Blocked shots were a big part of Edmonton’s win in Game 1 of the Western Hockey League championship series. Strong checking in all three zones was critical to Portland’s response in Game 2.
The best-of-seven series shifts to Edmonton’s Rexall Place today and Wednesday, the direction of the series might be determined by which club can first impose its style.
Portland wants to keep the pace high, and pressure Edmonton to make quick decisions.
“We’re not a real chip-and-run type team. We want to play with the puck. We want to make plays off the rush,” acting Winterhawks coach Travis Green said. “But you’ve got to manage the puck in the right areas. I thought we did a good job of that (in Game 2), making good decisions. If we didn’t have a play, we had to get the puck behind them and make them go back.”
The Winterhawks started well in each of the first two games. They outshot the Oil Kings by a combined 27-9 during the two first periods.
Edmonton coach Derek Laxdal said after Game 2 that two off days and energy from the home crowd should help his team in Game 3. He hopes Edmonton can pin Portland in its own zone, something that rarely happened in the Winterhawks’ 3-0 win on Saturday.
Another area to watch: The Oil Kings had only four power plays through the first two games and are scoreless on their last 24 power-play chances.
“We’ve got to simplify,” Laxdal said. “If you’re not getting opportunities, then you have to do something different. But we had a couple of opportunities to bury — and we didn’t.”
On top of that, the Winterhawks had three short-handed breakaways in the first two games, though goalie Laurent Brossoit denied them each time.