A few of you have been expressing your belief that the Habs are in a great position in this series and have every chance to win it, despite the horrible shock of Saturday's loss. With twenty-four hours to recover from that heartbreaker, I'm feeling a little bit better about the situation as well. Hope's a funny thing. It can drain out of you like the sand running through an hourglass until you feel empty and desolate. Then you pick yourself up and flip the glass over and you can almost feel hope trickling back. I think situations like Saturday's might be harder on the fans than on the players in some ways. We can do nothing but stand by and watch and hope. The players are the ones with their fate in their own hands. They can get out there and fight back, if they're prepared and focussed.
That's where the veterans and coaches come in. A guy like Hal Gill, who won the Cup just last year and wears the "A" well, or a coach like Kirk Muller, who captained a Cup winner in Montreal himself, needs to stand up and get the team ready. The question is, what do they say? How can they get a team that just got an emotional kick in the nuts back on its feet and ready to rumble tonight?
I'd start with a video session showing all the things they did right. There's lots to show, too. Spacek and Gill are playing some great shut-down defence. Moore and Moen are forechecking machines. Both of the top lines are playing fast, aggressive, skilled hockey. Then I'd contrast the "good" video with lowlights of the third in the last game...not to rub it in, but to illustrate the difference. I'd show them how the D was backing in in the third, when it had been challenging more earlier in the game. I'd point out how the fourth line started using their sticks a lot more than their bodies once the Habs had a lead.
In my pre-game speech, I'd say a loss like Saturday's sucks, but there are lessons to take from it. Washington was the more desperate team because they couldn't afford to give up both home games. Yet, the Habs stayed with the most talented team in the league, which was extra-primed by the necessity of winning, and got them to OT. That's really something. They also learned to keep a closer eye on Backstrom, and never let up against this team because even a big lead isn't safe.
I'd tell my team they can do it and if they stick to basics with hard work, they *will* do it. The most important thing to remember is never give up. If they keep fighting, they'll always have a chance. And I'd reinforce the dream of winning in Montreal, a city that will love them more than any other if they can pull it off.
I'd tell them if they're mad about the crappy officiating, that they should put that anger into skating harder, shooting more often and hitting everything that moves. I'd remind them that everyone's talking about the crappy officiating, so they might actually get a break from referees who are paranoid about looking biased. I'd finish up by telling them I believe in them and I believe they can do it. Then tell them to go out and kick some Crapital ass.
So, what would you say, if you wanted to get a team primed for tonight?