The Edmonton Oil Kings were out-battled last night in a 5-2 loss to Portland in game one of the WHL finals. Head Coach Derek Laxdal said after the game that the coaching staff tallied 35 lost battles to 15 won. The Oil Kings need to swing that back to their advantage in order to take game two tonight and avoid digging themselves a 2-0 hole in the series.
“We have a group of kids that never played in this building before and I think it’s a great experience for them,” Laxdal said. “Game two, the intensity is going to pick up. Obviously, (Brendan) Leipsic is going to be back in the lineup, there will be a little bit more action after whistles and for us tonight, we’ve got to focus on our game. We talked about structure, we talked about giving an extra 5% for every player and we just talked about how we got to compete. We have to compete harder on our power play, our penalty kill and our 5-on-5. We have to raise the level of our intensity basically.”
Battling is not a system fix, it starts with the individual players taking on an attitude and playing with intensity.
“You’re exactly right, that’s an intensity,” the head coach said. “That’s an intensity that you have to have at the start of the game. That’s a mindset that you have to have in place, getting ready to battle in a playoff game. You can’t just go out in the game and feel out, just say okay I’m just going to go through, get my legs going and let the game come to me. You have to go to the game right off the hop and that’s that battle intensity that you have to have. We’re not talking about guys getting run over, we’re talking about stick battles in general and you’ve got to give Portland credit. They’re strong on their sticks, they have relentless back-pressure, they won a lot of one-on-one battles last night and if we can get that to 50% here tonight, we’ll be much better.”