April 20, 2012
Max Domi scores his first two playoff goals after missing practice the previous day due to flu, giving the London Knights a chance at an overtime win over the Kitchener Rangers in Game 1 of the Western Conference final. Meantime, John Gibson was fantastic in Kitchener's goal with 45 saves. On with the post-game questions.
The Ottawa 67's-Niagara IceDogs Eastern Conference final opens on Friday (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m., Sportsnet).
London 3 Kitchener 2 (in overtime; Knights lead Western Conference final 1-0; Game 2 on Sunday) — How will the two-day break prior to Game 2 help the Rangers recover?Playing just 48 hours after winning a series-deciding game on the road was too tall a task for the Rangers even if coach-GM Steve Spott was loath to use it an out, described his team as, "maybe mentally fatigued, but not physically," during the televised post-game press conference. But it had to be a factor. The Knights, who had four full days between series, had much more in the tank and outshot Kitchener 40-14 after the first period. Gibson was about the sole reason there was an overtime.
From Josh Brown:
"It's obviously tough coming back from a hard seven game series," said Kitchener captain Michael Catenacci. "But we can't make any excuses.
"I don't think we had our best legs but you have to put that in the back of your head and go out there and battle." (Waterloo Record)
In other words, the extra day could be a boon to some tired Kitchener bodies.
What was up with Kitchener reprising the Philadelphia Flyers' stalling tactic from earlier this season? Late in the second period, up 2-1, Rangers defencemen Ryan Murphy and Cody Sol spent more than a minute skating in circles and passing the puck among themselves while the Knights demurred from sending a forechecker into the Kitchener zone. (If it gets on YouTube, there will be a post.) Murphy and Sol had each had turnovers while carrying the puck out from behind their goal earlier, with the latter's gift-wrapping the chance that Domi buried for his first goal.
It wasn't hockey and the London crowd booed the inaction. From Ryan Pyette:
The Rangers refused to advance the puck and the Knights wouldn't forecheck and chase them.
That tactical approach from both sides led to restlessness from the crowd.
"I'll ask the question which team are they (the crowd) booing," Spott said.
[London coach-GM] Mark Hunter didn't douse fears it could happen again throughout this series.
"I'll ask the question what are we supposed to do, chase (star defenceman) Ryan Murphy behind the net?" Hunter asked. "He'll come out one side or the other and he's such a beautiful skater, he'll be down the ice. So we were patient. He came out (eventually).
"We're going to be patient." (London Free Press)
The officials do have the discretion to stop play when that happens. No doubt the OHL is already discussion what to do if this happens again. If not, they ought to be so.
Is Andreas Athanasiou out of purgatory? The sophomore speedster who was healthy-scratched for the last four games of the Saginaw Spirit-London second-round series. He got back in only thanks to Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Greg McKegg being held out with an injury (which also has him questionable for Game 2). He ended up being one of the more effective Knights forward and his well-placed slapshot late in the third period all but gave Domi the puck on a platter as he tipped in the tying goal. Athanasiou came close to winning it in regulation.
From Pyette, again:
Domi was teamed up on a line with his billet mate Jared Knight and Andreas Athanasiou, who was re-inserted after sitting out the last five games of the Saginaw second-round series -- four of them as a healthy scratch.
"I found out (Wednesday) and I was excited," Athanasiou said. "I was ready and I wanted to get in there and play hard at both ends. I just tried to help the team." (London Free Press)
Athanasiou is a huge asset when he's on, but the rub is the Knights might feel he needs to be in a top-six role to be fully utilized in these playoffs. Keeping him in once McKegg returns means bumping one of the worker bees.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.