The first Saturday after elimination is always the worst. There's no jarring morning alarm, so you float gently to awareness and the potential of the weekend stretching ahead. A sense of well-being settles over you, and you hazily think...ah...Saturday. Saturday night. Friends. Beer. Hockey. Habs. Who's on deck tonight? Then it hits.
It's game day, but there is no game. At least no game that matters. Sure, there's hockey. Playoff hockey, even, which is bound to be entertaining and competitive. It just doesn't matter. Who cares who wins, when your team's not in it?
That's when all the "almosts" and "what ifs" that, when totted up, resulted in the end of your team's season, start to play over and over in your head. Plekanec almost had that breakaway that would have tied Game Three, you think. What if Moen had any hands at all and could have tipped in one of those Gionta set-ups in Game Four, you wonder? Even though you know your team did all it could, and no group is perfect all the time, making mistakes inevitable, you can't help analyzing the errors and wondering.
This year is the worst for the wondering because of the way it all ended. One minute your team is a contender, battling all out in a next-goal-wins, why-not-us competition. The next minute, their season is over. Just like that. The entire seven-game build up doesn't prepare you for the suddenness of the end. Hockey, then no hockey. Bags packed for the next round, then clubs packed for the summer.
This was a really hard loss in every way. The poor-sport team that won, the damaged team that lost while trying its damnedest, the rivalry, the blown chances, the sudden death. It's only now, on a Saturday that should be a game day, that you really feel it. The first Saturday is always so sad. I miss our team already.