This week Paul Balm wonders if the Christmas programme of games really was a bit too much in the end.
Yesterday’s game was possibly the perfect metaphor for returning to work after Christmas. You know what I mean, there’s been all the build up to Christmas, all the excitement about what’s to come, then the big day arrives and you get the presents you want and you fill yourself full of the holiday spirit. The thing is though that after a few days that feeling starts to wain a little bit, New Year comes and goes with that slight feeling of disappointment that always seems to surround it because you have all these dreams and plans as you go to sleep and then you wake up and realise that the only thing that has really changed is the number on the end of the date. And then there comes the return to normality, it leaves you feeling flat, lifeless and dejected but at the same time you sort of welcome that normality. The last week has been great but you know it can’t last and it doesn’t.
Let’s face it the game wasn’t a classic. It was never going to be. It was the sort of lacklustre display that you can expect from a team that is still short on bodies (and I’m talking about Panthers here, I’ll get to Edinburgh in a minute) that has played six games in the last ten days. They must be tired, they certainly looked it and they did enough to win against a side that despite having their own problems could and, if not for Dean Smith’s premature whistle should have got more from the game. You could look at the number of players Edinburgh had got missing, including their two first choice netminders (if a back-up can be described as first choice), and think that they would be ripe for the taking. You might also have had a point looking back at their previous results but you can’t take anything away from them though. They came with a game plan and stuck to it. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t exciting but it almost worked.
You could use that last sentence again with the word almost taken out of it to describe Panthers performance. If I’m honest for all that I’ve said about Edinburgh and I’m trying very hard not to sound as though I’m being patronising here because I’m not (but I’m all too aware about how things can come across) but I feel that if we had played the Capitals at the start of this run of six games in ten days under the same situation, then the Panthers would have almost certainly won and won easily. At the end of the day we got 11 points from a maximum of 12 available to us over the Christmas and New Year period. That’s one short of double what I predicted but then again I didn’t think we’d take a single point against Sheffield and I’m still not entirely sure how we did but you don’t get added points for spirited come backs, commanding performances or opposition meltdowns. There are no pictures in score books. All it will say about tonight’s game is that the we won and got the two points. It won’t say Nottingham Panthers 4 – 2 Edinburgh Capitals (but it was rubbish) it will just say we won 4-2. Job done. It might have felt like the last bits of the turkey, a bit cold and stale. It was still recognisably turkey but just not as fresh and wholesome as it was on the 25th (or the 26th if you get what I mean) but that’s what you get at this time of year.
The thing is, to be a bit more serious for a while, I have no idea why we played that game yesterday. Like I said earlier it was our 6th game in ten days. It all felt like it was a game too far for me and I didn’t go to the game in Sheffield and Coventry. I’d had my fill of games over Christmas and I have to say enjoyed most of those minutes I watched. OK, the end of the Coventry game was disappointing but I’m not going to rake over that (we’ll be doing that on the podcasts) but suffice to say I don’t just blame Dan Green. I didn’t want to go to yesterdays game, I almost couldn’t have been bothered and if I didn’t have a season ticket and, by default, hadn’t already paid for it I don’t think I would have. I’d have gone shopping with my wife, vegged out in front of the TV watching rubbish films or Top Gear re-runs or something else to waste away the last days of my holidays. You can have too much of a good thing and that was how I felt. I love a Quality Street or two but I don’t feel quite the same way about those purple ones with nut in when I’m eating my twentieth as I do when I’m unwrapping the foil and popping the first one into my mouth.
When I said I don’t know why we played the game yesterday, I was being a bit disingenuous. I do know why we played the game and to me it’s down to two reasons. The first, and this is not the first time (or last if I’m honest) that I and a few others have levelled it at the Panthers, is money. They saw a bank holiday and shoe-horned another game into it. It felt, if I’m honest, like another quick milking of the cash cows while they could and hey there was a decent enough number of us mooing away in the stands so why not? The second reason is the Continental Cup. Those games from the three weekends have got to be slotted in somewhere else and that means that we’re going to end up with situations like this where we play six games in ten days. You could say we’re a victim of our own success. There’s no real answer to it anyway and if you add into the mix that Panthers play out a multi-purpose arena where dates are in short supply then I guess we’re going to have to get used to it. Just as an example, the only day of the week Panthers won’t play a home game on this season is a Thursday. Kind of makes you (well me) wish for the days when Saturday night was hockey night.
For all that though I’m glad I went yesterday. I’d have preferred a 7:30 face off but then again I’d have preferred a decent, exciting game but you can’t have everything can you?
I’ll take those 11 points out of 12 though.