Goalie might just win this one standing on his head
I can think of no other team sport where the outcome so squarely rests on the shoulders of one person. Especially in the postseason. Plainly stated for nonhockey fans, you really can't go very far in the playoffs unless you have a hot goalie.
And if you do have a hot goalie, you can overcome all kinds of other problems.
Last season, Lanny Ramage got hot in goal at just the right time, and the Portland Winter Hawks rode him all the way to the Western Hockey League championship series.
The hockey term for a hot goaltender is 'standing on his head.' Envision a goalie so hot that he's making saves in all kinds of contorted positions in front of his net. That was the feisty Ramage last season, standing on his head.
But that was then, and this is now.
When the Hawks take the ice against Seattle in Game 1 of the 2002 playoffs, tonight in the Rose Garden, Ramage must do it all again. Make no mistake: An awful lot of the Hawks' hopes for postseason success ride on his shoulders. And that's just the way he likes it.
'The playoffs are a totally different atmosphere,' he says. 'You have to play like there's no tomorrow because if you don't, you'll be going golfing real soon.'
The Hawks have underachieved this season, even though they won their division championship.
For one thing, it was a weak division. For another, they didn't consistently play as hard as they should have. Trades rocked this team hard early in the season, and I think it takes a lot longer for a team of youngsters to recover from such things than it does a professional team.
'We're all like brothers,' Ramage says. 'In the NHL, you have a wife and family to go home to at the end of the day. Here, we have each other, and when some guys are traded, it's really tough to see them go.'
But the playoffs are the ultimate eraser. If you play your way deep into the playoffs, nobody remembers the regular season.
Portland is neither the league's best offensive team nor its best defensive team. If the Hawks hope to get very far, they must elevate their game ÑÊand get Ramage to stand on his head again.
'I love that,' Ramage says. 'I like to have it on my shoulders. You're either the goat or the hero, and that's fine. I want that pressure. I think that's when I'm at my best.'
He will have to be for the Winter Hawks to get back to the WHL's championship series.
Dwight Jaynes can be heard from 3-5 p.m. weekdays on KPAM (860 AM). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.