In a matter of hours, the Houston Aeros will try to keep their season (and franchise) alive.
After dropping Game Two (3-2 L) on home ice, and then Game Three (4-2 L) on Wednesday night in Grand Rapids, the Aeros face elimination for the first time in the 2013 postseason. In their Calder Cup playoff history, the Aeros are 11-8 when facing elimination, which is fairly impressive. Here’s how they make it 12-8…
- Compete – Aeros head coach John Torchetti used the word “compete” about 10 times today in our pre-game conversation. He also used the word “soft”, which hockey players and teams hate to be described as. Yesterday, when I spoke with Mikael Granlund, he used the “s-word” as well. Thus, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what’s been missing the last two games. The extra effort, the physical play, the willingness to win a foot race or puck battle in the corner, that’s what this team needs tonight. And they need it for 60 minutes.
- Between The Pipes – The Aeros need goaltender Mike Condon to steal a game. Make no mistake, he was fine in Game Three. He gave the Aeros a solid performance – gave them a chance to win. However, the Aeros weren’t good enough in Game Three, so since I expect the team to raise its game tonight, the rookie from Princeton University will have to do the same thing: elevate his game, make a few clutch saves, and make sure at the end of the night, there’s no handshake taking place.
- Forward Chemistry – It appears the Aeros will juggle some of their forward lines for Game Four. I’m not going to delve into those changes (you’ll have to listen to the broadcast for that), but changing the lines means the team is looking for a spark / chemistry to start generating more speed, and more offense. Here’s to hoping that the changes are positive early in the game, and the Aeros can get off to a quick start.
- Desperation – When you’re faced with a “win or go home” situation, there can be no excuses. Look for urgency in the Aeros game tonight – that means intensity and passion in every shift, from every player. That type of play will help the team be successful, which will grow the club’s confidence. Confidence spreads quickly on a hockey bench and can “infect” everyone in a positive way. It’s up to the leadership group on this team to set that tone early tonight. The guys that have won before know what their role is tonight – set the tempo, play with desperation and everyone else will follow.
The bottom line is, the Aeros have already played with a level of passion and sacrifice that it takes to win this time of year. When, you ask? Game One – when they won, 3-0. Since then, the Griffins have raised their game and the Aeros haven’t matched it. If that changes tonight, I think everyone wearing the Bomber logo on their chest knows the result will be different.
– Aero Joe
P.S. Now that I know Aeros defenseman Paul Mara reads my blogs, I just want to tell all of you that he’s the greatest hockey player to ever lace up a pair of skates. Well, Wayne Gretzky was probably slightly more skilled, but Mara’s playoff beard is way better…