I don’t get the sense that there is any panic from the Aeros heading into today’s Game Two of the West Division Finals against the Admirals. Sure, the Aeros haven’t won here in four tries this season, and sure, for the first time this playoff year they suffered a loss, but as I’ve mentioned earlier in this postseason, it’s “a race to four” (the team mantra this postseason).
So the Admirals got the first one on Friday night, taking advantage of the Aeros’ rust after a nine-day layoff. Both teams are extremely cognizant of the fact that today’s game will have a higher intensity, a more physical tone and most likely, a quickened pace. In talking with Admirals’ head coach Lane Lambert yesterday, he said his team needs to have an understanding of just how physical today’s game will be and he said he knows that the Aeros will play better. The vibe around the Aeros’ room echoes that – they must play better today and I think they expect to play a more crisp and intense game.
If that’s the case, then we should be in for a real treat today. Just because the Aeros play better doesn’t automatically mean they will emerge victorious, and that’s the beauty of playoff hockey. One bounce, one call, one missed opportunity can be the difference no matter how well you play.
I’d like to see the Aeros attack the net more and as Mike Yeo said after Game One, the team needs to have more of a “shooter’s mentality” – the Admirals blocked a lot of shots on Friday and the Aeros made things way too easy on Admirals’ goaltender Jeremy Smith. The Aeros need all 18 skaters attacking the crease the way that the Warren Peters-Colton Gillies-Jed Ortmeyer has done all postseason long. That line was again rewarded for their hard work in Game One, as Gillies collected his team-leading third goal.
I expect Matt Hackett to bounce back with a stronger performance, he’s shown that ability all season long. If the Aeros play a hard-nosed game and get some decent play between the pipes, this will most likely be a nail-biter. A win today, and the Aeros snag home ice advantage with the next three games at Toyota Center. It won’t be easy, but this team has responded to each individual “challenge” extremely well all season long and today may be their biggest challenge yet…
Here are some nuggets for you to chew on:
1. The Aeros are 7-9 in Game Two’s in their Calder Cup playoff history
2. The Aeros lead the playoffs in shots against per game at a stingy 22.4
3. The Aeros are a -4 in first period goal differential, but a combined +9 in all other periods, including overtime
4. The Admirals one Game One of their first round series against the Stars, then dropped the next two games
Don’t forget about the watch party at The Maple Leaf Pub (514 Elgin St.). The puck drops at 5 pm and the radio broadcast on 1070, KNTH starts at 4:45 pm.
Enjoy today’s game…
– Aero Joe