Monday, November 1, 2010

An Emotional Problem?

With this post, I'm going to do a little exploration on something I've been thinking about for a couple weeks, really, dating back to the Central Oklahoma games. One disclaimer before I start: None of this is meant to suggest that anything less than the highest level of intensity is needed to succeed in hockey. But that intensity needs to be productive intensity.

When my brother and I were kids, we'd often play one-on-one basketball in the driveway. We were pretty equal as players, but I knew I could get in his head and throw him off his game, which I often did. Nobody would question his intensity when he was throwing the ball at my head and storming inside. I probably won more often than I should have because of it. And if he tried to reciprocate? I'd laugh and keep playing.

That little glimpse in my childhood isn't meant as bragging (if anything, it makes me look like kind of a prick, which I was), just to point out that people handle emotion differently. It makes some people better, some worse. Same goes for teams as a whole - teams after all are just a group of people that (hopefully) are united around a common purpose.

I believe that the Icers are at their best when playing with smart, controlled intensity. When they're out to prove a point or make a statement, look out. For them. Let's examine:

Central Oklahoma

Paul Daley was one revenge-minded Icer:
“We want to bury them. We want to let them know that last season, the loss was a fluke and show them how good we really are.”
The result: A sweep for Penn State, although UCO is now 3-9-1 and both games were tighter than anything UCO had played against a decent opponent to that point (they did play a one-goal game with No. 2 Davenport over the weekend, so maybe that young team is maturing).


Teddy Hume seemed preoccupied with the opponent's then-No. 2 ranking and the magnitude of the games.
“This is definitely our biggest series of the year. No questions asked, it’s always a battle when we face-off.”
“They deserve the ranking. But we feel we deserve it too and we are going to try and take it from them.”
The result: The Icers get roughly one good period in two games, managing a split with the Bobcats.


The Icers needed to one-up Liberty's physicality, according to Daley:
“In this game we’re going to be forced to play physical. We won’t have a choice, that’s just the way they are. We’ll try to outmatch them, be more physical than they are and hopefully we’ll just give them a taste of their own medicine.”
And in the aftermath of the Ohio series, he had this to say:
“This is not the Penn State team we are. Now, we have to go out and show the league what we're about.”
The result: See above, for the most part.

Honestly, I'm not sure whether I'm right about any of this - I could be reading too much into a few quotes, misreading context, jumping to conclusions. I readily admit that. And a disproportionate number of the quotes came from one guy (I easily could have used Daley for Ohio too), so maybe this isn't a "team" issue. But I do feel like the team that I've watched the last few weeks seems to favor putting opponents through the glass (as Rich O'Brien did against Liberty Thursday night), playing up to rankings and "showing people what they're all about" over precise execution and productive intensity, hallmarks of previous Penn State teams.

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