Prior to last night's game, I predicted (at LGS) exactly what I thought would happen in Game 1, along with a theory about exactly why I thought it would happen, pretty much the way it did. NOT the outcome. NOT the final score. In a nutshell, I said basically that the extended layover between series might have seriously damaged the Wings, just as I believe a similar layover seriously damaged the Sharks last year, as it waited to play Chicago. And I want to know what you think about it.
The original thread is here (at LGS), but I've copied the OP below. Please remember I was writing this primarily to Sharks fans, and that this was written long before the game started:
I'm reading all over the internet what appears to me as a lot of the usual playoff blah-blah-blah, with most of the media pundits writing off the Sharks (albeit mostly in 7 games) while all but ignoring what I consider to be a phenomena of enormous effect.
They call it the "rust factor", and everyone knows that to "dispute it", Detroit must come on strong, and do everything it can to steal Game 1 on the road. Maybe it can, maybe it can't. But I have some definite thoughts on this. It's something I don't see discussed in any detail (that I can find), and I find that surprising, given what is at stake.
Rewind to last year.
It was April 29, 2010, exactly one year ago today, that the Sharks began their Western Conference Semifinal series against the Wings. We had beaten the Avs in 6, while the Wings were coming off of a grueling game 7 series with the Coyotes.
2010 CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS - SAN JOSE VS. DETROIT
Game 1: April 29
Sharks rest time: 5 days (last game played: Apr 24)
Wings rest time: 2 days (last game played: Apr 27)
Advantage Sharks? The Sharks were definitely the more rested team, but not so much rest for too much rust (read=loss of real-world playoff intensity, WHICH CAN NOT BE IMITATED IN PRACTICES) to set in. The Sharks would go on to eliminate the Wings in 5, but they were close games, with victory for the Sharks well served by the number of penalties taken by Detroit. Yeah, I know - diverguchi, refs in our pockets, yada yada..., this fanboy homer doesn't give a crap about any Deus Ex Machina talk, even when it happens in reverse. The point is that the series could have gone on longer, and could even have gone the other way.
After the Wings were eliminated, the Sharks went onto a LONG rest period - eight days, to be exact.
2010 CONFERENCE FINALS - SAN JOSE VS. CHICAGO
Game 1: May 16
Sharks rest time: 8 days (last game May 8)
Hawks rest time: 5 days (last game May 11)
You know the rest of the story, as the Hawks went on to sweep the Sharks, 4-0. And the Hawks, who went on to win the Cup, made it look easy. The Sharks looked like zombies - the proverbial children from which candy could be easily taken.
I remember a lot of Sharks fans I talked to last year were feeling SO good, so confident about the fact that we had three more days of rest than the Hawks. I HATED THAT. I DREADED THAT FACT.
In the aftermath of the Sharks' defeat, I went on to read and hear the usual blah-blah-blah. The Sharks could have done this or that, so-and-so was invisible, etc., -- and I was sitting there, the whole time, feeling deep inside that the Sharks' defeat was NOT the Sharks fault. So. Is that because I am a homer fan? My darling children can do no wrong, and need not take responsibility for what went wrong? I don't think so. At least, in my case, there is a rationale for it.
It is my contention, my theory, that two days is enough to get any team back to 70-90% of its capacity, and that three days is a perfect amount of time for any (uninjured) team to rest, recoup, or otherwise recharge to something close to 100%. Just like a battery recharging. A fourth day adds very little, if any, to that. Five is pushing the envelope, in my opinion, and is somewhat akin to oversleeping, which can actually cause toxins to build in your system, which can make you more tired.
After five days off, a team is in very real danger of losing its playoff intensity (gaining rust) - a loss that rises exponentially with each additional passing day. And I am not referring to physical stamina. Regular practices can keep the bodies up to par physically, but that is not the same thing as "playoff intensity" - that stressed, amped up, hyper-adrenal mental survival state that a human body undergoes in survival conditions, which can only be achieved by players and teams who experience this kind of stress in real time, both mentally and physically, in real playoff mode. It is that state of mind that allows a human being's brain, warriors, fighters, predators and prey of all kinds to react and process things so fast mentally, that everything else appears to happen in slow motion.
Losing playoff intensity after a prolonged period of rest is absolutely unavoidable, and has nothing whatsoever to do with a team or player's resolve. The human body, including the brain, is not designed to deal with prolonged stresses without a cost, so the body will avoid it where possible. Like adrenalin, which amplifies your physical capacity, this mode is available in shorter bursts, and only as much as needed. Likewise the body, at some point after such stresses are removed, and the pressure is taken off for any prolonged period of time, will go into a different kind of longer term recuperative mode. This is way different from just "sleep" - your body is in this mode during the waking hours as well - and a side-effect of this is a real-time sluggishness, like walking around with a mild tranquilizer in your system, 24-7.
Fast forward to today. It looks to many like a repeat of history, as we meet the same team, on the same day, with the same stakes, one year later. But this time the Sharks are in Chicago's WCF shoes, and the Wings are in the Sharks' when they faced Chicago. Worse for the Wings, even, by one day, and better for the Sharks by one day.
