Saturday, April 19, 2008

Identity crisis

A friend of mine said the other day that what the Canadiens have to do if they want to win is identify with the sweater they're wearing and use the pride they should feel in that to propel them over the top.

It's an interesting theory. Every team has talent. They all train within an inch of their lives to be in physically top shape. Every one has a coaching staff that devotes its energy to preparing the players by deconstructing the opponent and making a game plan to counter their strengths. They've all got medical teams, dentists, nutritionists, therapists, media relations specialists, trainers and motivation coaches. The salary cap destroyed the last barrier between the haves and have-nots, and parity is at a level previously unknown in the NHL.

With all things being more equal than they've ever been, perhaps the only things that differentiate one NHL team from another are the intangibles, like heart, luck or pride in a jersey. So, tonight's game against the Bruins is a test of character for the Canadiens. The two teams have proven that on any given night, either of them can beat...even dominate...the other. If the Canadiens are going to prevail, they have to prove they want it more. It's an old cliche, but it's true. They have to find those intangibles...determination, a hatred of losing...and draw on them to push them over the top.

In the process, they have to learn to overcome the panic they must be feeling now, with what they'd believed to be an easy first round opponent breathing down their necks. Oh yes, it'll be a test of character tonight. The Canadiens will either wither and feel the doom that facing a game seven they shouldn't be playing will spark. Or, as my friend says, they might look down at the CH on their sweaters and say, "Hey! I'm a bloody Montreal Canadien. I'm privileged to wear this sweater, and I'm going to play my heart out for it!"

I hope they notice that CH and play for it before it's too late.

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