Hockey is weird.
I don't know any other sport that well, to be honest, so I don't know if I can isolate hockey as being the only weird sport. But you gotta admit, it's weird.
The Crunch has won seven out of their last ten. Really, that's not a bad stat for a team with the third-worst point total in the league. But the funny thing is that it doesn't feel like we've won our last seven of ten. It honestly feels like we've lost them all.
This team has, for the most part, packed it in for the season. Saturday night's 6-1 skills competition display against the Checkers was a rare look at what this team could have, should have, been. The Crunch actually deserved to win that game, no question. We had the better goaltending in Timo. We had the better game up front--Kyle Palmieri had a hat trick and an assist, Patrick Maroon had a three point night, Nick Bonino had two assists, Matt Beleskey scored in his second game back with the team, and even Brian "Fluffy" McGrattan managed an assist before he was thrown out of the game 10 minutes in. Our defense was crap, but heck, so was theirs.
Sunday's 5-2 win over Hershey was also a pretty good show. The Crunch had goals from Matt Kennedy, Bonino, John Mitchell and two from Palmieri. JP turned aside 30 shots to help out, which is surprising on a number of levels. JP usually doesn't rebound from bad games very easily, and Timo was clearly on a roll the last two nights. But there he was in the game, stopping some of the best shooters in the AHL.
But it just doesn't feel like we've won that many games. Friday night's "win" against Toronto was the most boring 1-0 game I've ever seen. The team showed very little passion, skill, heart, or drive. They just went out there and flopped about. Our only point was a garbage goal that was more a matter of luck than effort. Palmieri was at the right place at the right time to shove a stalled puck across the line. (By the way, for those of you counting along at home, that means Kyle has six goals in three games) Wednesday's embarrassment, a 6-1 loss to the same team that had stomped us 4-1 the previous Sunday, was a listless game that almost put me to sleep.
These numbers are why I say hockey is weird. This team has shown rare moments of a shiny, skilled game that was damn pretty to look at and really fun to watch. They've given us games where we've finally felt like we have a hockey team, only to dash those hopes a few days later. I just don't understand where their motivation is or where it goes. I don't get why it isn't consistent. I can't see any pattern to our wins or our loses. Our home record is only slightly better than our away record, so it doesn't really matter where we play. The roster has been pretty consistent over the last two months or so, yet wasn't in the beginning of the season, so it doesn't seem to matter who we have out there. We've won and lost games when the arena was packed, and we've won and lost games when it isn't.
The vets in the locker room have stayed at an almost surprising constant, but the captaincy changed hands due to inquiry, once. Neither of those things mattered. The coaching staff hasn't changed, so unfortunately we don't have a comparison point there. Some other changes have been made, with players coming and going, and yet still the season still goes up, down, up, down, up, down.
The end is in sight here. One more week, and I'll be ripping tickets off of the final row in my season ticket booklet. I can't say I'll be sorry to see to season end. It had so much potential. We've seen proof of that, several times. We've seen a team with tenacity, with daring, with skill, with heart. Yet, if we blink, that team disappears in an instant.
Season ticket renewal letters went out this past week. We'll be renewing, as soon as my old friend Jim takes care of a structural problem that impedes our view of the game. But I can't say the same for everyone else, despite an extension of a promise that went into effect a few years ago to not raise prices. This really is too bad. The Crunch is a great organization that deserves support. But at the same time, I can't say I blame the fans, either.
I'm hopeful that the summer will make a difference. If the Ducks do well in making the playoffs, and I hope for you all they do, then maybe there won't be much re-building to do at the NHL level. Maybe the Ducks can concentrate on development at the AHL level. Some big ticket off season signings might do the trick to bring some fans back into the fold.
It's just too bad the first year of our affiliation had to go this way. I wish I could tell you all what the team is thinking, why it performs this way, but I don't even know if they know. I'm stumped, and I think they are, too.