Manny Viveiros certainly has his share of playoff experience as both a player and a coach.
He helped lead the Prince Albert Raiders to a Memorial Cup as a skilled defenceman in 1985, guided Austria at the Olympic games, coached his Austrian club team to league championships and has a long history to draw from.
Tonight is still his first WHL playoff game as a coach with the Swift Current Broncos.
“We can't wait to get going,” Viveiros said. “The kids are working hard. Both teams will be nervous, but it's about us controlling our emotions and playing within that. That takes care of itself after everyone has their first shift of the game.”
The Broncos take on the skilled Moose Jaw Warriors in the first round. Moose Jaw finished five points up on Swift Current in the standings and won the season series 4-2.
“We certainly know we have a formidable opponent,” Viveiros said. “They're a great hockey team and we've got to be our best to win this series. We're open to the challenge. I think it's going to be a great series between two teams that play a similar style of hockey.. .it's clear I think they're the favourite. They had a very good regular season. We have total respect for that organization, but having said that we still feel we have a really good chance here.”
The last game of the regular season between the two clubs saw the Broncos missing seven players from their lineup. They don't expect that to be the case this weekend.
“We're pretty happy and confident that everybody is going to be back in the lineup for us,” Viveiros said on Wednesday. “Everybody is rested too. We don't think anything that has bothered us before is going to make any difference in this series at all.”
Viveiros scouted a couple Warriors games in person recently and just saw them in back-to-back games against his club. The coaching staff has lots of information about the Warriors, but that doesn't mean they will make major changes to their strategy.
“There are certain things we have to tweak and make adjustments for,” Viveiros said. “A lot of times we do that within a game. We're confident and we have a game plan in place that we can switch on the fly. You don't want to over-prepare. You've got to stick with what you've had success with throughout the year, but you're always going to have minor adjustments.”
Special teams are always a major factor in any series. It's also an area of the game that coaches from both sides get a chance to really break down and analyze.
“I think that's probably where you'll see the most adjustments on both sides,” Viveiros said. “We've studied their power play and penalty kill throughout the whole year and they've certainly studied ours. We're prepared if we have to make adjustments we will.”
The two clubs were relatively close in power play percentage this season. The glaring difference between them is that Moose Jaw was 5th in the league on the penalty kill, while the Broncos finished 21st.
Swift Current made some changes and improved from just over 70% to over 82% in the final thirteen games of the season.
“We reset and did some different things,” Viveiros said. “There was a couple of minor things that were leading to why we were getting scored on quite a bit on the penalty kill. There was a certain point where we said we only care about being over 80% going forward and that's real positive for us. We're pretty pleased with it, but still it's something we're looking to fine tune every day.”
Both the Warriors and Broncos finished the season with strong road records. With 43 and 41 points on the road respectively, this could be a series where home ice advantage isn't as significant as usual.
“We feel if we play our game it doesn't matter whether you play it at home or on the road you're going to have an opportunity to win,” Viveiros noted. “We're comfortable on the road and in the playoffs it's going to be an asset.”
The Broncos made several positive strides this season. They improved by 30 points, made huge growth in goals scored and returned to the playoffs in their first year under Viveiros. That doesn't mean they're satisfied.
“I'm certainly very pleased how the kids responded to a new coaching staff coming in and a different mindset to how we play the game,” Viveiros said. “The kids bought in. We told the kids that we had a pretty decent regular season, but as athletes and coaches you're going to be judged by how you do in the playoffs.”
That journey starts this weekend in Moose Jaw. You can hear game 1 on The Eagle 94.1 FM with Robertson Family Group Broncos Hockey at 6:30pm.
Here is a close to full list of stories about the series from Swift Current Online, Discover Moose Jaw and the Broncos official website leading into tonight's game 1:
- Viveiros has Broncos prepared for playoffs
- Discover Moose Jaw first game preview
- Manny Viveiros video interview
- Papirny rides experience into playoffs with new team
- A look at the Sawchenko/Papirny match-up
- Rondeau recounts the last Broncos/Warriors series in 1999
- Official WHL series preview
- Sawchenko & Halbgewachs honoured by WHL awards
- Heponiemi & Steenbergen receive WHL nods
- Warriors hold edge in playoff experience
- Lajoie looking for better results in return to playoffs
- Woo ready for second crack at playoffs
- Two Broncos wrap regular season as league leaders
- Gawdin named Broncos MVP
- Broncos/Warriors series preview podcast