In a tight playoff series, a powerplay goal here or a successful penalty kill there can make a world of difference. As the Calgary Hitmen prepare for tonight's Game 1 of their best-of-seven WHL quarter-final series against the Lethbridge Hurricanes in Lethbridge, the focus isn't on staying out of the sin bin. Rather, the Hitmen will try and limit their infractions to good penalties.
Calgary co-coach Dean Evason said a good chunk of time is spent on reviewing just what are the good and bad times to break the rules.
"Those are some of the things we tried to establish all year. We spent a lot of time going over videotape and we watch penalties -- good penalties and bad penalties," said Evason.
"We asked the group to identify them and late in the year we had some problems with it. We tried to talk to the group about what's a selfish penalty, what's a lazy penalty and what's a penalty that prevented a goal."
Coaches don't mind if an infraction prevents the other team from scoring but it's the retaliations, the cheap shots and lazy efforts that really get under a bench boss's skin.
Interestingly, notes Evason, there's often a correlation between certain infractions and when the opposition scores.
"It's funny how the game is because a lot of times the bad penalty results in a goal against. With a good penalty, usually the guys can step up and kill it, so you're going to have bad penalties but if you can limit them, you'll be better off," he said.
When it comes to special teams, Calgary and Lethbridge are pretty close. The Hitmen's powerplay converted 18.5% of the time, good for seventh overall, while the Hurricanes scored on 17.4% of their chances.
The penalty kill was pretty much dead-even at 84%.
Hitmen power forward Andrew Ladd reckons a powerplay goal here and there could turn the tide.
"It's going to be so tight-checking out there, so making the most of your opportunities with the man advantage could be the difference," said Ladd, who tallied six powerplay goals this season.