“Flush it,” your coach says as you sit your stall after getting thrashed by your opponent. “Just flush this one. We’ll get back at it tomorrow.”
When the Pittsburgh Penguins lost 8-4 to the Philadelphia Flyers to put them down 3-0 in the series, Dan Bylsma gave them the next day off. As a pro hockey player, days off are rare and valued. In college, you at least get Sundays off. As a pro, if you can avoid being inside an arena once every 10 days, you’re doing alright. You may think it seems like an odd time to dole out a reward day, but it actually makes a lot of sense.
Sometimes things go so badly that there’s just no point in talking or tinkering. It’s time to pull out the metaphorical Nintendo game, blow in the cartridge, turn the machine off and hope things work normally once you start up again. You just need to start from scratch.
When you lose a close game, there’s always things to work on. You lost 2-1, but your powerplay was 0 for 6. Powerplay practice. You lost 3-2 but your d-zone coverage was a joke. D-zone pracky. You lost 8-4 because….good god, where do you start?
Well again, you start with blowing in that cartridge and beginning anew. Go home, be away from the arena and your teammates for a day, sit on the couch, try not to think about hockey, and come back reinvigorated and ready to start climbing the mountain. Everything has to be better because it can’t be worse.
Tight losses can be emotionally draining. You fight for every inch and battle for every puck only to come up just a little too short. You dwell on your errors, and know you could’ve effected the outcome of the game. It’s a mental workout.
In a blowout? Rarely. Sometimes you’re so tuned out you stop watching the game from the bench and just check out the crowd. Can we play run-time please? Put us out of our misery.
So heading into last night’s game, the Flyers were up 3-0 against the Pens in their opening series…before getting scored on 10 times. If you’re the coach walking into the room after that, where do you begin? Is screaming and yelling going to do any good? Is talking tweaks going to help when you get shelled like that?
And that’s where “flush it” begins. Tonight never happened – flush it down the toilet.
Nothing was right, nothing was wrong, it just never happened.
We’ll meet in the morning and have a morning skate as usual, same lines, same roster, new day. We’re better than last night (if it were to have existed), so let’s just resume our routine. We know we can beat this team.
The tendency in hockey is to over-adjust. We couldn’t score on the PP, so we should change up the personnel on the units. We lost, it’s time to switch tenders. Haven’t scored in two periods, put the players’ names in a hat and draw new, completely un-thought-out lines.
Hockey is basically talent, systems, and powerball – there’s a lot of luck involved every time you play. You get hot at times, go cold at others, and the sometimes the best course of action is to stick with the plan and hope for better breaks.
When you lose by seven in a crucial game, that’s exactly what you do. That’s all you can do, if you hope to stay sane.
So flush it. The sun came up today, and the Flyers are sporting the same roster that beat the Pens three straight times. On to the next one.