How often have you heard players talking about staying disciplined, not taking penalties, and controlling their emotions? Just about every night. The Flyers credited their 3-0 lead to being more disciplined, but in Game 4 they were the team that took the penalties and lost control. Likely they became overexcited by the opportunity to close out the Pens in a sweep and lost their discipline. Daniel Briere suggested that they got complacent, maybe after getting the 3-2 lead, but then the frustration set in as the Pens pounded home four power play goals.
"One of the things that we did a really good job of since the beginning of the series was staying composed and disciplined," Briere said, "and those two things we completely threw out the window [Wednesday]." (From http://www.nhl.com/ice/blog.htm?id=408)
In Game 4 between Boston and Washington Braden Holtby, rookie goaltender, gave up a five-hole goal to Rich Peverley in the first period to tie the game at 1. After a tough Game 3 I was wondering, like many I am sure, how Holtby would respond. Holtby could have "freaked out", lost his focus and not controlled the game from the crease. Instead he did the opposite; Holtby did not give up another goal and maintained control. He gave up very few rebounds and made some big saves. Holtby gave his team a chance to win and the Caps did to tie the series. Holtby is certainly boosting the belief in his teammates.
"He just makes it very calm for the rest of us," Capitals forward Brooks Laich said. "If we give up a shot, we know [Holtby] is going to cover it, and if he does leave a rebound -- which I didn't see many tonight -- our guys are going to clear it. When you have a goaltender that is on top of his game, it really, really settles your team down. He was a leader for us tonight." (From http://www.nhl.com/ice/recap.htm?id=2011030124)
Ottawa was facing a 2-0 deficit in Game 4 but stayed in control and were able to win in overtime on a Kyle Turris goal. Chicago has forced overtime in three of their four games against Phoenix in the last two minutes of the third. They stayed in control and got back in those games.
In these situations teams gave themselves a chance to win because they stayed in control of their emotions. The ability to respond positively to tough situations where it would be easy to allow frustration to take you off your game is a hallmark of great teams. The 2012 NHL Playoffs are no different. Teams that are controlling their emotions are better able to play disciplined hockey and eventually win. Controlling emotions allows a player to think clearly, focus on the game plan, and bounce back quicker when things get off course.
As tensions mount in the second week of the First Round each man's ability to control his emotions will be tested. The teams that respond by controlling their emotions and not allowing their emotions to control them will move on to the second round.