Dave Simms: Steelers must be wary of Blaze threat

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With Challenge Cup victory looking like a huge ask, the Play-offs are the last chance saloon for the Sheffield Steelers.

A series against the Coventry Blaze is a strange series, on many levels.

Never before have the league’s third and fourth placed sides met in a quarter-final of the Play-off Championships.

Yet this season, with the complication arising around the conference winners, this is the series that Ryan Finnerty has to deal with.

Then again, on paper at least, the series looks like a winnable one.

There have been ten meetings so far, and eight wins have gone in Sheffield’s favour - including four at the Sky Dome Arena.

The last time the two sides met, Sheffield handed the Blaze a blooded nose with an 8-4 win on Coventry ice.

So reading the above, why is there any concern?

Well, because this is the Play-offs.

The Blaze have a side that, over 54 games, won’t challenge the leaders - but will over a two-game series.

Sheffield’s lack of consistency is an issue - which team will arrive in the Sky Dome, and then 24 hours later in Sheffield?

Line the two sides one by one, and you take Sheffield.

Player by player they are better: the depth is there, the ability is there.

Depth is the one issue the Steelers must take advantage of.

Not only will Coventry play without Jerramie Domish, who failed a drugs test last week and has now returned home to the States. They play without depth.

Their kids though, like Ross Venus and Matt Selby, play with heart and emotion.

The Steelers’ Brits have to outplay the Coventry Brits.

Ashley Tait, Jonathan Phillips and Jason Hewitt have to deliver this weekend, as the imports may cancel one another out.

Peter Hirsch, the Blaze goalie, has had a rough couple of weeks.

Pressure is on his shoulders - although he has shown before that he has what it takes to win a Championship.

John DeCaro came to Sheffield two seasons ago with a Championship behind him, but this will be his last chance to collect silverware in a Sheffield uniform.

Goaltending as ever will be key, and DeCaro has to win that battle.

This is a series full of emotion and fight. This will be a violent series, one with penalty minutes both ways.

Special teams will be key: the power-play has to work, has to score.

The Steelers have to win. And they will.

In them we trust.