Game 1 matchup: Laviolette vs. MacTavish
If you're looking for a "Shut your yap" or "Mind his own #%$#@# business" kind of blowup between Peter Laviolette and Craig MacTavish, you'll likely be disappointed. Both are even-keeled and not prone to trying to needle opposing coaches and players, a la Ken Hitchcock or Lindy Ruff.
Both are intense and well-prepared, as witnessed by the fact they're here.
Early in the series, watch for an interesting coaching duel as the Oilers will try to assert themselves physically, pressing the Carolina defense, which is considered, fairly or not, the team's Achilles' heel.
Laviolette has been remarkably consistent in his lineup throughout the playoffs and does little in the way of juggling his lines or even matching up, saying it has a tendency to upset his team's rhythm.
If the Hurricanes have an edge, it is in their ability to roll three potent offensive lines and Laviolette will not want to disrupt that, even if it means giving MacTavish the opportunity to match up defensive force Chris Pronger against either the Canes' top line of Cory Stillman, Rod Brind'Amour and Justin Williams or Eric Staal's line.
The one thing Laviolette might do is double-shift Staal, using him at his natural center position, then shifting him to the wing late in the game.
On the power play, the most productive in the postseason, Laviolette likes to use Staal or Matt Cullen on the point on the power play and either the Brind'Amour line or the "old fogy unit" of Ray Whitney, Mark Recchi and Doug Weight.
"At the beginning of each series, we've had a lot of preparation time," Laviolette said. Because they didn't play the Oilers this season, the Hurricanes spent more time leading up to Game 1 breaking down the Oilers' penalty-killing tendencies, their faceoff systems and an individual breakdown of their entire lineup.
"Certainly, I feel like we're ready to take it to them. You never know what the effects of the layoff are going to be," MacTavish said Monday.
The Oilers had Geoff Ward scouting the Eastern Conference finals (likewise, the Canes' Marshall Johnston was watching the Oilers in the West), plus the Oilers have studied video of Carolina's earlier playoff rounds, so there are no secrets, MacTavish said.
During the first three rounds, the Oilers were able to disrupt the goaltending space of Manny Legace, Vesa Toskala, and Ilya Bryzgalov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and the game plan will remain the same in the final; put pucks to the net and create as much traffic as possible.
The issue for MacTavish's team is how to do so without drawing goalie interference penalties. MacTavish acknowledged that his team needs to be more disciplined than it was against Anaheim. The Oilers were shorthanded 26 times in the last three games of the series. "We've taken a lot of penalties the last number of games -- and a lot of bad penalties, a lot of too many men on the ice -- and we're not going to get away with that in the series, and we've talked about that," he said.
As for rattling rookie netminder Cam Ward, MacTavish said the Oilers don't expect it'll happen. Edmonton goalie coach Pete Peeters' son played with Ward in Red Deer, and there is a tremendous respect for the young Canes netminder in the Oilers camp.
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