Fans in Prince Albert and Saskatoon have had to wait almost longer than anyone else for this matchup. This is the last series to get underway in the WHL's Eastern Conference playoffs.
The teams should be ready and we will have to see how the long wait between games affects them. The teams haven't played since last Saturday as they both ended the regular season that night.
I don't expect too long of a feeling out period as the teams are more than familiar with each other, having met 8 times during the regular season. The Blades were the big time winners in those matchups going 7-1. But, as I mentioned earlier on this blog in the series preview, the games were closer than that 7-1 mark shows. The Raiders had some stretches of very good hockey at some points, just not consistently enough. They were especially good in their own barn, even though the Blades won 3 out of 4 at the Art Hauser Centre.
A big crowd should be on hand tonight for the series kickoff, including a solid contingent from Prince Albert.
Here are my keys to game 1:
For Prince Albert:
- Get off to a solid start. They can’t be overwhelmed here early in tonight’s game and need to have something positive go there way within their first few minutes.
- Be aggressive on the forecheck. The Raiders have found success this year against the Blades when they are in fast on the Blades defenseman. They need to hit everything below the goal line and try to force pucks loose.
- And Tucker or Williams needs to be very good in goal. I imagine Tucker gets the start as the veteran. This team has had stretches of solid goaltending this year and stretches when it hasn’t been so good. They need consistency in this series.
- Use the crowd. The people have turned up at CUC down the stretch and they want something to cheer about early in this game to make it extra tough on the Raiders.
- Stay disciplined. The Raiders had a very respectable road powerplay this year at 11th best in the league and Saskatoon can’t make extra work for themselves by taking bad penalties.
- And Schenn and Hamilton need to be the go-to guys in this series. These two players have played on the world stage for Team Canada and know how to handle big pressure. They can show that off starting tonight.
Game time goes at 7:05 from CUC. If you can't make it to the rink, check out the broadcast on 92.9 The Bull. We will have an extra long pregame show now that the playoffs start. It goes an hour before the puckdrop. Once the game starts, I will be between the benches TSN-style doing my best Pierre McGuire impersonation. Wish me luck.