Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Triple the Fun and Heartbreak

Want to know why we love the playoffs? It is because at playoff time the overtime periods have actual meaning. There is no single points awarded for making it to playoff overtime, either you win or you lose.

We are the crazy types too, as the longer a game goes into overtime the happier we can get. We look upon overtime as the truest test of a prospect because the emotional toll it can have upon a player.

Win and you get the greatest of highs and the confidence to move on. Lose and you have very little time to regroup to try to turn things around.

For Ryan Hillier and his Halifax Mooseheads, Game 3 of their series against the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles took exactly 103:02 and 3 overtime periods before Halifax scored to win 4-3 and take a commanding 3-0 series lead.

According to the QMJHL this game between Halifax and Cape Breton was the 4th longest of the QMJHL history (the record is 146:31 set in 1999). There were 114 shots on goal, 115 face offs, some heavy clean hits and some borderline dirty ones.

If you wanted hard hitting action, if you wanted scoring chances from both teams, if you wanted great goaltending then this game was one you would have loved. However we loved it for one reason more than any other as this was the biggest bounce back game that Ryan Hillier could have possibly have had.

In Game 2, Hillier played a very undisciplined game that cost his team 2 goals due to bad penalties that Hillier had taken. Hillier had rightfully earned himself a seat on the bench for his play so to us how he played was in our eyes critical for his development.

In 103 minutes, Hillier played himself a very disciplined intelligent game. Hillier found a way to play a smart hard hitting disciplined game without taking a single penalty. Even more so was that he found the balance to control himself even when he took a suspect hit and not take that retaliatory penalty that always seems to happen in hockey.

Hillier scored his 6th goal of the playoffs in this game but really the more important part to us was how he responded to his previous bad game. Hillier actually led the Mooseheads in both shots on goal with 9 but also was second in scoring chances with 3.

We also liked how Hillier stepped up his play at the end of the first 2 overtime periods as whether it was on offense or defense we liked how Hillier did his best to help his team out.

Of course we have to also add that the Mooseheads are now 7-0 in the playoffs when Hillier registers at least 1 point in the game. Now we want to see Hillier pass another test, Game 4 is Wednesday evening so how will a tired Ryan Hillier follow up a solid game 3 performance?

We are really hoping that Hillier can give us 2 straight solid performances.

The opposite end of the playoff world is what happens when you lose overtime games. In the case of David Skokan's Rimouski Oceanic they have to be asking themselves a lot of "What if'"s

What if they had won game 1 in overtime or game 2 in double overtime? What if they had been able to steal a game on the road from the top seeded Rouyn-Noranda Huskies?

What if the Oceanic had returned home for Game 3 up 2-0 instead of being down 0-2? Those questions and more very much were a factor in game 3 as the Oceanic spotted the regular season leaders a 3-0 second period lead.

That the Oceanic put on a marvelous comeback to tie the game at 3-3 in the third period made for a moral victory but in the playoffs moral victories mean nothing if you do not get that last goal.

David Skokan did what we love to see which is make the big play at the big time as he set up at the time was the game tying goal in the 3rd period. Skokan though needed to make one more play but it was not meant to be as the Huskies scored what proved to be the game winning goal with just under 6 minutes remaining to win 4-3 and take that huge 3-0 series lead.

Skokan tried his best but while he was more offensive minded with 4 shots, his face offs badly suffered as he was 7-15 in game 3, a number we had not seen since early in the year.

Now the Oceanic face that almost impossible task of trying to comeback from 0-3 but at the same time, we have a selfish desire to see Skokan on an ATO with Hartford forming an Eastern European line of Anisimov/Zaborsky/Skokan.

Game 4 will also be on Wednesday.

(pics: Hillier/Halifax, Skokan/Rimouski)

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