A big Christmas for the Steelers, well it is if they want to create history and become the first team to win three league championships in a row.
Their form to date has been outstanding, regarded by many to be the best and most dynamic team in the Elite League, however a built-in self-destruct system against Cardiff has resulted in five losses to date against the Welsh leaders and despite many games in hand the points deficit is still substantial.
The three series of games this Christmas starting with this week’s double against Coventry, the annual duel with Nottingham and the New Years Eve and New Years Day games against Manchester may well decide where the title heads to this year.
Can the Steelers clean sweep? Well the answer is yes they can, they are good enough when the stars align and everything clicks. However on nights when just one cog is out of line then trouble can come the way of Paul Thompson’s side.
The Steelers keep creating but aren’t bearing down and taking those chances, they aren’t converting anywhere near enough. It does seem that every error leads to a goal against. Now that isn’t a good combination.
It’s a good job Jace Coyle was brought in early wasn’t it? Andreas Valdix remains unavailable for another 2/3 weeks and now Jesse Schultz is a doubt after an injury against Cardiff. This is a period of six games in 10 days, a time when all hands are required on deck.
Valdix has been a massive loss, perhaps showing his value to the team when he was in it. Nelson and Dowd have missed their centre, Markus Nilsson has been fantastic covering as a centre playing with all three units but Levi and Robert need their Valdix back, and soon.
Nilsson in fact might have been our player of the first half of the year. His speed, tenacity and intelligence has meant that when injuries have occurred he has been used to cover in most situations. In any other team in our league he wouldn’t be playing on the 4th line.
His work rate is sublime and his points output per minute played up there with the best.
Boxing Day is looking like a sell out, only seats right behind the Steelers bench remain on sale, that’s over 9,300 fans packing the Arena out for the festive game.
The Steelers v Panthers series remain the hot ticket, the local rivalry. We love it and nothing makes or breaks your Christmas like a win over the arch enemy. The Panthers have helped the Steelers recently, whilst Sheffield have had the better of the games played against Nottingham it is the Panthers that have taken valuable points off Cardiff. It’s a strange league, a league that on any night can throw up unexpected results.
On our day other teams cant live with our speed and our transition. It is a new more European way of playing. It is taking time to get into the DNA of some but when it works its incredible. The Steelers must and will stick with it. Sure there will be nights when goals are given up but if we can be focussed and remain urgent around the net then success will follow.
We are just over a third of the way through the season, a long time to go, a lot of hockey to be played. Remember we are the team, the club that has been here before, won before. Wouldn’t surprise me if we all had a great Christmas and that resulted in a very successful 2017.