GURT'S BLOG: "IT'S ALL OR NOTHING"Blogs | 5/3/2011 11:04:09 AM | John Gurtler
“It’s all or nothing.”
Those are the spoken words so simply stated by General Manager and Head Coach Darris Kilgour describing the single elimination playoffs in the National Lacrosse League.
But those four words can be so haunting, it makes each Buffalo Bandit player dig deep within and extract the knowledge, will power and gift one has to help make it work.
All of that work, from training camp to pre-season games, a grueling 16-week regular season with practices, video and meeting sessions wrapped around the hours in preparation.
One game gives passage to end or play one more. It can be overwhelming.
While the Bandits prepare for the Eastern Division Finals Saturday night against Toronto on the floor of HSBC Arena, it only takes a small flip of time back to the previous Saturday night’s fourth quarter to revisit what could have been a devastating scenario: Ending it.
Leading 10-6 following a power play goal by John Tavares with over four minutes to play in the first round matchup with Boston, it looked like it was OK to start promoting the next playoff game date and time during the Bandits radio broadcast. But while I cautiously emphasized “should the Bandits win tonight”, there was something stirring over on the Boston Blazers’ bench and it only took 17 seconds from that Buffalo goal to ignite what this game is known for – a run. In this case, a four-goal run by the Blazers.
This is what makes this game so exciting and more importantly, shows the strength and trust the Bandits had, led by Tavares, that they would score the eventual game-winning goal. Too, the goaltending of Michael Thompson with 42 saves, the strength of the defense, the four lasers by Roger Vyse and the transition game, with Tommy Montour’s four assists in the first half alone.
And now the next round - it gets tougher. And the memories of what happened a year ago in Toronto are a subtle reminder of how tough it is to lose.
Evenly matched with 11-6 records, these two clubs will lay it out on the table Saturday night. The Rock has its big four and then some – solid transition, good defense and a big-game goaltender. And the Bandits have their solid wave of offensive power, transition, stellar defense and excellent goaltending.
From the pre-season battle to the three regular season games, the Bandits and the Rock represent the game exceptionally well and this Eastern Division Final will be one you won’t want to miss.
“You got to bring everything,” said Tavares, the all-time NLL leading scorer in the regular season and playoffs. “We got to make sure all facets of the game are played to the potential right from the goaltender, defense, transition, offense. We can’t have a bad quarter, we’ve got to be really focused and bring a lot of intensity. We can’t take anything for granted.”
The game plan is straight forward. “When we move the ball, and get movement and we work as a cohesive unit, we’re a lot more effective,” said Tavares. “If we have three guys setting a pick at once, one guy holding the ball too much, or taking early shots in the 30-second clock, we are not successful.
“We got to move that ball, understanding what’s happening, understanding that two guys are working a pick and roll game; keep your guy busy, know when to cut, don’t fill the middle of the floor up in front of the net – the key is movement, movement, movement, whether it’s your feet or the ball.”
Goaltender Mike Thompson is quick to note his game plan: “Just stop the ball.”
Yep, it’s all or nothing.
“Bandits on three. 1-2-3 Bandits!”
Radio coverage this week will be on KB 1520 AM with the pre-game show starting at 7 p.m., faceoff at 7:30 p.m. The game will be available to view online through the NLL Network. In addition to live television coverage on TSN2 in Canada, the Bandits/Rock game will be replayed on Versus Sunday, May 8 at 2 p.m.