Kid Ish's Pizzametrics, Week 9: Our Feelings

@JHowardDesign

My current favorite pizza topping is ham. Sometimes simplicity is best. Other times, throw on more toppings.

WEEK NINE

Anaheim at Dallas (L) - This game didn't end up so good, you know? Dallas made it a point to try to get in on our defense quick from the outset. Through two periods, it didn't work. So they just began stretching the guys out, which did work.

Dallas' flurry in the third was mostly off the rush, which is impossible to plan for in real-time. Aside from defending for the rush (as a team), defending the rush itself is circumstance by circumstance, because each evolves differently. What's ironic: defending the rush is the easiest area to see a defender's skill on display, and that's where Dallas exposed our young blue line when putting pucks deep and forcing turnovers failed - which they had intended as the method to expose them originally.

Check out the first goal in the third, which started the comeback. Yonkman is caught. There's a number of things he could do here differently, but ultimately he's inexperienced playing at this level, and that colored his decision-making, or lack thereof. He tries to stay between the puck carrier and the F3, but he had two backchecking forwards coming to help. He probably should have attacked the carrier to force a play with the puck sooner, because he gave Erik Cole all the space in the world to make a clean pass.

Calgary at Anaheim (W) - I saw most of this game at a family function, so my watching wasn't continuous. What I did see was a tentative Calgary team that gave Anaheim a lot of time (space, basically) to work, and it seemed to cause Reto Berra to become overly aggressive to challenge it. (The Flames tightened up overall to play a much better game against the Kings the following night.) It was nice to see the team win a game it should win.

Anaheim at San Jose (L-SO) - This was an interesting game. San Jose is fast and aggressive - but as such, they can take themselves out of position easily. (Juxtapose this with the Kings, who actually play their positions much better.) I suspect a more optimal Ducks lineup could have exploited the Sharks aggressiveness better, but the inexperienced blue line made this a tougher match because puck movement suffered.

As it stands, the Ducks depleted lineup took it to the Sharks and made it a tight game in the end. The Sharks had more chances overall, but that includes their PPs. At even strength, the Ducks had the better of the play. This is a very good team in San Jose, and they said they were guilty of hanging back, sitting on the lead; but I credit the Ducks for carrying the play in the latter half of the game.

The Hiller unsettled puck pass on the PP was the hardest goal to give up on the night, but it's terribly difficult to fault anyone specifically for what's ultimately just an insanely unlucky bounce. There's lots of shoulds, like Fowler racing back to get the puck to Getzlaf himself. But he plays it right based on seeing Hiller come out. Hiller even plays it right in trying to kick it over to Getzlaf - but that puck is rolling and bouncing. Unlucky. Patrick Marleau is deceptively fast and makes the team pay.

PLAYERS

Jakob Silfverberg 4P-Met

Mathieu Perreault 4P-Met

Cam Fowler 6P-Met

Dustin Penner 6P-Met

Ben Lovejoy 5P-Met

Andrew Cogliano 6P-Met

Sami Vatanen 2P-Met

Hampus Lindholm 4P-Met

Bryan Allen 3P-Met

Daniel Winnik 4P-Met

Ryan Getzlaf 6P-Met

Corey Perry 6P-Met

Teemu Selanne 2P-Met

Saku Koivu, C (3P-Met) - Koivu is a tricky guy to award pizza to, let me tell you. Of his typical line, I'd say both Cogs and Winnik drive more play. But Koivu is mostly sound in his defensive end, so he isn't useless. He plays a smart game on the ice and always has. Boudreau usually has this line facing the stiffest competition too, which can't be ignored.

The thing is, he's not a positive player on the year. I'd say he's a two slicer. But against the Flames and Sharks, he was a four slice binge eater. His best game of the season in terms of chances for was probably against the Sharks. I'm comfortable averaging him out as a three slice pizza eating machine.

THIS PIZZA HAS FEELS

It's easy to forget that sports are played by humans, who are temperamental, flawed, and sometimes assholes. Every sport has a different culture surrounding it, and hockey's no different. A lot gets made of "confidence," whether it is player confidence or coach confidence, and so on.

As fans, we get caught up in our rooting interests so much that we can sometimes forget the human element. We say "they make millions of dollars, they should go out there and ____," and insert your desire for their perfection. But "confidence," or "form," or "feelings," is this pretty real thing - and it's friggin' nuts.

On an individual level, some days you just feel off. You know it. Your mates know it. Your opponents probably figure it out right quick too. And those games are hard to play in. There's only so much your physical training and reflexes can get you by when your mind is shot.

One of the first goals I gave up one game was a softie between the stilts. Just a flubber. I didn't feel off, per se, but that little random act of suck got in my head, and I was a mess the rest of the way. What tripped me up was that the one little mistake got me overthinking everything. I began to second-guess my instinct, which already let in one soft goal, and suddenly I was playing angles poorly, overcommitting to breakaways, and sending weak passes off the mark to my defense.

At the break, I tried to shake it off, and I was mildly successful. I eventually settled down. But my confidence was iffy on that night, and so it goes. Because on other nights, I'm playing like I should've pursued sports as a career - I'll be brilliant. I'm "feeling it," and when the game ends, I'm thinking, "what the heck did I just do?" (Those nights are harder to sleep, because that adrenaline...very intoxicating.)

On a team level, some days your team is flying, and some days your mates are playing like they were all out drinking until game time. When your team is playing well, there's a sort of confidence there that trickles down into your head. You see how well the others are doing, and you loosen up a little. Or maybe you take more risks because you know you've got backup.

But look out when the team is feeling off on the whole. Even if you bring your top form but you've got two guys struggling, it's real hard to put together a solid game. Barring individual efforts (like saving 10 shots in a flurry while praying my teammates get their heads out of their asses pretty soon, because I'm getting tired), those games end up being choppy, tiring affairs.

This sort of thing goes on and on too, on all levels of the game. I know it when I'm facing someone who has so much confidence in his abilities that he's not sweating his shot. He's aiming it, he's marking my movements, and as a result I'm going to make the safest play possible so as not to give him a second chance. Counter that with the guy who gets in and just sends over a prayer - he knows it, I know it, and when I come out and play it away, I can be more creative because he's not going to challenge me.

Even though the athletes we root for are "professional," this sort of thing happens all the time. A bad bounce can take a pro off his game the same way it does to me, because humanity. The difference between the pro and me is that the pro has a million times more skill and far more intensive training. So while those "low confidence" moments happen to both, the pro has the ability to overcome it easier.

But the ebbs and flows of human confidence, on an individual and team level, still plays a part in what we see, what we root for. That's why, for me, it's easier to look at the flub short-handed goal in San Jose as just an unlucky bounce and not an indication that half the team needs to be traded or benched or something. A bunch of humans who make mistakes play competitive games at really high levels, but they're still plenty capable of screwing up here and there. Conversely, they're capable of doing something extraordinary for the same reason, which is the beauty of sports.

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