It’s Far From Over

It’s far from over.

It’s cliché, but the hardest game to win in any series is the clinching game.

The Moncton Wildcats are in “good” position to close things out on home ice versus the Baie Comeau Drakkar, but the Cats must play with urgency and poise if they want win Game 6 and move on to round 2.

You can look at all the stats and analytics you want this is going to come down to will and discipline.

Both teams have taken their share of penalties, but I’m referring to team and individual discipline when it comes to following their respective systems which ultimately will be the difference maker in this series.

The Cats need to play as a collective and can’t get too far ahead of themselves. When the Cats have struggled this year they have gone out on their own and have been far too individualist. They will have to guard against that tonight especially if they get down early. JF Gregoire is a fantastic coach and a great motivator, there’s no question he will have his hockey club ready and they will come out gang busters in the first 10 to 15 minutes of tonight’s affair. Lacroix better have his hockey club prepared for anything.

The Cats have a lot of character in their room, but they will have to guard against looking too far ahead. There’s still tons of fight left in the Drakkar. It’s hard to think a team would become complacent up a game in an incredibly tight series heading to a pivotal Game 6 with a chance to close things out, but there’s a fine line between complacent and playing with confidence, control and poise.

In the games that matter most, you need to rely on your identity. In this situation you can’t afford to deviate. The Cats searched for their identity countless times this season and definitely recaptured it in the final 10 games or so of the regular season. Obviously, some players have done a fantastic job stepping into the line up and taking on bigger roles when needed, but that’s also where the self discipline comes into play. Shift length, playing to their identity and role is critical now more than ever especially in a Game 6 scenario.

Over handling the puck or trying to do too much will get anyone in trouble, but especially for the Cats. You can’t really explain it, but its human nature to kind of relax a little when you have fought so hard to get up 3-2 in a series.

“Well they have two chances at it now,” said a random shopper Saturday morning when a friend of mine and I were talking about the series.

Two chances, but all the pressure gets shifted if the Cats can’t close things out tonight.

The Drakkar have done a great job clogging up the neutral zone this series. However their “D” zone coverage hasn’t been the greatest at times. They often over commit to the strong side and puck watch which is opening things up for the Cats to exploit backdoor plays and cross seam passes especially within the cycle game.

There’s no question the Drakkar will tighten things up in that department tonight. You see when a team like Moncton that loves to skate and play fast in transition has time and space taken away, that’s when turnovers happen and you see individualism sneak into their game.

Lacroix will have to show restraint tonight when it comes to line combinations or “going with the players that are going” or “his top guy’s” tonight. The Cats have played their best hockey of the season and series when things remain consistent behind the bench.

There’s no question the Cats have the deeper of the two teams, but like anything you have to manage that depth and make sure you have the right guys out there at the right times.

Keys to the game for Baie Comeau: Tighten up defensively in your own zone, on the forecheck, apply delayed pressure to take away the Cats transition through the middle. Look for the Drakkar to try to get Steinman moving laterally. There have been some holes in his game from that perspective.

Photo Credit Daniel St Louis

Keys to the game for Moncton: Continue to throw pucks at the feet of Ciarlo, when they shoot low, they have been generating second chance opportunities, short shifts, keep the same lines together for the bulk of the game, manage pucks better on the half boards of their own zone by supporting the puck better with speed. Manage the emotions of the moment by playing to their identity and as a team.

It’s been a great series so far, but it’s far from over

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