Inside the Glass: Pre-Season Games
As a fan preseason games have always made me laugh. We all over-scrutinize these games because we've gone three long months without our obsession, but then if the boys lose it isn't a big deal because it was a preseason game. This always made me laugh because it's like a professor telling me; "Well gee Rob, you got about half of the problems wrong here, but I'll give you a B anyways for effort." Sure, it sounds good at the time, but in the long run it doesn't help. As a current player and coach who spent days of his time this summer inside of a rink I can tell you this: Preseason games are as important as you make them out to be; and come September 15th I will be watching our new Blueshirts with interest, that is for sure.
As a coach it seems as though that the common theme to how the game went was that you were happy no one got hurt. And although it is true, you do suddenly feel the playoff burn sneak into you when your team gives up a two goal lead late in the second period.
At the start of the game as a coach you want to keep the lines together and roll through them all to get a look at the young kids. I expect John Tortorella to do the same, and I think all of us will be curious to see some of the prospects we know so well. Then, depending on the scoreline and the games intensity, you usually find yourself eyeing the opposite bench in an obvious (but you don't think it is) way trying to match lines. The third period comes and again if the situation calls for it you suddenly worry about who is going to be on the Power-Play and Penalty Kill units. The phrase "pull the goalie" bounces around in your head as the clock goes under five to play down a goal. Then, just as quick as the mid-game thoughts came, the buzzer sounds and as a coach you're glad no one got hurt. From my limited coaching experience with the summer team, that is what it felt like, and I think that is a good accurate guess at what John Tortorella will be feeling for the most part.
Meanwhile, from my experience as a player, it's all about your attitude and approach to the summer/pre-season game. Most are on cruise control, just getting a good skate in and doing what they are supposed to do. Some are even worse, as if they don't want to be on the ice, but that doesn't apply to NHL players as it is their love. The rest, though, really want to shine, score, and win. I can pick these players out when watching pre-season. It is usually the young guys trying to make an impression, but it's refreshing to see as a fan because it gives you that regular season rush we will be so used to five months from now. What's even more interesting is when a guy gets cheap-shotted or misses a poor chance and then suddenly awakens from his cruise-control state. This happened to me a lot in summer league games, as I would suddenly be fuming on the bench wanting the puck on my stick or physical revenge on the certain player. Then, the buzzer sounds and its all social talk in the locker room (at least from my experience) because the rush of the pre-season league game doesn't stick with you quite like a season one.
Like I said before, pre-season games are about as important as you make them out to be. This directly applies to the players and coaches, as each individual could have a different attitude pertaining to the game which affects their decisions. But for us fans, the pre-season should be just as important. The Rangers had an above-average pre-season last year, including a great come-from-behind victory in the Victoria Cup that was amazing to watch (the comeback part). I really think this had something to do with their fast start, as they played aggressive and solid defensive hockey for fifteen games. Pre-season games do matter for the most part, and the challenge for fans is to recognize this and to not just shrug it off as a "meaningless" game.