At a certain point in the third period of last night's shellacking, the Vancouver Canucks looked like they had already surrendered the game like a bad hand in blackjack. They were down 5-1, time was running out and Tim Thomas was playing like the (soon-to-be) two-time Vezina winner he is.
Then for kicks, the Boston Bruins casually poured in three more before the buzzer mercifully ended the one-sided contest.
So now you're the Canucks, shuffling back from the bench to the dressing room before putting your helmet and gloves in your stall, sitting down and wondering "Huh. Now what? How did things get so far off course?"
As a hockey player, this is where you hear the common term that's supposed to work like the reset button on an old Nintendo game — "flush it." And like most losses, flush it you will — it just takes a little while to get from "WTF?" to "whatever."
The good news for Vancouver is when you lose like they just did, it's considerably easier to get there and not waste time dwelling on the previous battle. It's not even close to the same as losing a heartbreaker; you can be over a game like last night's by the time you walk out of the building.
There was no close play that will keep a guy up at night thinking, "If I had only done (blank), things would've been different." There's no sense in torturing yourself over a missed tap-in, a blown assignment, or anything that took place while time was on the clock (save for doing something suspension-worthy). You lost by seven. Again, lemme italicize that. Seven. Short of lobbing grenades at the Boston bench, what difference would anything have made?
Instead of looking back, that enables you to move forward, and game-to-game momentum is a myth.
As those initial ponderings are taking place while you're slumped in your stall, you almost always get a talking to from a calm coach, which is pleasant. Who could he single out to yell at? His few words work as step one in the short healing process that takes place before you move on.
The next, of course, is answering questions from media that will likely be well-deserved variations of Norm Macdonald's "What the H?"
There's not a whole lot of insight you can give a reporter after a game goes so far sideways, but there's an underrated aspect about those interviews: sometimes they can work like therapy. You stand up and talk about the game as best you can — yes our goaltending sucked, yes our offense sucked, I have no idea where our heads were at defensively — then it's over.
There's just not enough time in playoffs to make a huge deal out of it like you might in the regular season (that's our job in the media) — it's too late to change anything now. You're either a good enough team or you're not. So you shake it off like a dog that just climbed out of a pool.
Sports, unlike most other jobs, provide a daily frustration release. Going out to skate today, the Canucks have the opportunity to have a good sweat and focus on Game 4. They're still up 2-1 on Boston and they have another chance to take a game on the road before heading home. And sadly, the Bruins are now without one of their best players for the remainder of playoffs after Aaron Rome's hit on Nathan Horton — as awful a circumstance as that is, there's no way for Boston to replace him. That hit benefited Vancouver going forward.
Kevin Bieksa said it better than anyone else — the Stanley Cup isn't decided by aggregate score. You only get one loss for that nightmare and it came with far less suffering that what the Bruins and their fans endured in the first two games.
For the Canucks, the only thing they'll take away from this one is that they'll be dead set on not getting embarrassed again. What happened in Game 3 likely provided Vancouver that kick-in-the-ass wake-up call they needed.
So on to the next one. No "what if's", no "if only's", no feeling of being screwed over. Everyone has to improve a ton in Game 4, so push down that handle and flush it. That's enough of that crap.