Don’t let Chilliwack’s dominance of the regular season series fool you, says Chiefs coach Harvey Smyl. The first round series between his Chiefs and the Prince George Spruce Kings will be a major test for the home team.
Yes, the Chiefs beat PG in six of the eight head-to-heads, but with a different bounce here or there, Smyl thinks the Spruce Kings could have had another one or two wins.
“I don’t think the record is really an indication of the difference in teams,” he said.
In this best of five series, the key may be the goaltenders.
Kirk Thompson is the go-to guy for Prince George, and the sort of netminder who can cause all sorts of havoc.
“He’s played extremely well since Christmas, and when you get into a short series, a goaltender can make the difference,” Smyl said. “We need to make sure we’re around him, getting in tight so he knows we’re there. We need to get second opportunities and when we get them, we need to execute.”
Chilliwack’s forwards will have to show determination to get through a big PG defensive corps. Settling for perimeter shots won’t get it done against Thompson. At the other end, the focus will be on containing PG’s team speed.
They may not have an elite scorer, but they move the puck in a hurry and move in quick on the forecheck.
“Discipline will be important,” Smyl said, offering another key to the series. “We don’t want to give them any advantage. We can control our discipline and we need to control it.”
Though his team struggled down the stretch, Chilliwack beat Langley twice to end the regular season. Smyl saw good things that have him feeling hopeful.
“Uneven would be a good term,” he said, describing Chilliwack’s final month and a half. “ But I have liked the way we’ve played the last couple games. The team discipline was way better. The defensive play was good and we generated a lot of chances.”
The best-of-five format is often seen as a benefit to the underdog, but Smyl’s not buying it.
“I can’t believe we’re in a best-of-five at our level, but it is what it is,” he said, taking a shot at the league’s playoff structure. “Game one is so very important. We’re focused on being prepared for Friday night. We don’t worry about anything beyond that.”