On to the finals. Game 5 was really exciting. Even though we got down early, one goal deflecting off my own foot passed our goalie Ondrej Pavelec, we never stopped playing hard.
After we got two goals on the power play within 16 seconds of one another, the Allstate was going crazy, so loud, that there was a sense on our bench that we knew we were going to win the game no matter what. We killed off a huge five minute penalty, everyone on the bench was into it, the crowd was going crazy, and we knew it was a matter of time.
Special teams are huge during the playoffs, they can change the momentum of a game and totally dominate a team. I think special teams was a huge factor against Toronto. Our power play had a few huge games, and when a team is always having to kill off penalties, it wears them down and doesn't create a whole lot of offensive momentum. On the other had, like in Game 5, if our team kills off a five minute power play, or penalties late in a close game, we can totally take the momentum away from a team, and it give our team a lot of confidence. So i have to give a lot of credit to the guys up front who do our penalty killing along with the defense. Colin Stuart, Kevin Doell, Joe Crabb, Matt Anderson, Steve Martins, Jordan Lavallee, all did an incredible job, and i know it will give a confidence boost to our PK units going into the final round against Wilkes Barre.
The celebration after Game 5 gave everyone a little taste of what it will feel like to win. The bench, the crowd, everyone was going crazy, and i think it is going to make everyone pretty hungry to go out and beat the Penguins in the Calder Cup finals. In the locker room, guys were talking about not being satisfied. I think everyone in sports knows that in order to be the best, you cannot accept second place. This is the attitude we have talked about in our locker room all year. About how the goal is not to do well, but to win the championship. I think we all went into the weekend pretty excited, anxious about moving on and starting the finals.
We didn't find out who we were playing until Saturday night, Wilkes-Barre had beaten Portland in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Since we had a little break between series it was really nice to get a few days off to relax, recover, and rest before Game 1 on Thursday. Most of the guys didn't do too much, watching the start of the Stanley Cup Finals, going out to dinner and enjoying the Memorial Day weather.
Monday was back to work. After a few days off, I felt pretty awful on the ice. When your body is used to being punished everyday, when it finally relaxes, it goes into overdrive. I was glad to hear from some of the other guys on the ice that they were pretty sore and tired too. I didn't want to be the only one feeling tired after 18 playoff games. Needless to say, I felt a lot better Tuesday, and the team went about the business of getting our systems together for Wilkes-Barre. Coach Anderson likes to go over all our systems when we have a few days off from games, reviewing our forecheck, face-off plays, re-groups, breakouts, and anything new the coaching staff might think we will use against an upcoming opponent. Practice was pretty upbeat, everyone excited about the upcoming finals. We even had a little fun when Haydar came on the ice a little late due to an interview. We all slapped our sticks against the ice, giving him a round of applause for 'finally' getting on the ice for practice, only a half minute late.
Tonight will be a team dinner at our favorite pre-game Italian restaurant in Rosemont, before a night of relaxing on the couch, and an early bed time. As much as making the finals is a relief, we all know we don't want to come up short. Not having played Wilkes-Barre all year, we don't know to much about what type of team they are. One of the things we always talk about in our locker room is not worrying about what the other team is doing, to go out and play the way we are supposed to play. If we do that, I think we are going to do pretty well.