Ottawa 67’s expect playoff series with Brantford Bulldogs to go seven

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The Ottawa 67’s expect their best-of-seven playoff series with the Brantford Bulldogs to go to the limit, all seven games.

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Dave Cameron, the 67’s coach, says his team is preparing for a seven-game series, with all of the games potentially going into overtime — that’s how closely matched he believes these teams are.

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Just five points separated the teams in the Ontario Hockey League regular-season standings. The Bulldogs finished in third place in the Eastern Conference with 85 points, while the sixth-place 67’s had 80. The Bulldogs also won three of their four games against the 67’s during the regular season.

But … this is playoffs.

“We’re going against a good team, I would say probably the most consistent team on our side all year,” Cameron said. “I’d say they were a little more consistent than we were. Other than that, there’s not much difference.

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“When it’s two evenly matched teams, you need a little luck. You can still play a really good game and lose, so you have to have the mindset it’s a best-of-seven series.”

The series starts Friday in Brantford (7 p.m.), with Game 2 Sunday (also at 7 p.m.). The teams return to Ottawa for games at The Arena at TD Place Tuesday and Thursday (there are still plenty of tickets available). Game 5 (if necessary) is April 6 in Brantford, with Game 6 (if necessary) in Ottawa April 7 and Game 7 (if necessary) April 9 in Brampton.

So, what do the 67s need to do to win the playoff series?

“They have good depth and they play well positionally,” Cameron said. “When a team is all-in and plays well consistently, it doesn’t beat itself. It forces you to beat them. Every team strives for that. When you get into the playoffs and you’re playing a four-out-of-seven series and it’s two pretty evenly matched teams, it’ll come down to two or three plays. You can’t make it easy for them, you can’t give them odd-man rushes, you can’t give them turnover opportunities. I’m sure they’re saying the same thing about us.

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“You’re always making adjustments to the team you’re playing against. The outcome of the game will come down more to how you play. We still have our core beliefs of how we have to play. That’s not going to change. There’s not much difference in styles of teams where you’re going to have to completely revamp your system. There are just small tweaks. It comes down to making sure everything you do, you do hard. You pass hard, you shoot hard, you compete hard. It’s a matter of finding extra emotion through the fact it’s playoffs and it’s a ramped-up time of year, but at the same time, you don’t want them gripping their sticks too tight.”

The 67’s will have defenceman Bradley Horner back in the lineup. Goaltender Collin MacKenzie, who left a game last week after taking a shot to the helmet, is considered day to day, but could play in Game 1. Cameron said winger Kimi Korbler would be a game-time decision through the weekend.

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Neither team had a player among the league’s top-15 scorers, but the 67’s and Bulldogs have depth of quality players.

It is playoff hockey, which heightens the urgency and intensity — at least it should — all the way down from the first line to the fourth through the three defensive pairings and in goal. The importance of productive special teams — both penalty kill and power play — also are magnified.

“Everybody has to be all-in,” Cameron said. “There are guys on the team that bring different elements. We need them all. I think it’ll be a lot of close games.

“You’re going to need your four lines and your six D at different points in different games, especially when you’re going against the same team where there are going to be no secrets. The intensity and physicality pick up in the playoffs. We’re not relying on any one player, we’re not relying on any one line. We need everybody to be all in. We want to be disciplined.”

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The 67’s will be looking for early momentum, looking to steal one, maybe two wins on the road. It would be tough returning home and trailing the series 2-0.

“You’d like to go in and at minimum get a split, maybe win two and all of that,” Cameron said. “But you want to make sure you’re playing the right way — to give yourself a chance to win and cause some havoc. Build momentum off that good play.

“I’ve always been of the belief when it comes time for playoffs, as a coach, you’re hostage to your team. You’ve done the video, you’ve done the practice, you’ve done the drills numerous times. If your team doesn’t know how it has to play, it’s now way too late for inspirational speeches or anything. We’re quite comfortable. Our team knows how it has to play. We’re excited about it.”

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