|Kevin Martin has struggled rubbing guards and flashing rocks through the house, something you seldom see when he plays at the Brier. (QMI Agency/Morris Lamont)
LONDON, Ont. -- It was a time to call a time out.
It was time to step back and put the banging of brooms, curses in the air, frustration with the frost on the ice -- and everything else -- behind them. They needed to refocus on what has made them successful in the past.
"People are used to seeing us at our best and we can't be at our best all the time," said Marc Kennedy of Kevin Martin's Olympic gold medal winning team that ran the table to win the 2008 and 2009 Briers.
"It's not realistic. You have your ups and downs against this quality of teams," added the second, who is still waiting for word from his wife on the birth of their second daughter, due Sunday.
"Last night was a big game for us. We think we got our game together. Now it's the playoffs. The Brier is two different events. There's the round robin. Then there's the playoffs. We'll be ready to move on to the playoffs," he said after a practice session Friday that Martin referred to as a "light skate."
In a way, it must seem strange from the outside hearing concern and consternation about the way Martin, Kennedy, John Morris and Ben Hebert have been playing at the Brier.
Like Brad Gushue and Jeff Stoughton, they finished the round robin at 9-2.
The trouble is, Martin lost to both of them and ended up third and in the 3-4 game against Howard, the same team he defeated in the last game of the round robin and for the seventh straight time at the Brier (not to mention the final of the Olympic trials).
This is a team that is 35-2 in its last three Briers with a skip who is going into the playoffs with an all-time record of 105-32.
But the theory of defending Brier and world champion Kevin Koe seemed to come true during the week.
"They're certainly not the best losers out there," he told QMI Agency. "If you can beat them in an event early, they're just not used to it. When things don't go well, they get on each other quite badly. You need to get to their confidence a little bit at the start."
Martin has struggled rubbing guards and flashing rocks through the house, something you seldom see. Morris was nowhere near his form before he curled 93% (to Martin's 78%) in the Howard game.
But Morris said the skipper came through with outstanding last-rock shots to win both round-robin games Thursday.
"We're really building on those two last-rock shots to win," Morris said.
"Kevin is the best last-rock thrower in the game and he's coming off two great last-rock throws to win games."
Morris said this is different for the team, which went undefeated to win the 2008 and 2009 Briers as well as the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.
"We're used to an easier road here," he said. "This year it's been more challenging. We've been fighting it a bit with the ice. But the rain has stopped and the frost factor should be no more."
Martin has his own analysis.
"It wasn't until the last game, the win over Howard, that we've been the same team we were at the provincials," said Martin of finding the team's 'A' game to defeat defending Brier and world champion Kevin Koe at the Boston Pizza Cup.
"We haven't been that team since High River. But we have our confidence back and we're hoping we became that team again in that last game and that we'll be that team again in the playoffs."