Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sequels | Islanders 4, Blue Jackets 3, OT

Most classic horror movies have sequels. The Islanders got about three-quarters of the way through writing their own horror sequel before they decided they'd rather be an emotional roller coaster with an uplifting ending. Still, it was somehow fitting that Chris Campoli was forced to author the first overtime goal with a sequel that I can recall: Campoli 2 (This Time It Counts). But, like most sequels, when you look back, the first one was the real winner.

Despite the win, it still feels like a lead is there only to absorb the blow of giving up goals later—and then the game really begins. I do believe there is a strong psychological component to protecting a lead. You can say, "Just keep playing your game," all you want, but it's extremely difficult to actually do that. The opponent plays differently and the game feels different. Your instincts tell you to protect the lead so you focus on being defensive—even when your brain, and quite possibly your coach, is yelling at you to do otherwise.

With that dynamic at work, fending off a hungry team that's coming at you for 20 minutes is enough of a challenge with an All-Star goalie and a healthy defense. So it was satisfying to see the Isles bend, not break, and then capitalize on an opportunity to come away with two desperately needed points. Yes, you could do without the bend. But if it's progress and learning we're looking for, then consider that coming out of this game with a win is a significant step in the right direction after the Montreal game.

Blowing a lead does not mean it's time to pack it in. Standing up and saying, "We're still here—let's take this," is the response you're looking for. Last night, the Islanders gave the right response. Next, they need to work on coming up with the right response before they give up the lead.

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