Knights the masters of not stepping over the line, avoiding needless penalties
Knights celebrate with the Wayne Gretzky trophy after winning the Western Conference Friday Apr 26, 2013 at Budweiser Gardens 5-4. MIKE HENSEN/The London Free Press/QMI AGENCY
The Barrie Colts showed a lot of fight in their last win.
They dropped in front of shots.
They made the simple plays.
They defended their end aggressively.
The Colts showed the kind of desperation required to win a Game 7 on the road.
And if they want to have a chance against the London Knights, Barrie will need to play that way in every single game.
The Knights are the class of the Ontario Hockey League, with loads of talent at every position.
They also carry the experience that comes with being a champion, as many of the players on the current roster won the OHL title with the Knights in 2012.
So far in these playoffs, London has won games in which it has trailed by three goals.
The Knights also pulled out victories in contests where they have blown a four-goal cushion.
Simply put, the team is too talented and too driven to let up.
So, naturally, the Colts can’t, either.
Barrie has had points in these playoffs where it has struggled to put a full 60 minutes together.
More often than not, especially early on in the post-season, it didn’t cost them.
But the Knights don’t need much time to put up a few goals — just ask the Plymouth Whalers, who gave up three straight markers to London four times in the last three contests of the Western Conference Finals.
If the Colts start a game as they did in Belleville on Monday, where they were outshot 12-0 just eight minutes in, then perhaps not even the rock-solid Mathias Niederberger can hold them close for too long.
The Colts also have to do their best to stay out of the penalty box, and not let London’s talented offensive players get too many power plays.
Barrie has let frustration get the best of them at times, as it has felt — and certainly with valid reason — that it’s gotten a raw deal at points in these playoffs.
They would be imprudent to expect things to get any better when the Colts play London.
The Knights are outstanding at toeing the line, doing just enough to agitate their opponents without getting a penalty.
Barrie already comes in with 19 man games lost due to suspensions alone, and the Knights would love to make their job easier if they can get a Colt or two off of their game and possibly into the stands.
The discipline shown by Barrie in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final was excellent, and has to continue no matter what antics take place.
That victory could well prove large for this squad, as it was the first time the Colts faced elimination in the playoffs, and, save for a rough start, was an extremely strong and gutsy effort.
The difficulty will lie in being able to play with that kind of intensity for 60 minutes, in every single game.
Barrie comes into this series as the underdogs, but certainly deserving of a shot to lift the J. Ross Robertson Trophy.
The Colts can beat the Knights, both in Barrie and London, if they play at their absolute best.
But if they step off the gas pedal, the Colts will be left in the dust.
Stephen Sweet covers the Barrie Colts for the Barrie Examiner.