Rehabs (7) at Fuzz (2)
by Arya Stark
It’s the game that was promised. From the moment Hicks’ defection was announced this offseason up through the infamous letter, July 1 was the date circled on everyone’s calendar. Unfortunately that day would bring disappointment to more than just disgruntled Islander fans as games were postponed due to heat fears despite the fact that this is mainly a summer hockey league. We had to wait until the last game of the regular season to get this matchup by which point it had lost some of its luster (also not helping – Rich telling everyone within earshot that Fuzz was missing players). Safe to say the stakes are significantly higher now as a trip to the final four will be on the line in what pundits are billing “the game of the week” and “an exciting rematch” and “that game I definitely don’t want to ref.” One of these teams is going to be horrifically disappointed come Sunday night, while the other will have their ticket punched to championship weekend. Which is which?
There’s a murderer’s row of talent on each side as Jeff, Miles, Ryann, Gil and Sig will do battle with Joey Bats, Cherie, Monique, Andy and, of course, Hicks himself. Losing Mike T for this game is a major blow to Fuzz as he led the league in goals yet again despite playing a bunch of games early in the year on defense. Fuzz will rely on quick shots and traffic in front, while the Rehabs will look to try their new offensive strategy of actually passing the ball around to generate high percentage looks for Hicks and Cherie. There’s clearly a bevy of talent on both sides, but Fuzz was the highest scoring team this season by a significant 16 goal margin, and playing shorthanded just opens up more minutes for Jeff and Miles.
Fuzz will be without the services of Walsh and Paul in this one, leading them to use a rotation of Ryan/Vlad/one legged Glanzer on defense with Alyssa. Sena will keep everything civil in the Rehabs defensive zone as she is apt to do, and if Jen is able to suit up she’s one of the most underrated players in the league. But the big story on their side is which guy is shifting back to defense, with the current frontrunner according to Betfair being Alex May. He certainly has the speed and hockey IQ to make the move; whether it hurts their offense remains to be seen.
Very quietly, Coach has had his best season in a long time. His 2.26 goals against average was better than many of the league’s top goalies including Jamie, Barch and 2 out of 3 Tims. In fact, while most people know that Fuzz is the highest scoring team in the league, many don’t know that they’re also 6th in goals against. It’s a great mark for a team more know for their offense than any attempt to play sound defense, but the Rehabs allowed eight less goals than them in the regular season, and Ramirez is especially savage come playoff time. Last year he had two shutouts in his first two playoff games, one of which came against this same Fuzz squad in the quarterfinals. He’ll be hard pressed to repeat that feat on Sunday.
Once you get to the round of eight, every team that remains is great and no one is going gentle into that good night. While the Rehabs may want this game so they can push for their fourth straight championship game, Fuzz has been salivating over this exact matchup basically since the day they were eliminated last year. There’s no doubt that Rich and co will have a gameplan drawn up to gloss over their personnel losses and neutralize the Rehabs top guns, and Jeff will be a man on a mission. But I have to give this one to the Rehabs for two reasons: a) because Hicks will be just as motivated as anyone on Fuzz, and b) for one of BTSH’s premier rivalries, the tale of the tape is remarkably one-sided on this as Fuzz hasn’t beaten the Rehabs since August of 2016, a year where the Rehabs won the ship and Fuzz was again eliminated in the elite eight. If ever there was a mental hurdle for a team to clear, this was it.
Prediction: This game has everything you’d want in a playoff contest: history, players changing sides, bad blood, elite talent, fence shoves – most of BTSH doesn’t like these teams because they’re good at hockey, but I don’t know anyone who isn’t intrigued by this matchup. Rehabs have had Fuzz’s number in recent years, but that alone doesn’t guarantee anything. The Canucks couldn’t get over the hump and beat the Blackhawks, until they finally did. Peyton Manning couldn’t beat Brady in the playoffs, until he finally did. Runs of dominance by one team over another eventually run out, and Fuzz isn’t going to be denied by the Rehabs forever…but it does appear they will be denied for at least one more year. In what could be the highest rated quarterfinal game of all time, the Rehabs will find a way to push through to the final four. Richie still needs a hero, and post-game fireball shots are on Hicks.
