Day-35 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:
INKTIME on RINKTIME Observations and Random thoughts by Chris Madsen:
IF YOU CAN’T TAKE THE HEAT? Living and working (as a Sports Anchor, no less) in the LA/Orange County Sports market, as you can imagine I have taken my far share of criticism for picking the Blackhawks over the Kings in the Western Conference Finals.
So, I want to make something clear…if I wanted to make my picks on emotion, agenda, and proximity, of course I would love to see the Kings move on. I have friends and colleagues who work in the Broadcasting Department and Front Office…heck, I’ve known Coach Darryl Sutter for 30 years! But I wanted to clarify that when an entity, such as RINKTIME, asks for my “expert” analysis, all biases and connections over my 33 years of covering the NHL must be set aside and my instincts must be expressed unfettered and without external influence(s).
Now, that approach isn’t always accurate (I’m 9-3 through two Rounds), but even if the Kings come back to take this Series…even if the Bruins eliminate the Penguins…and even if I was to get the Stanley Cup Final pick wrong, I would finish at (9-6)…and tell me…how many teams and coaches would like to win 9-times out of every 15-times they take the ice?
And besides, folks, I’m doing this for “fun”! Nothing I write influences who is in the line-up…which pass goes where…who takes a shot…and what puck gets stopped or another that gets re-directed past a goaltender doing his absolute best. In other words, regardless of who I pick–may the better team over the length of that particular series, prevail.
OH, AND ANOTHER THING: At least I know you are reading what I write, because many of my hockey friends called me out on this observation I made on Friday…
“However, the one other item that isn’t getting much ink is the schedule. And remember, the Kings had to travel 2,500 miles over two time zones and will be forced to play back-to-back in Chicago tomorrow and Sunday. Furthermore, the road has not been kind to LA. And IMHO, the first two games of this series are critical.”
Several people thought that in this day and age of Chartered flights, sleep studies, nutrition, compacted schedules and technology that this was a bit of a stretch.
Well, did you see the opening Period of Saturday’s game in Chicago? The Blackhawks had the first 9 shots of the game! The Kings had no answer for more “stretch passes” than many of the their players had seen since their last shinny hockey game. And the Hawks out shot the Defending Stanley Cup Champions 17-2 through the first 20 minutes.
Now some will counter that the Kings led 1-0 after those first 20-minutes (on a fluke goal by Justin Williams) , but even LA Coach Darryl Sutter admitted afterward that he felt “fortunate”. In fact, the Kings really didn’t catch their stride until sometime during the 3rd Period. And of course, Sunday the Kings just looked completely out of sorts.
But getting back to that Friday observation…Hockey players and organizations are programmed. Take it from a former Play-by-play announcer who can still tell you specific times of the day without the need for a watch–even though I haven’t called an NHL game in 11 years.
The Kings “body clock” was thrown a huge curveball the moment the Blackhawks prevailed over the Red Wings in Game-7 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Nobody out there can convince me that the Kings weren’t rooting for the Wings and hoping the game would go double or triple Overtime! And why? Because the Wings would not have gotten out of Chicago until the wee hours of Thursday morning–had to fly cross country–through three time zones different from their own body clock–and then play the Kings at Staples Center…where the Kings have not lost thus far this Post Season.
But as we all know, things didn’t turn out that way. So already, mentally, the Kings had to adjust and physically their bodies would not even be given the chance to adjust to the Central Time Zone for Game-1, because the Opening face-off was set for 4:00 CENTRAL…which means, at a time when most West Coast team players are taking their game day nap–they are suiting-up to play!
Oh, and if you are still not convinced…need I remind you how the Red Wings fared in their Opening Game of the Semi-Finals in Chicago, after getting stretched to a 7th Game IN ANAHEIM? They had to suit-up 3-days later–in Chicago– and still looked completely fatigued in a 4-1 loss.
And if you still don’t think rest and adjustment plays a huge role this time of year, then just listen to Darryl Sutter’s Post-Game comments following the Kings Game-2 loss around the 1:45 mark:
Gotta love the way the Coach is looking ahead, “5-games, in 10-days.” Sounds like he thinks this Series could go 7-games, too!
UNTIL THE NEXT TIME WE LACE ‘EM UP AND HIT THE ICE!–Chris Madsen
|Boston||at||Pittsburgh||8:00 PM EST|