Now, you might be wondering why a diplomatic history grad student is opening up a hockey column with a rehash of junior high Physics class. Well, the short answer is that it's the most fitting allegory I can conceive for the Crunch's weekend. That, and I really didn't think any of you would really enjoy it if I attempted to make this recap analogous to the year 1983, and why it was the most important year in the history of the Cold War. I have to do that kind of stuff all day, every day, and I hate it. I can't imagine wanting to read about it if you didn't have to.
"Newton's third law: All forces in the universe occur in equal but oppositely directed pairs. There are no isolated forces; for every external force that acts on an object there is a force of equal magnitude but opposite direction which acts back on the object which exerted that external force. In the case of internal forces, a force on one part of a system will be countered by a reaction force on another part of the system so that an isolated system cannot by any means exert a net force on the system as a whole. A system cannot "bootstrap" itself into motion with purely internal forces - to achieve a net force and an acceleration, it must interact with an object external to itself. "
Besides, there are those of you who weren't yet born in 1983. Quite frankly, you people make me feel old. To hell with it, let's get to what you came here for.
The Crunch embarked on their first three-in-three this season, with trips to Springfield, Wilkes Barre-Scranton and Binghamton over the weekend. Each game had its own interesting subplot, with Friday night's visit to Springfield as the obvious choice for most intriguing. For those of you new to the Crunch this season, the affiliate switch saw last year's Crunch team essentially relocate en masse to Springfield. This was the first of two meetings between the teams this season, and, as you can imagine, a very anticipated matchup for the faithful. It was a back and forth evening, with neither the Crunch nor the Falcons able to really establish any kind of momentum or dominance: neither team held more than a one goal lead throughout regulation, and a grand total of four penalties all night (each team taking a pair of minors) made for probably the most evenly-matched Crunch game thus far this season, with Springfield edging the good guys in the shootout.
For me, this game was a perfect example of why shootouts suck. The scoresheet shows an almost perfect symmetry: each team scored twice, went on the power play twice and finished a period deadlocked on the shot tally. I don't know that anybody would have been able to rationally complain about a tie here, as this was just about as even of a game as you'll see. I'm something of a traditionalist when it comes to the game -- I grew up in an era of wooden sticks, ad-free boards and teams in Winnipeg and Quebec City -- so I've never been entirely crazy about the shootout to begin with. Sometimes, a game ends up being so even that neither team truly deserves the extra point. This was one of them.
As far as the bitterness and bad blood that some people expected out of this affair? Never happened, and really wasn't going to anyway. Realistically, this season's Crunch, with the exception of Jon Mirasty, have little to no experience with last season's Crunch. True, honest enmity must be organic, not manufactured through column inches and sound bytes. And really, isn't it at least a little difficult to build a rivalry on only two games a season? More on this in a moment.
Saturday's date with the Penguins was going to be the big to-do of the weekend. There's really no other way to put it...the Pens are scary, scary good. They ripped off nine straight wins to open the season and are loaded with an obscene amount of depth. The Pens have been getting it done through a balanced offense (all but one of Wilkes Barre-Scranton's regular skaters has put up at least one point this season) and top shelf goaltending, giving up only 24 goals in 11 games. That, my friends, is a recipe for success.
So, naturally, the Crunch went in and punched them in the mouth for a 4-3 win.
If you're looking for the "signature win" type of game for this team, this was it. Simply put, the Pens dominated the Crunch for the two periods. After 40 minutes, the Crunch were looking down the barrel of a 3-1 score and were being outshot 30-16. Honestly, it wasn't even as close as that -- had this been a home game, I would have probably opened up the Auxiliary Flask and been goofing around on my phone for the third period. Thankfully, nobody told these guys it was a done deal, because the boys came out and banged in three of their first four shots on John Curry to take the lead by the eight minute mark. Nic Deschamps picked up his sixth goal of the season and continued to show why he may have been the dark horse on his line with Palmieri and Bonino. Brandon McMillan had his coming out party, picking up a goal, two assists and made life very difficult for the Pens' defense all night. Just an outstanding team effort all around, and the most unlikely of victories we've seen this season.
As great as all that was, Sunday's date with the Binghamton Senators was ugly. Bowling shoe ugly. Mike Ricci ugly. Hell, Rick Zombo ugly, for those of you of a certain age. The Sens hung a four spot on the Crunch before the first period was over, and at that point it was pretty much a done deal. By the end, it was 5-0 shellacking, but it wasn't without some fuel for the fire.
Binghamton coach Kurt Kleinendorst put Bobby Butler on the ice with the Sens on the PP and less than a minute to play in the game. Why, you ask? Because Butler was sitting on two goals at the time, and Kleinendorst, by his own admission, was trying to get his guy the hat trick in what amounted to garbage time of a blowout. Mark Holick's response after the game?
He has a long memory.
And, conveniently, the Sens and Crunch next hook up on the 17th of this month.
In the end, it was a rather sour note on which to close out the weekend, but what can you do? It happens. There's enough accountability and pride on the bench to move forward and learn from their mistakes, so certainly the first bad loss of the season isn't the end of the world. With a pair of games coming up against Albany and Hershey, these guys have little time to dwell on it. If anything, they can take some confidence out of having already beaten the Devils and nearly knocking off the Bears this season, and I fully expect Coach to have these guys come out pissed off and ready to make amends on Friday night. Looking at the standings, this is going to be a huge weekend -- currently, the Bears, Crunch and Devils sit fifth, sixth and seventh in the East division, respectively. The Bears and Crunch are each on 13 points, with the Devils right behind on 12. As I write this, Binghamton holds the last guaranteed playoff spot in the division with 14 points. You never want to paint a weekend in November as pivotal, but this would be a golden opportunity to pick up a couple of points on the teams you're going to be battling right down to the wire.
That's it for me this week. I need to return to the bowels of research, as I'm putting together what I hope will be my first peer-reviewed, honest to God publication in an academic journal. It's also the writing sample I am using to (hopefully) gain admission into Yale's doctoral program. Given that I've been on a diet of black coffee, Jack Daniels and In Flames for the last week, let's wrap this baby up with some Swedish metal goodness:
In Flames - Episode 666
Destination: Chaos, indeed.
Provided I don't totally lose my s*** this week, we'll see you in seven!