Home » More & Less Hockey » ‘Twixt the cup and the lip

‘Twixt the cup and the lip

(Originally published at Kukla’s Korner, March 13, 2013)

Are these recent Sharks’ losses nothing more than a slip, a dribble away from being wins?  Are the Sharks just a flinch away from team fusion?

There was a spell during last night’s game that made me want to cover my eyes, but I couldn’t look away either.  Okay, yes I could, but I had to put the game on pause and go do chores to stop looking.  During those ten minutes or so, the team looked worse than they have in a long time.  The errant passes, failures to clear and general happening of anything that could go wrong also emphasized how suddenly the Sharks pulled it together.  The recovery made me think “see, they can just kick themselves into gear!”

Boyle, who isn’t afraid to be critical of his team’s effort, said: “I don’t say it too often after a loss, and maybe not so much the first 10 minutes, but after that I thought we were the much better team. It was a very good effort. We had lots of chances that we haven’t had in awhile. There was a couple freaky bounces and things that happened out there, but overall for 50 minutes, I think that was a very good effort.” -CSN Bay Area

Really, if this game had come sooner in the season it would have been considered perfectly normal, since teams do sometimes lose even when they are dominating the game.  It is just the timing that makes every loss, under any circumstance, so painful.  As David Pollak mentioned after the Avs game on the 10th:

San Jose has only seven regulation wins in 24 games — and only two in its last 19. That all by itself is worrisome.
-Working the Corners

If I’m doing my math right, that’s seven in 25, and two in 20 after last night.  Ouch.

Was it a desperate measure to put Burns in as a forward?  It certainly could have been done with a little more preparation.  He did start out looking a little conflicted about his duties, and his intermission comments made me think all those questions about where he should go and what he should do could have been answered by a couple more practices in the role.  So yes, I think it was a hasty move, but not a bad one.   I thought it was a little harsh of Hedican to describe playing forward as “turning his brain off,” but that’s the stereotype I guess.  Defensemen take longer to develop because they have to play smarter… and also be able to skate backward as well as forward, which I guess would take longer, being two directions instead of one.

But it isn’t really true.  A forward is all the more effective for having a lot of hockey sense, just like a defenseman.  There may even be a greater need of it, since the forward has to deal with so much going on behind him as well as in front of him.

I tried to figure out what the hockey equivalent for “court vision” is, but I can’t find a precise term.  It’s a mystery to me why the term “court vision” is so fixed in my brain.  It think my brother explained it to me when he was playing high school basketball (a long time ago.)  It is probably the only thing I know about basketball, and likely the most specific sports term that I remember unrelated to horses or hockey.

If I understand the term correctly, court vision is highly developed peripheral vision, combined with an ability to trust and remember what you see and saw, and to understand the situation without too much conscious reflection.  Some call it being “in the zone,” but court vision really does boil down to an ability to perceive space and movement better than most people do.

Anyway, what do they call it in hockey? Is it hockey sense?  Is it what Chris Pronger described as a sixth sense?  Or is it something else?  Someone suggested Kurri-vision.

It seems to me that hockey sense or hockey IQ are broader terms than court vision.  They seem to include more than an awareness of where all the players are on the ice, and what they are doing at a given moment.

In any case, that’s what gets messed with when confidence is down.  Lack of confidence makes it hard to focus, and you really need to focus to be in the zone, or see the court, or have your hockey sense running at 100%.  It’s a failure of that stuff that makes no-look passes go awry, or makes a player drop the puck coming through the neutral zone when really he should hang on to it or move it forward.  It isn’t an intentional dumb thing, it isn’t like he meant test Burns’ lower body flexibility.  It was just a confused reflex, not a conscious decision.

The difference between playing “in the zone” and not doing so is made glaringly evident during an NHL game.  A team that is just an electrical impulse away from being in sync winds up looking like a mess.  You get a spell or even a game like that first period of last night’s Sharks’ game in St. Louis.

So, yes, I believe the Sharks when they say they think they’re really close.  It’s irritating that it took them so long to get here, but that’s spilled milk, over with.  Onward and upward and all that.

“We were moving our feet, shooting, getting pucks back. That’s how we’re going to be successful,” Joe Thornton said. “We definitely put the work in. Some nights the better team is not going to win, and I think tonight was the case. We played real well and probably should have won the game, but the scoreboard didn’t indicate that.” -CSN Bay Area

There will be many a slip to come.  If the team can ignore the spillage better than onlookers do, the Sharks might start looking like the contenders they should have been all along.

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