Well, I figured I would post this game 3 preview right now. I am heading out to B.C. this evening for the 10+ hour bus ride.
We won't get in to Cranbrook until around noon tomorrow. That won't give me much time to sit down and post a blog while getting to the hotel, showered and changed and off to the rink for game 3 tomorrow night, so I might as well do this now.
Saskatoon is up against a wall here in game 3. Even game 2 could have been seen as a sort of "must win" situation, which they managed to lose.
The biggest thing that has become apparent through the first two games against the Kootenay Ice has been the lack of finish around the goal.
The top two lines have combined for two goals through two games, simply not good enough. Nathan Lieuwen has been good, including a 50 save performance in game 2, but the Blades have had their chances. There has been rebound after rebound that has managed to be fired wide or that has bounced over the players stick before they have had a chance to whack it home.
The top players have to be your top players. It's plain and simple. The Ice have done a great job shutting down those players, but at some point they seem to be due for a breakout shift, period or game.
I also think that getting away from Saskatoon might be a good thing for the team. Playing in front of 8,000 screaming fans can work wonders, but it also provides that extra pressure. You miss a chance on a rebound and all of a sudden you are squeezing that stick extra tight the next time that situation comes around.
With all that being said, here are my keys to the game 3:
- Keep things simple defensively. They have been able to spend very limited amounts of time stuck in their own zone this year because of quick puck movement on breakouts.
- Continue to block shots. That type of commitment wins games and series come postseason. It’s something they have to continue to do.
- And win the special teams battle. They’ve done it in the first two games and that can make or break a series.
- Start to get dirty. They have to be more aggressive around that front of the net and take advantage of some of the big rebounds Lieuwen has left hanging around the crease.
- Get your point shots through. The Ice forwards have been amazing at getting a piece of shots coming from the Blades blueliners. It’s something that Saskatoon has to discuss and work through.
- And the best players have to be the best players. Schenn managed to score a goal late last game, but the Ice have done an amazing job limiting players like Schenn, Hamilton, Viedensky and Nicholls. It’s crunch time for that group on the road.
Once again, games 3 and 4 can be heard live on 92.9 The Bull on Tuesday and Wednesday night. If you are going to watch the games on Shaw, make sure you turn down the TV and crank up the Bull.