Monday, April 11, 2011

Why These Playoffs Might Kill Me

I'm afraid I may not make it through the playoffs this year. As each year passes with no Cup for the Canadiens, I come to realize each opportunity is precious. I was young when the Habs won in '93, and, with the optimism of youth, thought I'd surely see another victory in the near future. Since then, I've graduated from university, established a career, got married, had kids and travelled the world. I've also aged 18 years and am facing the reality that I won't live forever and may, in fact, be dead before the Habs win again. So, every year, the stress about wasting another precious chance grows.

Last year was a blessed reprieve from the annual angst because I had very little hope entering the playoffs. The Habs had scraped into eighth in the last week of the season and were facing the powerhouse Capitals. Looking at it on paper, the Canadiens had an untried bunch of hired guns coming off a very up-and-down year, with an unproven playoff goalie. They should have had no chance, so I approached it accordingly. The win in the first game was great...no sweep! Going down three games to one was exactly what I expected to happen after that first win. Then the comeback started and each win was exciting, but not stressful. After all, they'd surely lose the next one, right? Then they didn't. The only stress I felt during the Caps series was during the last two minutes of Game Seven, when the Canadiens were clinging to a one-goal lead and had a real chance to win, against all the odds.

The same thing happened during the Penguins series. Surely, the luck of the Caps series wouldn't extend to beating the defending Cup champions, I thought. So, every win was just gravy until the Habs, once again, found themselves in the lead in an improbable Game Seven. The Flyers series...well, nobody expected the Canadiens' luck to hold so it was no surprise when they ran out of gas.

This year's different. The Canadiens have beaten the Bruins four times out of six this season. We know they can win the series. That gives us hope, and that means we're vulnerable to hope getting dashed. It was way easier, even zen-like, to enter last year's playoffs with no real expectation. Hoping to beat the Bruins is going to make us sweat every play, wring our hands over every goal against and descend into bitterness after every loss. We're going to go from the heights of joy when the Habs score to the depths of regret when the Bruins do. Our hearts will be working at a minimum 75% of capacity all the time, and we'll be dreaming of the thing Kostitsyn or Cammalleri or Gill should have done instead of the thing they did for nights at a time.

The matter will not be helped by the level of Bruins hate that will colour this series. I hate Chara and his mindless destruction of Max Pacioretty. I hate Lucic and his simian tendencies. I hate Thornton and his smug ability to score garbage goals against the Canadiens. I hate Thomas and his fat doughboy face with its stupid mustache. I hate Julien and his tendency to throw his goonish players out at the end of a lost-cause game. I hate Bruins fans with their "U.S.A." chant and their bloodlust. I hate their colours and their logo and their rink and their anthem singer. All that hate means I'm yearning for a Habs win, and that makes the stress level double.

In short, this series might kill me. The hope, expectation and hatred will combine in a toxic stress cocktail that could cause heart failure at any moment. I want to beat the Bruins so badly, it magnifies everything. The only thing that lends this any kind of perspective is imagining the level of stress that would be involved if the opponent were the leafs instead of the Bruins. I think that would unquestionably be fatal, so perhaps there's a chance of surviving the Bruins series. And the thought of a win...oh, a win against the Bruins!...is so sweet. The series might kill me, but a win could raise me from the dead.

7 comments:

DanielleJam said...

Great. Now you got ME all stressed out too. Believe me when I say that all the dislikes you mention, I share with you as well. That smiling face of Thomas' is right up there, followed by the idiot fans who don't know (or do they know?) that the only American on their team is their goalie while continuing to chant U**. I can't even say it...

For me this is not about winning a series for hockey, it's about winning a series for all the ways the Bruins and their classless fans have disrespected it. And this is why my stress level is high to.

Om. Must find my center. Om...

Woodvid (formerly "Dave") said...

I have to admit I'll be looking for excuses not to watch. Too intense. Last year I swear those first two series took a year off my life.

Paul B. said...

" I was young when the Habs won in '93, and, with the optimism of youth, thought I'd surely see another victory in the near future. Since then, I've graduated from university, established a career, got married, had kids and travelled the world. I've also aged 18 years and am facing the reality that I won't live forever and may, in fact, be dead before the Habs win again. So, every year, the stress about wasting another precious chance grows."

The first 30 years of my life, they won 16 Stanley Cups and every time they didn't win one, it was some sort of catastrophe.

In the last 32 years of my life, they won two and only because a goaler I never liked, stood on his head and made miracle saves after another to accomplish something nobody had expected them to do.

I suppose the Canadiens wish people of my generation would never say things like this....

Anonymous said...

I also hate the cheerleading for the Bruins we are going to be subjected to on HNIC broadcasts from the likes of Milbury and Cherry.

I have been lucky enough to witness the habs win 6 cups and I cant remember the last time I wanted the habs to win a series as bad as I want this one.

dusty said...

OMG people, chill will you. Hockey is fun to watch and win or lose we should enjoy the competition as our favorite players give their all to win. Keep in mind that they want to win much more than we do and suffer each loss much more than we do. They want to win the Cup and have their names engraved on Lord Stanley not merely say I was 40 something when the Habs last won the Cup and I may be dead before they win again. We just have to suck it up when Milbury and Stock pick the Bruins to win the East. Maybe they will but I'm betting they won't.

Oh, and this chanting USA bullshit is only because the Americans are grasping to the belief that America is the greatest nation on earth in spite of the mounting evidence to the contrary. They deserve our pity more than our scorn but a little scorn should be thrown in.

I do hate their anthem singer though. He sounds constipated to me and looks like he's embalmed. And I hate Chara for lying about knowing who it was he hit and where he was on the ice. And I hate him for hitting Ivanons when he was down and defenseless. And I hate Recchi for....

I think I need a chill pill.

Another terrific post JT. I hope you survive the Boston series. We need you.

kenny said...

Well the Hockey Gods set this one up...2 Original 6 rivals with some of the most memorable moments in NHL playoff history. Match made in Hockey Heaven! I agree with all your "hates". Its a different feeling when playing the Bruins. At least vs. Toronto...there's a sense of respect. Not with Boston...against Boston...it's a "win at all costs" game. For all that has happened between the Habs and the Bruins this season...this was a match that was foreseeable. The Habs players must put the 7-0 shelacking and 8-6 "Beat-down" behind them and come out in game 1 on a mission...a mission to win! If there's one thing the Habs team of 2010-2011 has shown...it's been character and the capability to fight adversity! That's what got us through the Pens and and Caps...albeit a little luck. I foresee this series to be stressful and tight, but I'm predicting...Habs in 6! Go Habs Go! By the way...way to beat the Big Bad Bruins=Speed and skill, win the 1-on-1 battles and make their entire team second guess their style of play! Go Habs Go!

Anonymous said...

Here is my story. I cheered for Chicago since 1962 and no cup. I moved to Vancouver in late 80's and have since cheered for the Canucks. After Blackhawks took Canucks out last year cheered for Blackhawks as they are my #2 choice now. Blackhawk finally took cup in 2010 and am hoping that after 40 years the Vancouver Canucks might do it this year.