2011 SEMIFINALS - SAN JOSE VS. DETROIT
Game 1: April 29
Sharks rest time: 4 days (last game played: Apr 25)
Wings rest time: 9 days (last game played: Apr 20)
Remember what I said about 3 and 4 days being optimum numbers? I believe that. There is such a thing as "too much of a good thing", to the point where it can destroy your chances. I don't want to directly predict the outcome of this series. Instead, I will say that if, hypothetically, the Sharks had swept their opponent in the first round, and had to wait NINE DAYS before facing the Wings, with the Wings having had four days to rest - I would be FILLED with a feeling of real dread for my team, just like I was last year before we faced Chicago - like the Sharks were about to get swept, and easily - all their many skills, and sheer wills combined, notwithstanding. And with no fault to the Sharks.
We shall see. It will interesting. If there is any merit to what I wrote, and I have reason to believe there is, I expect the entire Wings team to look at least somewhat sedated when compared to the Sharks - or, at the very least, they will be like hundred-yard-dashers at the beginning of a marathon, who will not have the stamina to keep that pace for the distance required. AND WITH NO FAULT TO THE WINGS.
Now, here are some quickly skimmed quotes (a very tiny sample from the LGW Game 1 GDT). Note the descriptions, and choices of words:
...our break out has been lethargic. We are taking a VERY cautious approach when leaving our zone. We don't need guys to cherry pick, but we need more speed out of our zone as you just said.
They forechecked the hell out of us for most of the period, and we didn't respond.
Flip has been fine. Mule has been terrible and has looked rusty. The Wings don't seem to have their skating legs back.
Wings need to get going. The way they are playing now it's like they want SJ to score to go into OT.
Detroit's rust from the break is showing, everybody looks slow out there.
We can't be blaming the refs on this 1...We haven't found our legs except for a few spurts here and there...We need to wake the hell up and start skating, and we need to learn to get the puck out quicker
we had no legs all night, some bad calls but we just got out worked for pretty much 60+ minutes.
This is the best we could come up with after 10 days of getting ready for the next round. looked like we were skating on water out there. I realize this was a one goal loss but so was every game last year. So much for them being tired and us being fresh.
I'm extremely worried about this series (tipped SJ in 7) but I think a lot can be put down to rust tonight, I mean even Helm looked a bit sluggish. Cleary looked awful, Bert, Abby, Franzen, most of our line-up looked slow and couldn't skate with any real purpose.
IF we're as sluggish in Game 2, then I'll be thinking Sharks in 5.
I agree 100% we looked sluggish. But I can't help but think the 8 day layoff had something to do with that. Assuming we come out and play in Game 2 like we played the entire series against Pheonix, would you still be as worried and still lean towards Sharks in 7.
Yea, agreed. They were definitely sluggish tonight
...just because they arent burning out 110% doesn't mean they are lazy. also sometimes its not a reflection on poor play, sometimes its the other team going 110% and making us look slow.
I think we need to wait until Game 2, I just think the layover killed us IMHO
I thought they were going to put on a much better showing, honestly, especially as the game wore on and they got their legs back. But the opposite happened
Shake the rust off and answer. Off to Sunday we go.
In short, this is exactly what I expected to see, should there be anything to what I thought.
I went back and watched the Sharks' Game 1 against Chicago last year, as well as the rest of the games, and saw basically the same kind of less-than-par play from the Sharks, relative to Chicago. We just couldn't keep up with them, except in small, contained, limited spurts.
Will the Wings have worked their rust out, and gotten their legs, their sustained playoff intensity, back by Sunday?
I don't think so. I seriously doubt it, in fact. Not without a team-load of adrenalin shots, or a few cases of Red Bull or something. I don't think that's something you can "shake off", or ramp back up in two days.
I am not saying any of this as a naysayer, a Sharks fan, or to be negative in any way. Nor does it mean that I believe that the Wings will lose on Sunday. Obviously, they can win. One different bounce, and they could have won last night. This has nothing to do with winning, losing, or how close a game was, and ONLY to do with what I believe, both real and substantial, has happened to the Wings (and the Sharks last year) as a direct consequence of their extended rest. If that is true, and was known to be the case, Babcock could design a strategy to deal with that. Instead, Babcock is now berating the players for not performing at 100%, when it is entirely possible that they were performing beyond even that (under the physiological circumstances).
Again, we'll see.
And please, this topic is only about whether or not you believe an extended layover between series can substantially and/or negatively affect player/team performance - and nothing else. This is not about refs, or the NHL, or rules, or any perceived unfairness or miscarriage of justice. All these things are already being discussed at length elsewhere.
FINAL THOUGHT: Right now I see only a "plausibility of concept". Plausible, but anecdotal at best. My next step will be to gather historical data about the Stanley Cup Playoffs and time off between rounds, to see if any statistically significant trends can be isolated.
Edited by Grypho, 30 April 2011 - 04:16 AM.