Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Ok, this is it

Alright, tonight is the first of two at Rexall and this is it - season on the line. My feeling is the Oil win tonight, carried by simple desperation, and that game 4 is where the series will be decided - and by decided I mean whether or not the Oil go back to California down two or even up.

While the Sharks are the 5th seed I think coming into these playoffs a pretty strong argument could be made that they, the Ducks and the Wings were the strongest teams coming down the stretch in the West. They're a damn good team. They are big and fast. They are physical. They have arguably the best 1-2 centre combination in the league (Tampa fans might argue that) and the league's leading goalscorer in Cheechoo. And Toskela is at the very least, a good keeper. He's not going to let in a softie or so it seems.

Having said all that the Oil aren't dead yet but they are definitely up against it. I don't think that beating the Wings was their Cup or that they are satisfied but I think playing against a big, fast, confident team that takes away all of your space can make it look like you have nothing going on. I didn't see game 2 but in game 1 Smyth and Horcoff looked like they had nothing. I don't think its that they are satisfied, not those two, but that they are getting shut down. I won't pretend to be a player of any note but even in my beer league you can have all of the heart in the world but if you are playing a team that is "on", has terrific puck support and can skate, you can have all of the heart in the world but you're going anywhere. You get the puck deep in their zone and its back out before you know it. You're worn out by constant pressure in your end. You're on your heels and can't generate anything.

So, what can the Oil do tonight to buck this trend? Because its not over yet.

1/ Play with desperation. Play with emotion. Ride the roar of the crowd. The Sharks have seven rookies. I don't know if the atmosphere will intimidate them; it likely will not. But maybe one or two crack just enough to let a little light through.

2/ Switch up the lines. Lain over at Lowetide is stumping for Samsonov to play with Smyth and Horcoff and I can get on board with that. The Sharks are barely playing their fourth line and with Dvorak going down we don't really have a viable fourth line now. Problem is with Winchester we don't have a viable first line either. Its a roll of the dice but we're not generating any offence. Hell we're barely generating any pressure. Samsonov, Stoll and Hemsky have been getting the easy minutes as has been pointed out at Irreverent Oil Fans a number of times and they haven't done much with it. So move Sammy up to play with Smyth and Horcoff. and figure out who they're going to play against. Take Peca Pisani and Moreau and have them take on Thornton or Marleau. And then take Torres, Stoll and Hemsky (I know I know - switch up Moreau with Torres maybe) and figure out a spot for them. Plug in the fourth for energy at the appropriate times.

3/ Home ice advantage - hand in hand with # 2 and damned if I know what MacT will do but he's got to figure out favourable matchups so we can get in on those D and get some sustained pressure in their zone.

4/ Puck support puck support puck support - in every zone. When you don't have puck support you get nothing done. Anywhere.

5/ I'd pick on Hemsky but he's not alone. The forwards have to get going.

Its been frustrating but as Vic says over at IOF I'm a positive bugger. I think we get a win tonight. If not, well we'll begin the post mortems soon and there'll be much gnashing of teeth. But I think I'm posting a pint after tonight.

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