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Pregame Jitters

It’s too much. I had trouble remembering whether I needed to go up or down in the elevator just now. A building employee came up behind me and pushed the up arrow and it set me off in a cycle of doubt. I asked out loud, “am I going up or down?” then I answered myself: “down.” Then, when the elevator arrived, I got in and the building employee had to say “aren’t you going down?” I looked up and saw that it was going up. I thanked her and got back out.
Then someone I have been wanting to introduce myself to walked up to wait too and I commented that I don’t know whether I am going up or down and she did not know what to make of that. This confession of incompetence oddly buoyed my confidence and I finally introduced myself and shook her hand. It was pretty cool.soccersign0604

Getting here in time for any interviews was difficult, but I was fortunate enough to make it in time for the tail end of the Pens coach’s remarks and then the Sharks room and DeBoer’s comments. I felt bold again and asked Couture…detaining him after everyone left… about what the team does that makes faceoff failure irrelevant. I didn’t set out to ask him that, it wasn’t like punishment for setting off the hubbub about cheating. (Of course really the media loved that, right?) He was just the first center that was available and I could not be completely certain that any more would be. Of course that was silly. Of course Pavelksi would talk to us. But it was nice to ask a question. I think that is two games in a row for me!

All the rooms have been moved around. Not literally. The space has been re-allocated. The place where media usually dines and sometimes work has turned into the “Interview Room,” an auditorium for press conferences. The room where we usually do post-game press conferences has been turned into the NHL Offices. A Media Work Room has been set up in a space I have never entered before. I think it is usually used for storage. But it’s been done up nicely with drapes and banners and plenty of space. Also, we can eat here. They will feed us here. And it is cool, the ventilation is excellent.

It is exciting. I very much hope we’ll be here for more than two games. It would be so awful for the team to just fall down. In the same way that some of these players did not fully appreciate the magnitude of their situation in 2010, I too did not realize how rare these games are. Such a hubbub is reasonable. To take it for granted in any respect is inappropriate. But if you don’t know any different, I guess you might take it for granted.

How the tide of commentary has turned. To start the series, almost everyone was picking the Sharks. Now almost everyone has counted them out and is even predicting a short series. I don’t know what to make of it. I find myself watching the games, trying to see what it is that the Penguins are doing. Yes, the Sharks look slow and inept, but that is exactly what they said about the Capitals and the Lightning when they faced Pittsburgh. So what is it that they are doing?

Speed, everyone talks about speed. I guess that could be it. That would help the forwards get back to help the defense. That would help the defense get back and compensate for their reputed weakness. But if they do that, why does anyone think they are weak? Could it simply be that they are young? Even so, if they get the job done, why would you accuse the team of being defensively weak?

Ah well. My eye is not up to the task. I see things and do not quite understand how to describe them. But I do see them. I hope I see some of the things I have seen the Sharks do in the past, when they made me say “wow!” on some defensive regroup. I keep thinking back to their game against the Capitals, when their defense was so fierce that I winced every time a Washington player entered the Sharks zone. They would be dispatched with such prejudice, so little pause, that I thought they must be insane to keep trying to get in there. It was amazing.

I have not seen anything like that from the Sharks in this round. I also have not seen it from the Penguins. Their defense is somewhat more traditional, but effective. Maybe, just maybe the Sharks can rediscover that tonight. Maybe missing Hertl will get them going, make them more careful and more fierce at once. It is a blessing that they do not have to replace him with a rookie, that they have Zubrus to come in. At this stage, it would be a high risk move to use a green player when you are down 0-2 and that youngster has yet to play.

So I’ll be watching, watching for something I can see but not describe.


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