they’re not in a position where a bad break CAN beat them. If you’re up 2-3 goals and in the offensive zone, a bad break simply isn’t as damaging as if you’re protecting your own goal and thegame is tied late, or you’re only up one goal.
And that, in a nutshell, is what’s missing from the Sharks. they played too many games too close to the edge, and when you do that and the breaks go against you, you lose. That’s a lack of the killer instinct, it’s letting your victim get back up and take a swipe at your kidneys. If you do, sometimes they’ll connect, adn then you have problems.
That’s why Wilson got fired, he didn’t find the way to inject that killer instinct into the team. And that’s the primary job of the new coach (I wish him luck). And if you want to see it in action, watch the Red Wings.
So it’s no surprise that this is the team Doug Wilson is looking to for inspiration on taking the Sharks to the next level.