Where: Bell Centre, Montréal, Quebec
When: PM EDT | Tickets: Check availability
Television: CBC, RDS, NBC Sports Network, Sun Sports | Radio: 970 AM WFLA
Opponent Coverage: Habs Eyes on the Prize, All Habs
Ever heard of Shakespeare's tragedy of MacBeth? It's been a very, very long time since I read that play, which I had to for high school. One thing that stands with me to this day, though, is the MacBeth soliloquy; it is the title character of MacBeth delivering a monologue to the audience in the pretentious and profound verse that stayed with culture for some 500 years now:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
- Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5
Long time sports fans have probably heard some of these lines before, and I've seen it quoted by coaches and players alike. In a way, the NHL playoffs can look at this in comparison; you're only there for an instant and then you're gone. The big difference is that getting to the playoffs doesn't signify anything, but if you're one-and-done, then it does.
In this case, where I'm coming from in speaking about tonight's game, I want to latch on to the "full of sound and fury / signifying nothing" lines. The Tampa Bay Lightning are in MontrΘal tonight for game 3 of this series, they're in danger of being swept at this point too... And part of the reason for that is getting caught up in the sound and fury of the playoffs; the hype and the media noise seems to have left the roster in awe. With the previous two games being played in Tampa, the Lightning only got a fraction of the attention and the hysterics that they face today in the province of Quebec. They're now in the center of a hurricane of media scrutiny and crazed fans.
And it all should mean absolutely jack in the end. It's nothing, it has nothing to do with the game, it has nothing to do with the assignments, it has nothing to do with the responsibilities on ice, and it has everything to do with getting caught up in the bright lights and big attention sideshow of the playoffs.
Ten years ago this spring, I heard from Montréal fans that were playing down the Bolts in the Eastern Conference semifinals. I was told how the media machine and scrutiny that would be forthcoming would jar and throw off the offensive attack and render Tampa Bay dead in the water. I didn't buy it, partly because I couldn't and wouldn't expect members of that team to get lost in the hubbub of the moment... And they didn't. That squad that was supposed to be shocked-and-awed by the attention swept Montreal out of the playoffs.
This team, though? They've gotten lost in it. They have been phased by it... At least that's how they're playing right now. They've been outscored 9-5 and outshot OMG to WTF (69 to 52) in two games. While people will point at Anders Lindback's performance in game 2 (where he played at his compete level during much of the season - which isn't well) as troubling, the effort of everyone in front of him wasn't doing the club any favors either.
The lack of playoff experience has been spoken about as part of the problem here; the guys haven't gone through this before. This will only be the third NHL playoff game for some of them! The thing is, it's still a hockey game. They've played hundreds of those in their lives. Getting lost in the sideshow though, that they haven't done much before. They haven't been marked as the enemy of Canada before (as they are the first hurdle preventing a Canadian team from winning back the Stanley Cup.) They've faced other adversity before, multiple times this season alone, but they haven't seemed as put-off as they are at the moment.
My message to the team is thus: It's all noise. Play your game, don't let Don Cherry, Pierre McGuire or the throngs of cameras and reporters let you forget that. This isn't anything different, unless you get caught in sound and the fury of the sideshow.
Kyle posted up some major game notes earlier in the story stream tied to tonight's affair. While news about Ondrej Palat participating in practice is major, I think it's also worth noting that Lindback starts. It's noteworthy mostly because, if Tampa Bay is once again forced to play on their heels we could see Lindback on a very short leash. This would go back to the notion of lack-of-faith in the goalie that was highlighted by Ben Bishop's overuse down the stretch.
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