Dont think, Hawks, just play
So you're the Portland Winter Hawks, and you've already lost Game 1 of your first-round playoff series to the Tri-City Americans. Lost it at home, too.
You go out Sunday night and hold the Americans to 19 shots through three periods of Game 2 at the Rose Garden, but find yourself in overtime, deadlocked 1-1 because you still can't seem to find your legs.
You're playing uphill much of the time against a team you dominated in the regular season. You look nervous. Tentative. Some of your veterans, the high-end, blue-chip ones, seem just as nervous as your rookies.
What do you do?
Well, you get lucky. Lucky, in that you allow the Americans to rain 19 shots on your goalie, the unflappable Krister Toews, and none goes in the net. Lucky that after escaping the first overtime with your playoff life, Toews doesn't walk into the locker room and take someone's head off with that big goalie stick, just because he's tired of not getting any help.
And then, five minutes into the second overtime, you get a goal.
Almost out of the clear blue, you get a smart up-ice pass from Darrell May to Dan Da Silva, who made a great feed to Brian Woolger for the game winner. Red light, loud music, mob scene around Woolger Ñ game over.
Where do you go from here?
To Tri-City, for the next two games. The home-ice advantage is supposed to be important, but it would not surprise me to see the Hawks win in Kennewick, Wash.
In hockey, playoffs are different from the regular season. The best way I can put it is that there never seems to be any room on the ice. You can't go anywhere and find daylight. There is a checker in your face (and probably holding on to you or your stick) everywhere you turn.
It's physical, with brutal body checking. But there is little fighting because nobody wants to chance the odd penalty that could lead to a goal. That's the obvious thing Ñ goals don't come cheap in the playoffs.
The Hawks don't have a lot of firepower, and in the tight spaces of the playoffs, they have even less. Their defense has been solid but would be a lot better if Braydon Coburn, the first-round NHL draft pick, would just relax and play. On reputation, he was named to the WHL West all-star team, but he hasn't been the best defenseman on his own team this season. No Portland player has a worse plus-minus ratio.
The Hawks need him to be a star. Sometimes the only way that can happen is if you stop thinking so much. Be assertive, quit worrying about the consequences, and let your talent flow. Just be a hockey player.
And if you're the Hawks, on the road tonight and Wednesday, that's what you need: a few more hockey players. Aggressive, confident and calm.