NHL playoffs | Turn Defeat into an Opportunity to Triumph

  • Posted April 26, 2012

Opportunity often comes disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat. -Napoleon Hill

What man puts his mind to, he can achieve. Desire, persistence, and faith harnessed together can move mountains. One is hard pressed to find a perfect example of this than the 2012 NHL Playoffs.
Many of the story-lines are really unbelievable with rookies conquering seasoned pros, underdogs casting aside the favorites, records being crushed, and some players exercising their own demons.

Take Shane Doan of the Phoenix Coyotes. After Doan’s rookie season, his team was relocated from Winnipeg down to Phoenix. During the subsequent 14 years his team never won a playoff series. However, it was the struggles off the ice that had to take a toll on Doan and his teammates. The team’s owner filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and is currently owned by the NHL amidst perpetual threats of another relocation. On top of that, Phoenix lost their starting goaltender to Philadelphia via free agency following the 2011 season. Maybe men of lesser character would finally throw in the towel on the franchise and request a trade for more attractive pastures and a better shot at a championship, but not Doan. He stuck with Phoenix and the team took a gamble on an athletic netminder who finished 2011 ranked 60th in save percentage!….there are only 30 teams. But the netminder, Mike Smith, took advantage of the opportunity he received and proved invaluable to the team. With his prowess in goal and Shane’s leadership the Phoenix Coyotes have won their first playoff series since their relocation in 1996. Shane Doan is a perfect example of how you can turn defeat into an opportunity to triumph. He took his numerous defeats and viewed them as an opportunity to finally, after 17 years in the NHL, win a playoff series.

Let’s look at the Los Angeles Kings. They have been plagued all season by a lack of scoring and just squeaked into the playoffs as an 8th seed in the last week of the season. Their reward, they got to face off against the 1st seed Vancouver Canucks who were the Western Conference Champions in 2011 and the President’s Trophy winner (most points in the league) in 2012. No-brainer, right? Kings would be lucky to win a game. Not so. The Kings, backed by goaltender Jonathan Quick ousted the heavily favored Canucks in only 5 games winning the series 4-1! There is no logical explanation for these events. On paper, this would be improbable at best. But factors like desire, will, persistence, and faith don’t show up on paper.

Last year’s Stanley Cup Champions were not immune to these x-factors. After winning the Championship in 2011, the Boston Bruins were prepared to defend their title well into May and beyond. Their opponent, the Washington Capitals, also sneaked into the playoffs in the last week of the season as the 7th seed. The Capitals saw a underachieving season which saw their coach get fired and an experimentation of a new coach and system. However, Washington’s top 2 goalies were both injured entering the postseason. This forced them, to call on the 22-year-old minor league netminder Braden Holtby. Holtby, with zero postseason experience in the NHL was going against 38-year-old veteran Tim Thomas, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2011 as the playoff MVP. Again, conventional wisdom would have the Bruins advancing to protect their Cup, but conventional wisdom has no place in the NHL playoffs, as well as it should not in your own life. Though the Bruins badly outshot the Capitals throughout the series, Holtby had a commendable mental toughness about him and bested Thomas. The series set a record for the first one to go 7 games with each game being decided by 1 goal. Can a 22-year-old be thrown to the wolves against the defending champs, and not be rattled by being in so many close games? You bet!

There is also the Eastern Conference #1 seeded New York Rangers who have been taken to a game 7 by the 8th seeded Ottawa Senators. Ottawa, just like Washington and Los Angeles, also barely made the playoffs. But you are beginning to see the theme now, right? As of this writing, their series has yet to be determined.

The Detroit Red Wings set an NHL record this season for most consecutive home victories at 23! Surely any game that they would have at home would be a victory, right? Well, dont tell that to the Nashville Predators. After splitting games 1 and 2 in Nashville, many would see that as a major defeat to the Predators because you just cant waltz into ‘the Joe’ and win. So, facing this blow, the Predators saw an opportunity and ended up sweeping games 3 and 4 in Detroit and ultimately taking the series in 5 games.

The St. Lous Blues stumbled out of the gate in the regular season. The result was a coaching replacement and a overhaul of their system. They also saw injuries on the goaltender front, but their top 2 goalies are studs and that obstacle was anyting but. Rallying around their coach and system, the Blues dispatched the San Jose Sharks in 5 games…. A far cry from the disappointing start to the season.

Another series yet to be determined is the Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils. Both teams missed the playoffs last season and the Florida Panthers were the last placed team in the East! Now, they are set to battle in a game 7. Whatever the outcome, a team that was an afterthought entering the season, will now be in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.

Last, but certainly not least is the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers series. Both teams have been tested with concussion problems of their superstars and both have shown tremendous resolve in competing with the league’s best. If you are not familiar, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have the best rivalry going right now in the league, and Pittsburgh entered the postseason as the Vegas favorites to with the Cup. The series featured a Pittsburgh squad of battle hardened veterans finally becoming healthy after 2 years of health problems, facing off against a Philadelphia team with health problems of its own and a group of overachieving rookies. If the Penguins would play their game, they should take this series, contested as it may be….IF…

Pittsburgh opened games 1 and 2 blazing with leads of 3-0 and 3-1 only to see them evaporate away with the persistence of the Flyers. Games 1 and 2 ended with Philadelphia victories on Pittsburgh ice. Pittsburgh heading to Philadelphia down 2-0 let mental mistakes finally get the better of them and in game 3 a battle royal ensued resulting in the suspension of 3 Pittsburgh players. Facing an embarrassing elimination game in Philly down 3 games to 0 the Penguins rebounded scoring a NHL record 10 goals and sending the series back to Pittsburgh for a game 5 in which they would win. Philadelphia, returning home for a game 6, had an opportunity to close out the series once and for all and they took advantage of the opportunity winning the series 4-2.

The series was one for the ages. Among the records it set was having the most goals scored in the first 4 games, and also the most goals scored by an away team facing elimination. Not to mention the fights, suspensions, and entertaining bad blood on display for all.

Both teams showed an unwillingness to give in, and Philadelphia was the ultimate victor. However, being partial to Pittsburgh, let’s explore the mentality they must have entering an earlier than planned vacation. Instead of pondering a blown offsides call, missed chances, soft goals, undisciplined penalties, blown leads, lack of focus, or bad luck, they need to focus on their new opportunity. Instead of seeing their failure as a reason to blow the team up, they should enter the offseason with the view that they have an opportunity to get a head start on preparation for next season. For the first time since their own championship in 2009, they have a chance to engage in an entire season with their top 3 centers in good health. All of the mental fatigue in dealing with the injuries can be conquered and focus on regaining their footing as the best can be born anew. The Penguins, as a group, control their own destiny in how they handle this defeat. With the desire, persistence, and faith, they can turn defeat into an opportunity to triumph and reclaim the Stanley Cup in 2013.


In your own life, you will face defeat, failure, and embarrassment, but you are not alone. Everybody faces these things. What distinguishes you from the next guy is how you perceive and deal with these obstacles. Keep in mind, when facing mountains in your life, it doesn’t matter how you came to the mountain. What really matters is the plan you make and how you implement desire, persistence, and faith in ascending and conquering the mountain. All of these triumphs you just saw in the NHL playoffs are within everybody. It is not easy…it may take blood, sweat, and tears…you’ll hurt…you may be bruised…but ultimately, it lies with you. Nobody owes you anything…not someone who wronged you…not the government…nobody! It’s up to you to turn Defeat into an Opportunity to Triumph. For the triumph that is most difficult to earn, tastes the sweetest.