Friday, March 24, 2006

Here Goes Nothing

8 ½ hours to faceoff and I’m getting “tournament stomach”. I hate not being there. I hate the fact that I’m probably not going to get to see this team in person again this year. I hate that I’m sitting in an office right now instead of in my car on a 16 hour trek across the country to watch hockey.

We aren’t the best team in the country. We’re probably not in the top 10 best teams in the country. But that’s the beauty of a single-elimination tournament, especially in a sport like hockey where a couple of guys can change the game so easily (namely the goalie)…anyone in this tournament could get hot and win it (with the exceptions of the two small conference teams—though Bemidji did come within inches of knocking out the eventual national champion last year).

The thing that I like about Michigan—the one area where they’ve got an advantage of North Dakota—is senior leadership. To be fair, I don’t know a ton about NoDak. But I do know that they don’t have Andrew Ebbett and Brandon Kaleniecki. Those guys are doing their best Jed Ortmeyer impressions, and I would be shocked if they don’t have a huge impact on the game tonight. Jack Johnson seems like a player made for the post-season. We’ll get our first (and last??) look at him in a one-and-done situation tonight. He’s the kind of player I was talking about earlier when I said that a single player could change the game. TJ Hensick, Andrew Cogliano, even Matt Hunwick, Chad Kolarik, and Kevin Porter…these are the guys that we need to be at their best tonight. We can’t have any of Hensick’s disappearing act, Cogliano’s Robbie Earl/Paul Kariya impressions, Hunwick’s penalties, Kolarik’s temper, or Porter’s missed empty nets the rest of the way.

We have the horses to get it done. If they can contain Parse and Thomas (like they did at Yost), they can contain Toews and Stafford. I just named off eight guys that are potential game-changers. That’s almost half of our skaters. Someone (preferably a few of them) needs to make a play, or this season (and for several guys, their Michigan careers) is over.

Yes, this was a disappointing season. But none of that matters anymore. Get out of the weekend, and nobody’s talking about that loss on Senior Night anymore. Make the Frozen Four, and it doesn’t matter that we got swept in the Showcase again. The tournament is what it’s all about. The last chance at redemption. 4 games. Get hot for the length of one pro playoff series, and you can call yourselves the champions.

It’s time for playoff hockey. Can you feel it in the air? I can. And I love it.

Let’s Go Blue.

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