Wednesday, May 17, 2006
One of the traditional saws in hockey is that the fourth game in a series is the hardest to win.
Before G6 against the Wings I had my doubts about the Oilers' killer instinct but their third period that night showed us that they know to put their hands on the throat of their opponent and give it that final squeeze.
Hopefully tonight they can do it again.
I like their chances. The Sharks are going to be desperate obviously but as many have noted over the past weeks the Oilers have experience on their side. I think it has been telling in this series especially. The Oilers have a lot of veterans who have won at the international and junior level but none have won the Cup. I'm sure guys are saying that this is their moment and they had better seize it because it may not come again. I think the Sharks may not have that type of urgency. They are young and last season they were in the Final Four - they may be of the mind (and they may be right) that this is where they are going to be for the next while - contending. While Ryan Smyth can say that in all of his years in the league this is the farthest he has come so they'd better get it done because it might be another ten years (I'd hope not) before they have this opportunity.
Fast start at Rexall - in both games at Rexall the ice has been tilted in their favour. They deserved to win both games. A fast start and some pucks in the net early for the Oil and the Sharks may be done.
Toskela's space - I wouldn't say the Oil are in his head but he is definitely no longer in theirs. In the last two games Smyth, Horcoff, Pisani and Stoll each have two goals - Peca, Samsonov and Hemsky have also counted from the forwards. Goals breed confidence and I think the Oil feel good right now
special teams - its important to stay out of the box - I think the Sharks are going to simplify the PP - back to the point and blast away - I think with the edge in matchups we'll see fewer Oil penalties as we'll see fewer mismatches down low (eg/ Greene vs Thornton)
home ice advantage - with last change I think MacT gets the right matchups - add to that that some of the younger Sharks have seemed to disappear in the Rexall games and I think its a definite advantage for the Oil
Sharks' composure - at the end of G5 some of the Sharks seemed to lose their heads - hopefully this will carry over and they will crack under Oiler pressure
Pinching D - Torres, Hemsky and Samsonov among others would be well advised to look at the tape of Pisani's second goal and see how Smyth handled Hannan's pinch. The Sharks are pinching all of the time and the wingers aren't getting that puck out as quickly as they should in many cases. They're going to pinch - chip it by them, take the hit and hope for some oddman rushes the other way. Worse case the puck is out of the zone.
Pregame jitters have started but feeling pretty good - if the Oil play their game I think they're wrapping it up.
Posted by Black Dog at 9:32 AM