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Edmonton Journal article (It's now or never for Oil Kings)

May 24 2012 at 7:12 AM
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It’s now or never for Oil Kings

Edmonton hasn’t played up to the same level as it did in WHL playoffs

By John MacKinnon, edmontonjournal.com

May 23, 2012

Edmonton Oil Kings goalie Laurent Brossoit concedes a goal to London Knights' Greg McKegg during the second period of their round-robin Memorial Cup ice hockey game in Shawinigan, Quebec, May 22, 2012.

Photograph by: REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger , edmontonjournal.com

SHAWINIGAN, Que. – It’s safe to say the Edmonton Oil Kings have been off form so far in the MasterCard Memorial Cup, and that includes goaltender Laurent Brossoit.

Well, there’s no margin for error now, either for the six-foot-three, 200-pound goaltender, or the team playing somewhat shakily in front of him, and they know it.

To advance to Sunday’s tournament final, the Oil Kings must win the tiebreaker game Thursday night against the host Shawinigan Cataractes, then win Friday’s semifinal.

With the Saint John Sea Dogs’ 4-1 victory over the Cataractes on Wednesday night, the London Knights qualified directly for the championship final.

The tiebreaker will be a reprise of the tournament opener, in which Edmonton edged Shawinigan 4-3. This time, Shawinigan will be on the back end of back-to-back games.

“I think we’re still pretty confident that we’re a lot better than we’ve shown,” said Brossoit, named the most valuable player in the Western Hockey League final.

Brossoit was brilliant in that seven-game series against the Portland Winterhawks, and he had to be. The series concluded with back-to-back games in Portland and Edmonton, respectively, but the Oil Kings certainly don’t think they were a tired hockey club coming to Shawinigan.

“I think we have a lot more to give and I don’t think it’s 100 per cent the energy,” Brossoit said. “It’s a lot of mental stuff, and just doing the little things right that got us here. I think we’re just lacking a little bit.”

Brossoit didn’t exempt his own play from that assessment. He has played solidly, but not at the level that won him the MVP award. Of course, he’s hardly alone there.

He has certainly been the busiest goalie in the tournament, with 83 saves so far and a save percentage of 0.892, second best in the Memorial Cup behind Shawinigan’s Gabriel Girard entering play Wednesday night.

His goals-against average is a middling 3.38.

Brossoit has appeared to be fighting the puck at times, and has given up a soft goal here and there in the tournament. What leaps immediately to mind is one scored by Saint John forward Zack Phillips, from the right-wing boards just a few feet from the goal-line within the first two minutes of play on Monday night.

“I’m trying to be realistic with the goals I’ve been letting in,” Brossoit said. “Obviously, there are a couple that I want back. I feel like I’ve been giving the team a chance to win. But, at the same token, I have a lot more to give.

“Before this tournament, I was doing a little bit more than just giving the team a chance to win. I kind of want to steal a game or two. I’m looking forward and I’m pretty confident that I’m going to have a lot better effort.”

Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal seemed remarkably upbeat about his team on Wednesday, not to mention his goaltender.

“LB has been outstanding all year,” Laxdal said of Brossoit. “There’s no better time for our guys to shine than (tonight).

“What we’ve done in the past is out the door. We can’t dwell on it. We’ll learn from our mistakes, but we want to make sure that we implement (corrections) in the game plan coming up.”

To that end, Laxdal will shuffle his lines a bit, although he didn’t say precisely how. He was emphatic the night before that only the Henrik Samuelsson-Curtis Lazar-Stephane Legault line was at its best in the 4-1 loss to London, which seemed less an issue of effort than of playing smart hockey.

“We have to reinvent ourselves a little bit to adjust to the skill level of this tournament,” Laxdal said. “The stubbornness of our hockey club is creeping in right now.

“We’re going to show some video clips of turnovers in the neutral zone and what they result in. If you look at (winger Kristians) Pelss’s goal in Game 1, Shawinigan turned it over and it ended up in the net. So both teams are going to capitalize on turnovers.

“We have to make sure that we’re ready to change our game a little bit. Maybe we can’t carry it through the neutral zone. Maybe we have to dump it at the red line instead of the blue line and have some speed on the forecheck.”

Laxdal said 75 per cent of the goals his club has given up the last two games have been result of his own team’s giveaways, something that can be corrected, even against the elite teams the Oil Kings are facing.

“Is that (turnovers) a result of having a young group at the Memorial Cup?,” Laxdal asked rhetorically. “Yeah, but we’ve got to grow up pretty quick, just like we did in the WHL playoffs.”

Brossoit, for one believes they can do just that.

“We’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot a lot of the time, a lot of self-made mistakes,” he said. “It’s kind of biting us in the butt a little bit. I think we have a lot more to give.”

As for the three-part task facing the Oil Kings, Brossoit said: “It simplifies things and mentally, I think we’re just going to go out and play like it’s our last game, because it could be.’

jmackinnon@edmontonjournal.com

Twitter.com/rjmackinnon

Check out my blog, Sweatsox, at edmontonjournal.com/blogs

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

 
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