The Ice Wolves got off to a great start on home ice in the Survivor Series with a pair of wins on home ice to start out the playoffs. Friday's contest started out fast and furious with the Wolves getting the better of the early action, but letting their foot off the gas nearly cost them as the Bombers pulled themselves back into the contest. The Wolves collected themselves in time and took the 5-4 win, but it was clear what the Wolves needed to improve on. To gain playoff success, the Wolves need to put the pedal down and finish games out.
Saturday's game started slow, but the Wolves made adjustments in the second period and again came out on the right side of a flurry of action. A 4-1 lead after two periods quickly became 5-1 when Nathan Boyer scored his second of the game 20 seconds into the third. The game quieted from there until the Wolves popped another two on the powerplay, late, when the Bombers got into penalty trouble. A 7-1 beat down gave the Wolves their 2-0 lead in the series and showed they have the killer instinct to put teams away.
Also important for La Ronge, they were able to put some pucks behind Devin Buffalo in the third period. After allowing the fifth goal Friday, Buffalo shut down the Wolves for the remainder of that game and when he stepped in for Andy Desautels in the second Buffalo was fantastic as well. The third period marked a return to the norm for the Ice Wolves when they were able to get three by him at the Mel. A confident Devin Buffalo would be bad news for the Wolves heading to the Whitney Forum. Obviously the choice by Mike Reagan to put Desautels between the pipes for Game 2 will generate some discussion and I'll be sure to get his thoughts on the decision tonight in the pregame show.
Now the series shifts from La Ronge to Flin Flon. The Bombers won three of the four games at the Forum this season. However, the Wolves haven't suffered the same woes in Flon that the Bombers have in La Ronge. While the Bombers have lost ten straight at the Mel the Wolves enjoyed a lot of success there last season, and won at least once this season. It will be interesting to see if the Bombers can turn things around just by getting on home ice.
The Bombers held a 17-7-2-2 record on home ice this season, which is a pretty impressive mark. They've been able to knock off the top teams in the league in friendly territory and they'll have that confidence going for them. As Curtis said on the webcast, "you're not in trouble until you lose on home ice." Flin Flon needs to win one on the road, but returning from a two games to none deficit isn't quite the same death sentence as coming back from a three game hole. There weren't a ton of positives in game two for the Bombers who played a pretty strong first game and they'll need a serious bounce back game.
The Ice Wolves certainly learned their lesson about playing a full sixty minutes the hard way the last time they visited Flin Flon. A 2-0 lead late in the third period evaporated when the Wolves stepped back into a shell. They ended up losing in overtime. A few weeks later, the Wolves have that stinging loss to remember and a wealth of confidence to help them in tonight's contest. The Wolves want to get this series done tonight and set their sights on the Humboldt Broncos this weekend.
It definitely wouldn't be the first time a team looked by another in the playoffs and the Ice Wolves need to remember they haven't won anything yet. They have the two game safety blanket, but it's amazing how quickly that can disappear. The team's getting contributions from every line right now and the powerplay actually cashed in a few times. The Wolves can be a fun team to watch when everything is going in the right direction. If they can stay the course, they could be celebrating a series victory by the end of the night.
I've gone on record saying I think this series will go four games. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the Bombers come out with a really great effort on home ice tonight. The Wolves will need to get on them early and try to stem that home rink emotion. An early goal for La Ronge could turn things poorly for the Bombers. Scoring deluges have been the story so far with bunches of goals coming (for either side) within a short amount of time.
It's the two biggest games of the year for the Flin Flon Bombers and they'll have to come out hard to pick up a win. The Ice Wolves may be feeling a little comfortable with their two game lead, and the early going will be very telling in how hungry they are for the sweep.
The Pre-Game Show gets going at 7:15 and we'll have a couple of new features after the game including the new TBS Collision "Crunch of the Game" and the "Hardest Working Ice Wolf" for Schmalz Auctions and Auto Sales.
Should be a great game, and I'm looking forward to calling it.