Over the course of these 2014 WHL playoffs, Oil Kings centre Curtis Lazar has traditionally played his best games in the opening contest of each series. In game ones this post-season, Lazar has seven points (2-5-7) in four games. This series has started off slow offensively for Lazar however, with him not recording a point until last night’s crucial game three win over Portland.
As the “heartbeat of the team,” according to his head coach, Lazar is an important piece for Edmonton as they look to knock off Portland. Oil Kings Head Coach Derek Laxdal said last night after the win that Lazar is starting to look like himself.
“I had a chat with Curtis this morning and we just talked about his first two games,” Laxdal said last night. “When Curtis is playing well what does he do? Smiles. I said, get that smile back in your game. I thought he got that smile back tonight and with that comes the energy in Curtis’ game.”
Lazar says he’s feeling more comfortable.
“I’m gripping my stick a little less tight,” he said. “I’m just enjoying myself out there. It was a big game for us last night but also for myself, for my confidence standpoint. I was really happy with my play, I’m contributing in all ways and I’m looking to build off my performance last night.”
In a series like the final where it could wind up being a long and tough battle, having Lazar build momentum the deeper it goes could be huge for the Oil Kings. That doesn’t necessarily only mean point production for the centre.
“Momentum,” Lazar said. “It’s a scary thing in the playoffs and if I can continue to improve each and every game it’s going to really benefit our team. I key in on those little details and the statistics, the goals and assists are good and all but the blocked shots, the face offs and all other things too, I’m really keeping an eye on those stats as well.”
The Edmonton Oil Kings are undefeated on home ice in these 2014 WHL playoffs. Down 2-0 in their WHL finals series to Portland, the club is excited to be back home and have a chance to even up the series with game three tonight and game four tomorrow night in Edmonton.
“I’m excited to get going,” forward Curtis Lazar said. “Our fans have supported us all season. I mean, we’re comfortable here. We’re used to the environment, we’re used to the ice and I think we’re going to have a pretty good push back tonight.”
The Oil Kings are 8-0-0-0 in these playoffs at Rexall Place and have a comfort level associated with their pre-game routines in Edmonton.
“Kid’s are sleeping in their own beds, they get the chance to prepare the best way and they have that ritual of coming to the game tonight as they’ve done in all of the playoff games,” Oil Kings Head Coach Derek Laxdal said. “For us, it’s just a matter of we’ve got to focus on what we do and there’s some areas of the game that we can get better at, i.e. turnovers, i.e. bad penalties, more shots to the net, a little bit more intensity in our game and those are things that are easy to change. It’s just a mindset, sharpening up those little details of the game.”
“It’s definitely nice to be home,” added forward Mitch Moroz. “Both teams are better at home and they look forward to being on home ice. We’re hoping to take advantage of it and make a series of it and get the first one here at home.”
The Edmonton Oil Kings have been outscored 8-3 in the first two games of their best-of-seven WHL finals series against the Portland Winterhawks. Edmonton’s head coach Derek Laxdal told the media this morning, in advance of a pivotal game three at home, that the team needs their top forwards to ramp it up a notch.
Henrik Samuelsson scored the lone goal for the Oil Kings in game two and Laxdal said he may have been the team’s best forward in that game. But it’s time for the team’s other top forwards to step up.
“I thought he’s taken a step in his game,” Laxdal said of Samuelsson. “I thought he was our best forward in game two. We need some of our other top forwards to step up tonight. Obviously, Reid Petryk has only got five or six points in the playoffs and he needs to take a step tonight. Mitch Moroz, I don’t think has a point in the last six games, he needs to take a step. Even Curtis Lazar, he’s the heartbeat of the hockey club. He needs to match the intensity of Henrik Samuelsson. These players know. We’re not calling them out, they know what they have to do and we’re going to need everybody on board tonight.”
In a pivotal game three in their WHL finals series against Portland, the Edmonton Oil Kings would sure like to grab the early lead. This would turn the tables on the Winterhawks who scored 2:50 into the first period in game one and twice in the first four minutes of game two.
“I think those games look a little differently if we don’t spot them two and three goal leads,” Edmonton forward Mitch Moroz said. “That’s hard to battle back from. I know we’re a resilient team but when you get down against a team like Portland, who’s always on their toes and turning the puck up, you are behind in the fight and you’ve got to find it in yourselves to get yourself that early lead. That’ll be the game plan tonight.”
Although scoring the first goal would be nice, Edmonton Head Coach Derek Laxdal told the media this morning that even just keeping the game close would be a success.
