There's no greater time of year for a hockey fan -- or a hockey player -- than that of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Wild.com will chronicle the journey of players -- in their own words -- during this year's postseason run. Today, Charlie Coyle reflects on his challenging end to the regular season, how he's turned it around in the playoffs and how the Wild is approaching the remainder of the series against the St. Louis Blues.
The second half of the regular season didn't go the way I thought it was going to. But things don't always go your way. When things aren't going your way, you stick to the simple things and sometimes it's tough, you're not scoring, you're not participating points wise, so you switch up your game. Not on purpose or anything, you're just trying to make something happen and you end up taking away from things you do well. You get into these ruts. It happens during the year, but you've got to focus.
I have my coaches here and I always talk to my dad back home. He coached me all the way up through high school, so he knows how I need to play: stick to the basics, skate, play physical, take shots and things will fall into place. You just try and stay positive through it all and for me, as the playoffs approached, I wanted to get my game back on track and help contribute. Sometimes you get lucky with a goal and things start flowing. It's a big mental thing. You just try to stay positive. It's hard training your mind sometimes to stay positive through it all.
Playoff-style hockey brings out the best in me. You know everyone's level is going to go up a few notches, so you have to bring yours up or you'll be left behind or not playing. You'll get run over. As a team, we've been there before, we've been to the playoffs, we know what it's like to have that experience, so you use that.
As a young hockey player, everyone's dream is to win the Stanley Cup. You make the playoffs, and all of the sudden, you're that much closer to that. It's not hard to get your game up for that and be able to be the best player you can be for your team. That's where your mind is at; you do whatever you can and make sure you're on your game, because you don't get these opportunities many times.
Game 1 in this series could have gone either way. It's easy to think back and be like, 'Well, it could be this or it could be that,' but we're in the situation we're in now. I break my stick on an empty-net pass from Zach while we're on the power play and we take a 1-0 lead and it's a whole different story. But that's how it is, it's a game of inches. Things happen, sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you get unlucky. But it's how you bounce back from those and that's all we can do now. Yeah, it could be a lot different. But we'll work with what we have now and stay positive through it all.
Being down 0-2 after working all season to get home ice, obviously wasn't ideal. You work that hard to get home ice and you feel good about it, but you've got to take advantage of it when you do get it. Those two games didn't go our way, for whatever reason, and they came in and played hungry. All of the sudden, we're in a hole going back to their barn for two games and you feel like you're going uphill.
But it happens. We wish it didn't and we wish it went the other way, but all you can do is get the next one and focus on the next one. That's what our focus was before Game 4, don't think of this series as what it is, just think of this game. It's a one-game series and we accomplished that, so now we move on to the next one-game series. That's what our focus is for tomorrow.
We know this team isn't going to go down without a fight. You give it all you've got. It might seem like the pressure is off because nobody except us thinks we can come back in this series. But if we lose, it's a tough year for us. We don't want to go out that way. We want to keep this thing going.
We have to narrow this series down. Maybe even more than game-by-game, it's period-by-period or shift-by-shift. Win that shift, outwork them that shift, then on the next one, outwork the guy across from you. You really have to narrow it down like that.
Maybe at the start of the series, it's a little harder to do that because everything is even. But at this point, that's how we have to look at it.
I think we've done a great job of keeping a positive attitude. You really see what guys are made of when things aren't going your way and you're in a hole like this. We know we have something good in this locker room. When you look at this series, it could have been 3-nothing our way. It's not like we were losing 4-0 or 5-0 and there's no hope.
If they can win three in a row, why can't we do the same? We feel like we're right there. This thing isn't over yet.