Andrew Gordon scored two of the Bears’ six goals in last night’s game with the Texas Stars, including the game winner. In today’s piece, Andrew discusses the win, getting over the bad breaks of the first period, and digging deep in the post season.
I don’t need to explain how badly we needed to win this game. Going down 3-0 with two more games in their building just wasn’t an option. We needed to make a statement about who we are, and we did just that. It didn’t look good early though. After letting up a goal on the first shot of the game (a ricochet off of Boyd Kane’s skate), and a shorthanded tap in after a miscue between Neuvy and our defenseman, I felt like nothing could go right. We were a team stuck in Murphy’s Law: Whatever could go wrong, seemed to.
After the first period, all the talk in the dressing room was about us. We knew we couldn’t take back the bad bounces that happened. We couldn’t play that period over again. But we knew if we used the last 40 minutes to play the way we know how, and stick to the game plan we could give ourselves a chance. From that point forward our attitude was completely different. We started shooting the puck, driving the net, limiting the odd man rushes against and only made high risk plays when it absolutely had to be done. By not giving them anything for free, we slowly started to take over. Every shift was like shooting a little more energy into our veins. We started to believe in ourselves and our abilities again. By the time the third period started, we had our swagger back. We were the Bears again, and when that buzzer sounded to end tonight’s game my thoughts shot back to the feeling I had so often this season. I got a taste of winning again, and as a team I can safely say we liked it.
In my opinion, the playoffs are all about resiliency. In the American League, more often than not, the team who refuses to quit will come out on top. ‘Til the finals that is. The finals are a totally different story. As you go through the first three rounds, winning a series can happen in the first couple games. You obviously have to win four games to take the series, but many times a series is won long before the fourth game comes around. It comes down to breaking your opponents will, and outworking them mentally before they do the same to you. You have to make them believe they can’t beat you, and then their bodies will just come along for the ride. You have to make them want to quit. Make them see summer right around the corner. At that point, a team can be broken even though there is still hockey to be played.
Winning is always a lot harder than losing. To win you have to sacrifice your body, your time and your relaxing summer at home. Some players aren’t willing to make those sacrifices, and those are the players who are easily broken. They can put in a 90% effort and feel good about what they did. But they will never be winners only going 90%. Someone else on another team is willing to go 100% (or better) and eventually they will win out.
A lot of times you see young players ready to quit before the series end. They might have had a good season, and without chance to be recalled to the NHL, their effort drops off. As an AHL player, every day you dream about playing in the NHL and working your way up. Winning the Calder Cup might not be on the “to do list” for some young players. These feelings don’t happen in the NHL. Once you are there, winning becomes the only thing that matters. It becomes your job not just to play, but to win. The ultimate goal, the one you’ve been dreaming about since you’ve picked up a stick, is right in front of you and every game is an opportunity to draw yourself one step closer to achieving that goal. I find the Calder Cup finals have this same feel. There is no backing down in the finals. Nobody’s will is ever broken in the finals. You have sacrificed everything already to get there, so taking your foot off the gas in the middle of June would be a complete waste of two months.
I mentioned in a previous entry that making it to the finals and leaving without a ring on your finger would be a misuse of time, and I feel that’s why you see dramatic comebacks like this year when the Flyers met the Bruins. If the Flyers would have thought, you know, that’s enough for this year, they would have been done in four games and on a beach somewhere in Mexico right now, instead of being two wins away from hoisting hockey’s greatest glory over their heads. It’s your own ability to push harder and tell yourself never to be satisfied that drives a team to succeed. We showed a bit of that championship resilience tonight. I think this series is just going to get better from here.
“A man is not finished when he is defeated. He is finished when he quits.” – Richard M. Nixon
Thank you for your time! See you again Wednesday!
Yours in hockey,