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Prepare yourself for the playoffs

Tuesday, 03.24.2009 / 9:49 AM / Columns

By Paul Kukla - NHL.com Correspondent

Monday night, the Detroit Red Wings lost to the Calgary Flames. The final horn sounded just around midnight and my head hit the pillow about 1 a.m. But I tossed and turned, fumbled with the comforter and buried my head in the pillow. I was still wide awake at 2:30 a.m.
 
It is now 5:30 a.m. and I am drained. The pre-playoff pressure is getting to me and I am not prepared for it. You see, I still have questions regarding my team.
 
I am sure many of you have the same feelings, questioning your team's makeup going into the playoffs. Will the goaltending be good enough to win? Can your team stay out of the penalty box? Where will the goals come from? And are the players mentally prepared for the playoff grind of playing just about every other day? All questions that cannot be answered.
 
What am I doing to myself? The playoffs start on April 15 and I am already in sleep deprivation mode. I tell myself to relax, it is only a game, but that doesn't work for me. Then I begin to wonder if all this worrying will in some way help my team retain the Stanley Cup.

I quickly realize the answer is no, but I still cannot change the way I think.
 
I have been watching hockey for more than 45 years and know as a fan you have to dive headfirst into every playoff appearance your team has. You never know how well or poorly your team will perform in the second season until the last goal is scored. If you take on the attitude of just being a casual fan, you will not fully enjoy the ultimate experience, that of being a true and dedicated fan of a Stanley Cup championship team.
 
But are all the sleepless nights, the sweaty palms, the constant worrying and pain of an overtime loss worth it?

Yes! Without a doubt it is. There is nothing more satisfying for us fans to enjoy the good and bad that the playoffs will provide us.
 
The ups and downs are at times gut wrenching, but I would have it no other way. Even though we are not on the ice with our team, we are with them in every other way. We feel their pain after a loss and also share their joy when one more win can be crossed off the playoff chart. One down, fifteen to go, then we can celebrate.
 
You may be asking why I am writing about the playoffs now, with three weeks left in the regular season? I am just preparing you for what is ahead, and trying to give you fair warning for what is about to come.
 
My advice is to get into playoff mode now, let if build up slowly, but allow it to happen. You will be better off when the playoffs start and you will be a step ahead of everyone else. That step may just be the key between a victory or a loss. Or at least you can convince yourself somehow it will be.
 
It is time to think hockey 24/7, nothing else matters until early June!

***

Over the last few weeks, I have received numerous emails from hockey fans worldwide. I plan to include some of those in my next article and still have room for more. So feel free to email me at pk@kuklaskorner.com with any questions, comments or concerns you may have regarding anything hockey.


Quote of the Day

My job was to get that puck and put it on net, and his job was not letting me do it. I got the best of that, but that game's over and to be honest I already forgot about it.

— Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk on his late game-tying goal in Montreal's 2-1 OT win
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