“It’s not about scoring the first goal, it’s about keeping the game close and within striking distance,” the head coach said. “Even when we were down 2-0 after the first five minutes the other night, I didn’t mind where we were. We had a lot of hockey left to play in that game and if we get the first goal it gets us to 2-1 and now the game is close. But when it gets to 3-0 we start chasing that game and we have to start opening up a little bit. But we want to keep the game close. If we get the first goal tonight then so be it. It will create a little confidence and a little energy in our team.”
The Edmonton Oil Kings head into tonight’s game three down 2-0 in their WHL finals best-of-seven series against the Portland Winterhawks. This is the first game of the series for Edmonton on home ice. With the last change, Oil Kings Head Coach Derek Laxdal will try to get the match ups most beneficial to his club.
“Having the last change will play into our favour,” Laxdal said. “Obviously, we want to try and get the match ups on the ice that we want. We really want to try and create some energy in our game tonight. We know they’re going to come back with (Chase) De Leo’s line and (Nicolas) Petan’s line every second shift so for us, we really want to make sure we have the right guys on the ice and put the right guys in the right situations but we really want to create some energy in our game tonight that gives us a little bit of confidence against Portland.”
Oil Kings forward Curtis Lazar is one of those players who could benefit from having the last change.
“We’ll see,” Lazar said. “I’ve been using the shutdown role for the majority of the playoffs and we sort of got away from that down in Portland. Whenever my name is called I’m going to go out there and try and put my team in a position where we can win.”
Lazar is tied for second on the team in scoring throughout the playoffs with 17 points (7-10-17) in 16 games.
It’s pretty much a do-or-die game for the Edmonton Oil Kings, down 2-0 in their WHL finals series against the Portland Winterhawks. These next two games at home are pivotal for the club, who’s looking to even things up tonight and tomorrow night with wins in games three and four.
Head Coach Derek Laxdal says if his team wants to even things up heading back to Portland, they’ll need to do so as a unit.
“I think it’s got to be a band of brothers,” Laxdal said. “It has to have that band-of-brothers approach. It’s not going to be one player, it’s not going to be Tristan Jarry, it’s not going to be Henrik Samulsson. It has to be 20 guys believing in the same direction tonight and that was the message in the meeting this morning. We have to make sure we step up. We’re not going to win the game in the first minute, we’re not going to lose the game in the first minute so go out and play, get your feet wet, don’t just dip your toes in, jump right in.”
Down 2-0 in their best-of-seven series against the Portland Winterhawks, the Edmonton Oil Kings will look to take advantage of their own home ice as the series comes home for games three and four tomorrow and Wednesday. The Oil Kings haven’t lost a game at home all playoffs (8-0-0-0).
“I don’t think we’ve lost a game here throughout the playoffs so far,” Curtis Lazar said. “That goes to show that we love playing for our fans and on our home ice and it’s no different than any team in the league.”
Lazar continued, “Our focus right now is game three and we’ll play it like a 0-0 series and that’s our main point. You’ve got to win on home ice just like Portland, they did their job down there and it’s a matter of us doing ours up here.”
Going down 2-0 in the series was a tough pill to swallow but now the Oil Kings have a chance to tie things up with two strong games at home.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” Griffin Reinhart said. “It’s never easy to play against Portland, especially in their atmosphere that they have. They’ve got a great crowd out there and we’ve got to come here and take advantage of our home ice and try to even the series out.”
Edmonton Oil Kings Head Coach Derek Laxdal spoke to the media on Monday, one day ahead of a pivotal game three in the WHL finals. Laxdal’s club is down 2-0 in their best-of-seven series against the Portland Winterhawks and the coach stressed the importance of Tuesday night’s game.
“Game three is always the biggest game in any series you play,” Laxdal said. “For us when we’re down 0-2 coming into our building we’ve got home ice and it’s a huge game for us. We have to come out and try to play that perfect game and we have to get out of the gates here solid. We’re not looking to score in the first minute, we’re not looking to score in the first ten, we want to get out and gain some traction and get back to the way we play. Hopefully there’s a big crowd in here tomorrow night to give the kids a little extra energy.”
The Oil Kings play game three tomorrow night and game four on Wednesday night at Rexall Place.
The Edmonton Oil Kings lost the first two games of the WHL finals in Portland. Now that series comes home to Edmonton where the club has not lost a game all playoffs. After going down to the Winterhawks twice to open the series, the Oil Kings believe they know exactly what they have to do to get two wins and tie the series up.
The mistakes were preventable says Curtis Lazar.
“The first two games, we beat ourselves in a way. The majority of the goals Portland scored were preventable. They were turnovers that really cost us, getting down early in the games and just playing catch-up hockey. From this point on it’s just a matter of laying it all on the line. We’re going to learn a lot about our team in the next 72 hours. But it’s a matter of just believing in each other. I know we do that and hopefully get some good support from our home crowd as well.”
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.”