Optimism may be Knights' best asset

MORRIS DALLA COSTA , QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:07 PM ET

There is something to be said for optimism and hope.

When you have them, you believe you can do anything.

Whether thatís realistic or not remains to be seen.

Itís rare to find a team thatís eighth place in a 10-team conference getting as much run as the London Knights are heading into the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.

The Knights will face either Owen Sound Attack, first place in the Western Conference, or Saginaw Spirit in the first round of the playoffs.

In most cases, when a No.†1 seed plays a No.†8 seed not many people would give the No.†8 seed much of a chance.

That is especially true since, during the past few weeks, the Knights have lost six in succession and went from chasing home ice for the playoffs to chasing everyone else.

But this is an odd year in the OHL.

There is no team head-and-shoulders better than the others. There is no team immune to upset.

Then, thereís the confidence thing. It doesnít seem to matter that on paper, the Knights donít look like a team that has a chance against the Attack.

When you compare the Knights to the Sarnia Sting thatís dead last in the Western Conference, the Knights come out second in terms of impact players. With Nail Yakupov and Alx Galchenyuk, the Sting has game-breakers, dynamic players who can change the direction of a game in seconds.

The Knights have no one like that. What they do have is a better team dynamic and better defence.

All it takes is goaltender Michael Houser to be hot for the Knights to stay close to a team like the Attack.

Itís amazing how things change when a team thatís supposed to win is put into a position of having to win. Pressure does weird things to teams.

It isnít as if the Attack has had an abundance of playoff experience either.

ďI hope we play the Attack,Ē said Knight rookie Ryan Rupert. ďThey have a small barn. Itís playoff hockey and I like that. Itís a lot more physical.

ďWe just take it one game at a time. We feel that anything can happen.Ē

Rupert is part of the young group of Knights that has performed better than expected.

While no one will say it, deep down they believe Owen Sound is vulnerable.

But then again, everyone is vulnerable.

It would have been a lot scarier if the Knights were playing like they were a month ago when they were turning heads.

Then again, if they were, they wouldnítbe in eighth place.

The Attack isnít as good as Western Conference champions of past years.

Watching the Knights play the Sting, itís hard to share their optimism that they could beat the Attack or Spirit.

Houser was terrific, but he has to play that way for the Knights to have any chance.

The rest of the Knights looked tired. The young players looked particularly tired.

In recent weeks, they havenít played as well on the second night of back-to-back games.

No doubt there will be a surge of adrenaline come playoff time but how long will it last.

In order for the Knights to win, they have to control players such as Owen Soundís Joey Hishon and Garrett Wilson. That means playing physical hockey night after night in what is a grinding schedule.

Confidence is important. Hope is important. The fact no team is dominant is important.

But do the Knights have enough left in the tank to win?

Anything is possible, but thatís a far cry from probable.

morris.dallacosta@sunmedia.ca


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