#5 Fresh Kills (12-4-1-1) at #4 Filthier (14-4-0-0), Tompkins West, 1500
When two divisionally-rivaled elite teams duke it out to stay in the postseason, expect some bad blood despite the friendships existing between all the players. This is strictly business, and the PBR Cup may actually be mes que un vaso to some people. For easygoing players like Gabe or Sunny, a playoff loss would generally elicit an, “À la prochaine fois” sentiment, but because Filthier swept the season series, you can be sure everyone will display their hunger the entire 50 (and maybe more) minutes. Deadass, this ain’t some Logan Paul/KSI hypebeast throwdown; these are two very talented sides that will likely play tactically and technically to force each other’s hands.
Kills’ kujickas (keys) to victory
Close sources have reported that the Houdini of Fresh Kills, Ariel, is hyped for the matchup. The feeling of relishing a match with magnitudes like this may have started since W16 of last year, when James sealed the deal in a shootout. Such perhaps put Soko’s squad in a funk, losing 1-2 and 2-3 (SO) in 2018. But they’ve always regained the swagger, sometimes convincingly taking games on the bounce. With three different players on 10+ goals (Tom, Gabe, Ariel), production isn’t a problem. Secondary scoring isn’t, either, with two players on 7 goals, and two more on 4. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that if they keep plugging away, they’ll sail a couple—or more—against Tim if they’re persistent. Against a Filthier side, I would hazard a guess to say that zonal coverage may be more effective since it’s likely James and Sunny won’t be on a line together; position is everything. That means that Sheena—and whoever is Foster’s replacement—must clamp down at the outset.
Filthier’s kujickas (keys) to victory
The writing is never on the wall when passing in the ether towards the postseason. 2-for-2 in a divisional rivalry is great, but the mentality is out the window because the juxtaposition of America and playoffs would make anyone’s dopamine count rise. For a cool, collected team like Filthier, I’m sure the feelings they conceal aren’t unlike anyone’s: nervous, excited, terrified, and energized. But if there’s one piece of advice I should give to this team, it’s trust in Tim: nine (9) wins were by two goals or less, so when Danielle and the rest of the team didn’t feel they weren’t up to snuff on scoring, they left it to their real closer to steal points. I would ask the folks on the sidelines to not only watch James and Sunny typically put balls into the net, but also to watch Ann, Greg, and Jaime contribute as well. Those three have high work rates and can frustrate anyone. Tactically, I would suggest congesting the neutral zone. Ariel might play the wing but clogging centrally means lobbed (illegal) forced passes; since Gabe starts from his own half, getting to Tim should be difficult if lanes are congested.
Prediction: This might be the day Fresh Kills has Filthier’s number, after nearly a year of concerns. As usual, both teams will depend on their top scorers and netminders, but I’m privy on saying that Eugene will play and succeed in one of the best games of his BTSH tenure. FK proceeds 3-2.
Schlitz Cup Tournament Previews
Gut Rot at Mega Touch
Alok and Mega Touch are hoping to bounce back this week with Shelly and Devlin rumored to be in the lineup. They’ll need them too against a Gut Rot team that is also out to prove that they belong in the Schlitz Cup tournament.
The key for Gut Rot in this game is to get Hannah back in the lineup to balance out Perko’s brain farts along the blue line. Her calming presence and reassuring demeanor is the spark that ignites false hope for the Rotters.
Prediction: Gut Rot comes out fast and furious, but patience wins the game for Mega Touch, 3-1.
Dark Rainbows at Tompkins Square Riots
Dominant Dave GDR was just that last Sunday – dominant. As his defense crumbled in front of him he remained poised in net and blanked the potent Gut Rot offense. If the Riots want to survive this contest against the Dark Rainbows they’ll need a repeat performance.
The Dark Rainbows have earned the right to be called Dark instead of Fart. Yetter may have grabbed the headlines, but the real key acquisition this season is Dan C. He’s scored in almost every game for Dark and against the Riots and Dave they’ll need him to continue his streak.
Prediction: you can’t win a game without scoring and the Riots will be the ones who get blanked as Dark rolls 2-0.