There are two ways to lose a hockey game: you get outplayed, or you get out-lucked. The former is easier to swallow. Whether you’re outplayed because the other team is better or because you didn’t show up, there’s fault to be found. If your team had done X, they could have made Y happen. Losses like that are the kind sports reporters love, because they can jump up and down screaming, “We need a better powerplay!!!” and “You miss 100% of the shots you never take!!!” which sound like good advice until you realize that the first is not necessarily true (see: Chicago Blackhawks, 2012-2013) and the second is just a proverb your fifth grade basketball coach had hung up in his office.
You can be mad at a game where one of the teams underwhelmed with their play. You can feel self-righteous about athletes not working hard enough from where you’re sitting on your couch, one hand in a bag of Tostitos and one hand wrapped around the remote.
There’s not really anything to be angry about in a game where the other team had a lucky bounce or a series of lucky bounces. Statistically, luck accounts for far more of the course of a hockey game than we’d like to admit. Shootouts, for example, are essentially just an exercise in tempting fate, not proof of individual player skill.
The Columbus Blue Jackets fell in OT to the Washington Capitals early this week, and again tonight to the Boston Bruins. Ovechkin scored the game winner in Tuesday’s game; Lucic won it for Boston tonight. It’s been a rough season for away games for the Blue Jackets, whose first road trip resulted in loss after loss after loss. But most of those were losses that had points of fracture. Moments that could point to and say: that’s where it slipped out of our hands.
In this week’s games, there weren’t any such moments. Or at least, not ones that you could point to with the intent of finding fault. Obviously there are always mistakes made in games, but it’s easy to forget that way more of sports is alchemy than we allow for. Fault will certainly be found–by the media, by poor Todd Richards, by many fans. But it’s going to be that generic, objectless kind of blame. You know what I’m talking about: “Lucic had that rebound off Atkinson’s stick and slipped it in passed Bob; we’ve got to be able to exert the kind of control that keeps that from happening.”
Control over what? Physics? Atkinson took a shot, Lucic went for the block and got lucky with the clean rebound. The only way to avoid that play was for Atkinson not to shoot the puck, and let’s be honest, shooting less is not really a strategy that CBJ can afford to execute right now.
There are a lot of issues with CBJ’s game. We do have problems with consistency, Bobrovsky hasn’t been having the season we all wanted him to have, and there is that teeny-tiny-itty-bitty issue of repeatedly getting outshot in the first and second periods, but that wasn’t the case in either of these games. No team ever does everything right, but even if CBJ somehow, magically, did, they’re still register losses on their record. Because sometimes the rebounds go your way, and sometimes they don’t.
Do your best to fix the problems that you can, be better every game, and for God’s sake, can we at least beat Montreal?