Slower and smarter.
That's how the Utah Grizzlies are hoping to play tonight in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals as they try to regroup from Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Las Vegas Thunder that evened the series at 2-2.Utah coach Butch Goring doesn't plan on making any wholesale changes to his plan of attack for tonight's game, which begins at 7 in the Delta Center. However, he did say that the Grizzlies are going to tighten things up in the neutral zone to try and hinder the potent Thunder offense.
"We'll see if we can't slow them down dramatically and see if we can get them to play at our particular pace," said Goring, adding that Utah will probably use a 1-4 trap in the neutral zone. "We're not going to give them any space at all."
A big part of whether they succeed will depend on the Grizz's ability to put their bodies on the Thunder skaters, something that Utah is notorious for.
"I foresee Game 5 as a tight-checking game. We have to play tight checking against this team," stressed Utah defenseman Jason Herter, who's scored three goals in the series. "They've got a very explosive offense. And our best offense is our defense."
The way it turned out in Game 4, the Grizzlies defense was also the Thunder's best offense. Normally a very disciplined team, Utah made several crucial errors deep in its zone that resulted in Thunder goals and eventually the game.
"I'd like to see us make a few less mistakes in our own end," added Goring, frustrated because of his team's mental errors that have cost the Grizz two games in the series.
Goring's also counting on his team to play slower and smarter - for longer. He didn't think the Grizz played for a full hour on Saturday.
"You can't play 40 or 45 minutes of hockey and expect to win. You've got to play 60 and we didn't (in Game 4)," he said. "The biggest change we have to make (for Game 5) is to be prepared to play 60 minutes."
A key for the Thunder, according to Las Vegas center Joe Day, is to keep from committing dumb penalties.
"They're so disciplined. They really play a tight-checking defensive style and they're deadly on the power play," said Day, a former Salt Lake Golden Eagle who scored two goals on Saturday. "We have to combat that with our own discipline and stay out of the penalty box, and I think we'll be OK."
Day also said that Las Vegas will likely continue to dump the puck on the Grizz from the blue line, which seemed to work well for the Thunder in Game 4. Using that technique, Vegas was able to hold Utah to just two shots-on-goal in the final period.
"We wanted to throw the puck in deep and force them to go all the way back in their end, pick the puck up and go the full distance if they wanted to get something accomplished," he explained. "It worked to our advantage and we got a couple of breaks."
The two teams will travel back to Las Vegas for Game 6 on Tuesday.
Utah vs. Las Vegas
Western Conference Finals
(Series tied 2-2)
Game 1 Las Vegas 6, Utah 2
Game 2 Utah 2, Las Vegas 0
Game 3 Utah 4, Las Vegas 3
Game 4 Las Vegas 5, Utah 3
Game 5 at Utah, Monday, 7 p.m.
Game 6 at Las Vegas, Tuesday
Game 7* at Las Vegas, Wednesday