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The Mental Game
By George Casner III
Amidst all the talk of, “Fire Randy!”, “Fire Bob!”, “Tank for Hughes!” are the typical qualms that come with it, “Dump and chase”, “Too many shots on goal”, “Not enough physical play”, “Too much line juggling”. But there’s one thing that isn’t being talked about enough, the mental game.
Hockey is not just a physical sport, it’s mental. The on and off ice mindset of a team will greatly affect the game.
Ultimately we will never truly know what happens behind closed doors, however, we can start to put the pieces together to get a picture.
In the past few weeks we’ve seen the lines get shaken up more than a martini, heard Gibby mention that the team isn’t playing as a whole, heard Getzlaf drop an F-bomb about how embarrassing their play was, and their recent record… well, let’s not open that box, shall we?
Anyone of these can hurt morale and make playing more difficult; but all of these plus anything else behind closed doors at the same time? That’s just a recipe for a tense situation and no doubt a mentally taxing one at that.
The team as a whole doesn’t seem to be going in a coherent direction. All offseason there were talks of a “new system” but as of late it’s back to dump and chase.
Mario Ramirez mentioned in his article about the loss to the Kings, “It seems as the Ducks are thinking too much on the ice instead of just playing the new system they seem to still be trying to figure out.”
So with a new system that they can’t figure out, a team that doesn’t seem to be moving in the same direction, and a record that is no doubt weighing them down, it’s obvious that the Ducks have a mental block they need to overcome.
Now, this block is certainly big and not easy to tackle but, in my opinion, the best way to overcome it would be to find the biggest issue and address that first. Once the bigger issue is resolved the minor ones might work themselves out. What is that bigger issue? The lack of a system.
The system that Randy is known for is, “Dump and chase”, which is a style of the game went out years ago. Now the game is speed and moving up the middle. The Ducks management said they worked on that in the offseason but it has reverted back with a newer and uglier face. A new symptom that has arisen this year is a lack of physical play. The dump and chase relies heavily upon big guys giving big hits but going for speed means less of that, and this new style that the Ducks are playing is the result of that mashup.
They are dumping the puck into the zone and aren’t laying the body on people. Which results in a high number of turnovers and the opponents skating circles around them. But by fully committing to one system it allows the players to focus on a single thing, allows the coaching staff to cement the lines, and these steady lines will boost team chemistry. All of these things will help the mental side of the game.
With speed being the name of the game I believe the Ducks should focus in on that and go with this kind of line up: (please note that this is with healthy players)
With this lineup, you spread out skill and speed. It matches some slower players with faster players and gives the Ducks a decently solid fourth line, something they’ve been lacking for a few seasons now.
Ultimately their fate is in their own hands but the Ducks have to figure something out because being stuck in their own heads won’t help the situation they’re currently in.
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November 8th, 2018