Showdown no letdown for fans

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

Before the London Knights and Windsor Spitfires began beating on each other, non-partisan hockey fans were hoping the series wouldn't disappoint.

The OHL Western Conference final was a much-hyped affair ever since it became obvious that, barring something cataclysmic, the Spitfires and Knights would meet in the final.

There was nothing cataclysmic.

Now the series could end as soon as tonight. The Spitfires have somehow managed to take a 3-1 lead, or, perhaps more appropriately, the Knights have somehow managed to fall behind 3-1 in the series.

London is going to have to win in Windsor tonight to bring it back home for a Game 6.

Mind you, it's hardly a stretch to believe they could win. They could well have won every game in this series so far.

But no one except the Knights and their fans will remember that.

In the long run, all most people will remember is who won and who lost.

Has the series lived up to expectations?

If you're looking for pure drama, emotional highs and lows and the unexpected, then this series has surpassed expectations.

If you're looking at it in a technically pure hockey sense, there have been enough mistakes and bonehead plays for three playoff series.

Great teams find some way to win and the Spitfires have done that. Goaltender Andrew Engelage will never be mistaken for Ken Dryden, but he's managed to hang in long enough to make key saves when required.

Even though some of Windsor's big guns haven't shown up, they've done enough to grind out win after win.

The playoffs have been a rough patch for the Spitfires, but they're scrambling through it and are playing better for longer periods of time.

The Knights, even though they may deserve a better fate, have chosen key times in the game to break down in one position or another.

In Game 4, the Spitfires had complete control for 40 minutes, leading by three goals. Then all hell broke lose and the Knights took them to overtime. In what's been a recurring nightmare for the Knights, a bad goal sunk them, this time 5-4. All four games have gone into overtime.

With all that's happened, there must be a tendency to believe that the fuel in the resiliency tank may be drying up. The Knights have come back from two devastating losses and played with motivation.

But how often can they do it?

Make no mistake about tonight. It could well wind up 6-1 and be over in a hurry.

But considering both the Knights and Spitfires have proven in this series -- that no lead is safe regardless of who owns it -- that probably won't happen.

For one thing, the goaltending isn't good enough to play shutdown hockey. And there are too many players on both teams who refuse to pack up their sweaters, no matter how impossible the task seems.

And no matter how this series winds up, it has been a tremendous showcase for at least three players. It's also no coincidence that they happen to be front and centre whenever a comeback needs to be sparked.

Everyone knows John Carlson and Michael Del Zotto are big-time players. Both are first-round NHL picks and in June Nazem Kadri will be in the same boat.

The three of them have put together an outstanding series against the Spitfires.

Carlson and Del Zotto are eating up an incredible amount of ice time. You can put up a lot of ice time if you play a passive game, but there is nothing passive about the way the three of them play.

Knights' fans have seen Carlson all year and know what he can do.

What you get with Del Zotto that isn't as advertised as his offensive skills is his ability to play a physical game.

The Knights need all three to be as good as they've been.

If that happens, there will be no blow out and a good chance of a game Friday night.


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