Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dreamscapes, or Briere finally frees himself from drought

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

Danny Briere put an end to his epic 23-game goal drought last night with an empty netter in the Flyers' 3-0 win over the Devils.

For a player who is expected to produce, it was one of the most curious dry spells in team history, approaching the madness that was a 28-game streak suffered by Josef Beranek from December of 1993 to March of 1994.

Sure, Kent Manderville had his own epic failure -- a 122-game drought to be exact from October of 1999 through February of 2001 -- but he was a fourth-liner whose main job was to provide defensive coverage and not all of those empty scoresheets came with Philadelphia.

I can't help but wonder what he was thinking the whole time, or what his gray matter worked up when he went to sleep at night as the games piled on each other, side by each, with nothing but hollow numbers to show for it.

We do know what he said he felt in the postgame: “Relief, probably. I think that was a perfect example of some who’s not playing with a lot of confidence on the first shot. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I would have faked a shot and gone around the defensemen, but I was so nervous, I tried to rush it, just like I’ve been the last few games. Hopefully now I can relax a little bit and start scoring more goals. It was frustrating lately, especially when the chances were there."

French Canadians are traditionally marked by their Catholicism and the attendant superstitions and rituals which define the faith and the culture.

One glaring example, demonstrated by Ken Dryden in his seminal work "The Game," was the tendency for players from Quebec in that generation to curse using terms associated with the Church: the tabernacle and the chalice were two of the most popular epithets.

But within the fabric of the province are the separate set of beliefs which exist outside religion, like old wives tales that are not endemic to just one ethnic group.

One of those is the power of dreams to influence reality: if one wishes and dreams for happiness, then it follows that misfortune awaits in the waking world. Same goes for the reverse.

So I hope that towards the end of this unfortunate run, which began on January 8 in Ottawa, Briere tapped into his roots and started working up horrible, horrible nightmares where he failed to score for the rest of the season.

If he did manage to effectively control his dreams, let's hope at some point recently there was one about his contract being voided and being sent to the minors permanently. Or that there was a Hellfire and damnation speech from head coach Peter Laviolette, who instead turned in one of the most assuring talks with his veteran winger, and to whom Briere paid tribute:

“Yes, you know what, I’ll be honest with you guys. Peter had a pretty good talk yesterday. Gave me a lot of confidence with the talk that we had. I have to give him a lot of credit for the way he made me feel coming into tonight’s game. It was a good feeling. (He was) (j)ust trying to tell me to stay with it. Good things were gonna happen if you worked the right way and keep creating chances, at some point, it’s gonna work out.”

It didn't come without some hand-wringing, as a Jakub Voracek almost didn't decide to be a good teammate and try to hit the empty net himself as the clock ticked down inside five minutes left in regulation. Briere admitted he owed Voracek a dinner for that fateful pass.

Given this new wrinkle, would it kill Briere to start dreaming of a last-place finish in the Atlantic, or first-round sweep at the hands of the Devils followed by a severe roster gutting?

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