Five things Knights must do to beat Oil Kings
RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency
|Players from the London Knights and Shawinigan Cataractes get aggressive during their Memorial Cup match at Centre Bionest in Shawinigan Que., May 20, 2012. (DIDIER DEBUSSCHERE/QMI Agency)
Five things the London Knights need to do to beat the Edmonton Oil Kings Tuesday night. Win it, and there's a chance the OHL champs could waltz right into Sunday's final.
1. HELP HOUSER: London's mentality is put up a brick wall so nothing gets through to the net. There's a problem, though, when pucks are deflected. Olli Maatta tipped one past goalie Michael Houser against Shawinigan and Saint John's Jonathan Huberdeau scored on a long-distance slapper that glanced off Vladislav Namestnikov's pants. If you're going to block it, make sure you get all of it.
2. FRESH LEGS: Saint John coach Gerard Gallant thought the Knights were a little gassed coming back less than 24 hours after an emotional game against his team. Well, guess what? The Knights draw the Western champion Oil Kings right after they played the Sea Dogs the night before. It's the lone perk of London's awful schedule. The Knights should be able to crank it up later in the game and test Edmonton's endurance. Andreas Athanasiou, who used his considerable speed and scored a goal after being inserted in the lineup for rookie first-rounder Bo Horvat, could be a game-breaker. Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal was impressed with him and Max Domi, too. But London GM and head coach Mark Hunter hasn't finalized his lineup. "We don't know what we're going to do yet," he said.
3. MATCHUP MESS: Hunter likes to match lines. Everyone knows it. But for the first time here, he isn't the designated home team and won't have last change. He's going to have to do some juggling to get what he wants against a well-coached club. Hunter coaches to win the game. That was clear against Shawinigan, who wasn't surprised he pulled Houser with over three minutes left and down three goals. He wasn't worried about tie-breaking formulas. "If we don't beat Edmonton, we're going to be playing in the tie-breaker game anyway," Hunter said. "If we win, we're in the semifinal so I don't worry about that stuff." He has joked if they don't beat Edmonton, it's his older brother Dave's fault. Dave Hunter lives there and pre-scouted the Oil Kings for him.
4. FIX THE POWER PLAY: Edmonton has a dangerous-looking power play. Michael St. Croix is shifty and the Oil Kings are adept at getting the puck into the centre of the ice for shots. That said, they don't need any special-team assistance. The Knights have given up three shorthanded goals in two games and now, everyone's looking for their opportunities. Mark Hunter said it wasn't all due to lax backchecking, "but I agree, all five guys coming back hard is something that needs to be done to avoid shorthanded chances."
5. WIN THE DRAWS: London needs to start owning the faceoff dot again. The little things add up. Greg McKegg went 13-for-19 in the opening win over Saint John, but against Shawinigan, he and Austin Watson were a combined 12-for-42. "(Michael) Chaput was good at it and they did a nice job of cleaning up the garbage (after the draw)," McKegg said. "The Quebec refs drop the puck different than they do in the OHL. They don't hold it out over the dot and drop it. It's sort of from the hip and it's tough to time it. We knew that coming in. (OHL vice-president) Ted Baker warned us about it. We practised before we left (London) and it's just about getting used to it."