Marc Habscheid’s got one mountain-sized job ahead of him as he tries to turn his fortunes around in the Western Hockey League playoffs.
Down 0-2 to the Tri-City Americans, the Chilliwack Bruins head into action tonight at Prospera Centre facing a must-win scenario.
They’ll need two straight at home, tonight and tomorrow, if they hope to pull off the upset they thought was possible.
And while Saturday night’s 8-1 score in Game 2 indicates a large gap in the abilities of these two teams, there is reason to believe the upstart Bruins can turn this thing around.
Go back to Game 1 on Friday night and consider the fact that the Bruins were the better team for 55 of the 60 minutes.
A five minute lapse, which included a three goals in 1:26 meltdown, torpedoed their chances in that one.
Consider Saturday night, and their dominance of the opening frame. Only the heroics of Tri-City netminder Drew Owsley kept the Bruins offence off the scoresheet when they clearly deserved better.
When Tri-City scored twice in 31 seconds to go up 3-0, you could feel the young Bruins deflate. It’s tough to work so hard and not be rewarded, and the game snowballed downhill from there.
Ever the realist, Habscheid knows that ifs and buts don’t add up to playoff victories. But there’s something to build on as the team tries to turn the tables on a potential Tri-City sweep.
“I think we can still bring a bit more grit to our game offensively and I think we’re still a bit too easy to play against,” Habscheid said. “If we do that, I think we’ll end up scoring more goals and get back into this.”
The Bruins fired 71 shots at Owsley over the first two games, scoring three times. One of those was on a penalty shot, scored by Roman Horak late in Game 2.
Habscheid referenced the many shots taken with no traffic near the net on a goaltender listed at five-foot-eight and 157 pounds.
Owsley missed the final portion of the regular season schedule recovering from injury, but has played lights-out in the post-season. Any Bruins success hinges on getting bodies in front of the smallish stopper.
“It comes all over the ice in our willingness to take hits to make plays, come up with loose pucks and do things like that,” Habscheid said. “With Owsley, we’ve got to make life more difficult for him and take some smarter shots. Hopefully, we get some results from that because we can’t really win scoring one or two goals a game.”
Another thing the Bruins must do is avoid the quick strikes by the Americans. The Bruins led Game 1 1-0 Friday before Tri-City scored three times in 1:26 to put Chilliwack on the ropes.
“In that game, I think we went into the third period hoping not to lose instead of wanting to win,” Habscheid said. “That’s probably inexperience, and that’s something that we have to learn.”
By the same token, the Americans led 1-0 in the second period of Game 2, and tallied twice in a half minute to break it open.
“We feel like we’ve played well enough for a lot of the time to win, but we know we’ve got more to give,” Habscheid noted. “We hold court at home for the next two games, and we want to take advantage.”
After snuffing out all three Tri-City power plays in the opening game, the Bruins found out why the Americans power play is so powerful in Game 2.
The Bruins handed the Ams nine power play opportunities, and were burned six times
Six power play goals against eclipsed a dubious club record of five against, done previously by the Everett Silvertips and Calgary Hitmen.
Habscheid was willing to give his team a mulligan on the PK woes, given three of the six Tri-City goals came when the game was well out of reach.
“Our special teams in Game 1 were good and they weren’t that good in Game 2,” he said. “We’ll see what needs to be fixed and get it going for Game 3.”
Individually, the Americans got a standout performance from Brendan Shinnimim, who scored three times in the 8-1 rout. Kruise Reddick had a pair on the weekend, as did Tri-City tough guy Todd Kennedy.
Chilliwack’s goal scorers in Games 1 and 2 were Dylen McKinlay, Ryan Howse and Horak.