1) Adam Todd: Like we said throughout our broadcast, it isn’t always pretty with Todd but bottom-line he gets the job done.Todd put on quite the show in the second period, when he robbed Mike Rebry and John Siemer on two eye-popping saves. He was especially good in the third period when the Vees ratcheted up the pressure trying to force the tie.
The Vees were trying to put more shots in and around his feet trying to create rebounds, as he did struggle with that last Saturday but on Friday he was pretty air-tight. I was impressed how well he tracked the puck in his crease and around his net, when the Vees were trying to jam loose pucks past him. Todd never shows any signs of panic, rarely do yo see him scramble in the net and he always found a way to get in front of a shot.
2) Compete Level: This was clearly something the Vees need to take a page out of Trail’s book. The Smokies were, again, playing an in-your-face, desperate brand of hockey. They were hustling after loose pucks, fighting desperately along the boards and were hitting anything that was wearing a shade of blue.
The Smokies game plan wasn’t overly complicated, as it simply relied on getting the puck deep in the Vees end and grinding it out below the circles. The Vees say they want to win the battles below the circles and eat up zone time, but early on Friday it was the Smokies winning that battle. Trail never stopped moving their feet either, something the Vees says is another key to their success. Trail had a great push at the start of all three periods and the Vees had a difficult time adjusting.
Smoke Eaters were simply “selling out” from start to finish in this one, playing like they should with their season hanging in the balance. I was thoroughly impressed with the likes of Tyler Berkholtz (who was playing hurt), Luke Sandler, Austin Adduono and Jesse Knowler. Yes, these are some of the Smokies top guys but they played like it too. They were hustling, busting their hump and continually made things happen in the offensive zone.
The Vees struggled with these intangibles in the first two periods, as they looked disjointed for the most part in the first forty-minutes. Their passing was off, as their transition game struggled to get going. They lost too many puck battles along the walls and, outside of a few moments, had a hard time sustaining pressure in the offensive zone.
They were much better in the third but again, you can’t flip on the switch and expect to win when you decided to play for only twenty-minutes. The Vees just haven’t had the starts they’ve wanted recently and need to get that righted before things get ugly.
3) Killer Instinct: Now, the Vees have “struggled” somewhat offensively, as they’ve only scored five goals in their last two games, that despite firing 70 shots on net. In fact, the Vees have 104 shots on goal during this three game slide but have only have seven goals to show for it.
Getting Jedd Soleway back tonight will help as he does create a good net presence but others need to follow suit. Last night the Vees didn’t do enough to get to pucks around the Trail goal. Well, the had a hard time getting into those “dirty areas” to get to those pucks. Last Saturday I thought they did a good job getting to the Trail crease but last night they couldn’t penetrate.
Another factor is frustration, as you tend to grip your stick that much tighter when things don’t go your way. I think the Vees are second guessing them selves at times and trying to do too much. They need to dumb it down a bit, by just taking the what is presented to them. In the second, the Vees had some of their best chances when they simply put the puck on net and looked for the rebound. When you’re struggling offensively, you tend to try to put too much on yourself and make the perfect pass, try to pick the corner, or wait for the perfect shot.
The playoffs have unofficially started, and the Vees need to rise to the occasion. Teams have stepped it up that much more, clawing tooth and nail to win games. The Vees need to play with some desperation, get their hands dirty and sell out. How bad do they want it?