Rangers exposed team that played beyond talent

London Knights goalie Michael Houser fishes the puck from the net after a Kitchener goal in the...

London Knights goalie Michael Houser fishes the puck from the net after a Kitchener goal in the third period of Game 7 of their OHL Western Conference semifinal at the John Labatt Centre on Monday night. The Rangers won 8-3 to take the series and advance to the conference final against the Windsor Spitfires. (DEREK RUTTAN, The London Free Press)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:52 AM ET

You can only stretch talent so far.

The London Knights stretched it as far as it could go but when it reached the snapping point, it snapped with a sonic boom.

The Knights were dumped unceremoniously out of the playoffs Monday.

The Kitchener Rangers came into the John Labatt Centre and ended the Knights season with an 8-3 Game 7 rout in the Western Conference semifinal.

Wha' happened?

The simple explanation is the Rangers came to play a full 60 minutes, while somewhere between the first and second periods, the Knights went to lala land.

The more complicated explanation is the Knights ran out of smoke and mirrors. After a remarkable 49-win season with an unremarkable team, the Knights ran into an opponent with enough talent to expose their weaknesses over a seven-game series.

The Knights were a team that overachieved. Applause for the coaching staff please, for sleight of hand. But the Knights lack of depth finally caught up with them.

"We came up short in Game 7," Knights assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said. "As coaches Dale and I worked every day with them. You practise and teach every day with a goal to get better. That's what these kids did. Maybe it did catch up with us in the last game."

Game 7 was the coming together of a myriad of factors. The Rangers were ready to play.

They won two games in a building deadly to them. They kept their composure and responding to the pressure.

It was a big series win for coach Steve Spott and he deserves credit for getting his team ready when most everyone believed there was no way the Rangers could respond to losing Game 6 in their building.

Spott got the players who were supposed to be his best players to play like that. The players who were supposed to be the best for the Knights picked a bad time to come up seriously wanting.

Spott was able to get his team to shake off what was a feeling of impending doom when they failed to eliminate the Knights on Saturday.

"I told them a parable (Monday)," he said. "I told them about a rich man who put a gold fish in his pond and gave three men an opportunity to get that fish. One guy used a spear gun, one guy used a fishing rod and one guy used a spoon. It's a long parable but the guy with the spoon got the gold fish out. Every guy in that dressing room took a spoonful of water out of that pool all night and earned the opportunity to get that goldfish."

He got his team to work together doing what they had to do a little at a time to reach the reward that awaited them.

The Rangers were able to recover from their problems during the series and it was no secret the Rangers had more than their fair share.

The Knights never did recover fully from their problems.

You can't win a series with the kind of goaltending the Knights got, or didn't get.

You can't win by giving up so many odd-man rushes and turning the puck over.

You can't win by being wildly inconsistent, not only game-to-game but period-to-period and often shift-to-shift.

You may be able to get away with it during the regular season, but when it happens in a long series against a team with talent, it's lights out.

You can't win a long series when you don't have enough talent.

The Rangers probably did the Knights a favour.

The idea of playing the Windsor Spitfires with the kind of defence and goaltending the Knights were getting is scary.

Toss in the facts the Knights were beaten up, tired and would be missing several of their key players.

The only thing positive about a London-Windsor series would have been two sellout houses for the Hunters.

You thought you saw ugly in this series against Kitchener.

The Knights would have been taken to a whole other level of ugly.

E-mail morris.dallacosta@sunmedia.ca


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