May 13, 2009

Exorcising ghost of Sticks past

With his team leading 15-6 in Sunday's Stanley Stick finale, Elvis gathered his team to remind them nothing was impossible. After all, just last season he'd been part of the greatest comeback in championship history, when his side battled back from the brink of elimination to win the series in a decisive mini game.

But there would be no miracles on Sunday.

Three quick goals by Scrappy just before the break snuffed out what little momentum their overmatched opponents could muster, as Elvis and his mates rolled to an easy 20-7 win, sweeping the championship in two straight games.

"Those were huge," said the veteran forward of Scrappy's decisive scoring outburst that truncated a brief rally that closed their opponents within six goals. "They righted the ship a little bit and gave us some legs again."

Not that their ship had ever really floundered.

After struggling to a 20-18 in the series' opener last week, the champions dominated Sunday's game as few teams before them. From their goalie out, they stuck to their game plan with fierce resolve, shutting down their opponents at every turn.

"We played strong as a team," said Billy Idol, who suffered through Sunday's game with the lingering effects of sore ribs. "We played our game well, we kept one guy back, one guy along the boards and one guy in front of the net; that was kind of our strategy from the beginning of the game and we never strayed from it."

And their opponents had little to answer with.

"Nothing was going right for us," said Beetle Boy. "For whatever reason, we just didn't have it."

On those rare occasions when they were able to complete a pass or execute a decent scoring opportunity, they ran head on into the hot hand of Twizzler, who played one of his steadiest games of the season to earn the Conn Stick award as the series Most Valuable Player.

"He was just solid," said Elvis of his side's rookie rearguard who bounced back strongly from a mediocre effort last week when he was reportedly weakened by the flu. "He's a good goalie, he's big in the net."

"He had really good rebound control," said Scooby, " but we also just weren't getting the shots, we were just trying to go for the pass and we got picked off a lot."

More often than not, those intercepted passes converted to scoring chances the other way.

"We capitalized on a lot turnovers and got some odd-man rushes going," said Elvis.

"We had some defensive breakdowns," said Scooby. "You don't know who to blame because everyone was just running around leaving their mad open."

Which opened the way for Elvis to win his eighth consecutive Stanley Stick title.

Compared to last year's raucous, emotional finale, Sunday's celebration was muted. That's likely because the end result was never in doubt.
"You don't want to celebrate a shutout win too heavily," said Elvis. Limiting a team to less than ten goals is the road hockey equivalent of a shutout. "Winning the Stick is a big deal, it's what we play for all year."
Meanwhile, the losers hung their heads in shame.
"It was pretty embarrassing to be shut out like that," said Scooby. "I don't really know what to say."
"It's a crappy way to end the season," said Beetle Boy. "It's going to bug me all summer."

Each team's lineup was bolstered by players who hadn't been available for the first game. By the luck of the draw, the winners added Lak Attack, while the underdogs added Cowboy Bill and Gump. And while none of the additions proved decisive, Lak's solid defensive contribution gave his side the impetus to take advantage of all their offensive opportunities.
"Getting Lak on our team was a huge addition to the back end," said Elvis. "He gave us a lot more defense and we were able to really shut down the other team."

A surprise visit by three legendary roadsters who've been mostly absent all season, Wink, Lobsterboy and Paul One, may have been a bit of a distraction to the winners as they faltered slightly in their drive to victory. It was also an inspiration for the Living Legend, who scored both of his goals while he was being cheered on by his aging contemporaries.
At least two of those legends, Paul One and Lobsterboy, indicated they'd renew their commitment to the game next season, while Wink was noncommittal.

Meanwhile, Elvis indicated his eighth Stanley Stick may also be his last, as he may be moving to a far away city by next Spring.

Posted by jaysuburb at 09:56 PM | Comments (3)

May 03, 2009

Halfway effort gets them half way there

Elvis and his mates are going to have to play a full game Sunday if they're to to sweep the Stanley Stick Championship after eking out a win in the opener, 20-18.

The score shouldn't have been that close.

Led by the veteran forward who's playing for his eighth straight championship, the favorites romped to an 11-5 lead, blew it to fall behind 16-15, before clinching the win with a seeing eye screamer from the far end of the court that eluded Nibs' flailing pad.

After spotting their opponents a quick 1-0 lead, they took control by driving hard to the net and crashing a beleaguered goalie, who was trying to atone for his weak start in last year's final that put his team at a huge disadvantage heading into the climactic showdown.

The stalwart backup, who is expected to be replaced by Gump next week after the regular rearguard couldn't make it to Sunday's game, could hardly be blamed for his team's early woes this time. He made some key saves, smothered the ball at opportune moments and gave his team the confidence to flood the offensive zone.

A few bad bounces, however, put them in a seemingly impossible hole.

"We were just trying to get as many shots as we could on net," said Elvis. "We had a lot of muckers and grinders who could jump on the rebounds, try to score the ugly ones."

The five goal advantage seemed to embolden his mates, who seemed to decide to take the middle part of the game off.

"I think we just thought it was going to be easy and we stopped trying," said Velma, who was getting his first taste of Stanley Stick intensity. "We were trying to make the pretty plays and it didn't work."

"I think we got a little too comfortable with our lead," said Elvis. "We eased off a little bit and the other team didn't let up."

It nearly cost them.

With Scooby crashing the end boards and opponents with abandon, and the Colonel finding the target with his blistering slapshot to the high corners of the net, the formerly moribund underdogs battled their way back into the game, wresting their first lead since its earliest moments.

"I think we had them a little bit off their game," said Colonel, who's agitating tactics on the Kid seemed to distract the prolific sniper for a spell. "They weren't focusing completely on what they were doing before."

Having seen their advantage vanish, Elvis and his mates had to regroup. They gathered around their goalie to catch their breath and reestablish their game plan.

"We were still confident," said Elvis. "We knew we weren't out of it, we just had to work a little harder and smarter."

"We knew we should win because we'd had this huge lead," said Velma. "We had to man up a bit."

A quick three-goal outburst gave them back the lead they'd never again relinquish despite some tense moments late in the game.

"I didn't think it would be so tough," said Velma. "They're going to get two stalwart defensive guys next week in Cowboy and Gump. We're going to have to reevaluate our game plan."

"We knew it was important to win this week because next week is going to be a lot tougher," said Elvis.

Meanwhile, the underdogs are optimistic they'll be able to build on their mid-game surge.

"The people coming in are very effective at their positions," said Colonel of the two new teammates, Cowboy Bill and Gump, who are expected to join their lineup for the finale. "We're expecting a much better game next week than this week."

Posted by jaysuburb at 06:15 PM | Comments (18)