STEELERS’ defensive weaknesses remain the main challenge to overcome in training for player-coach Ryan Finnerty this week.
While Steelers eventually beat Coventry Blaze, 6-3 last weekend, they looked vulnerable in the early part of the game and forward Colt King later commented in The Star on the need to be more robust and decisive in the defensive zones.
Finnety, while pleased with the end to a recent losing sequence, admits there “is still a long way to go” in strengthening defensive coverage and restoring self-belief.
“We have been giving up way too many quality scoring chances. We cannot rely on John DeCaro (goalie) night in night out to save every one.
“There isn’t a goalie in the world that can do that. John was facing three or four quality shots a few weeks ago, now it’s around 12 or 14.”
DeCaro has faced 1,004 shots in his 32 games for the champions and can boast a save percentage of 92.5, which is the best in the division.
Finnerty said Sheffield’s defensive problems start down low in the corners and flanks.
“We are giving them too much time and space in the corners to make plays. It’s too late after that, we have collapsed.
“We have to be tougher and stronger, not just the defencemen but the centre support too. This isn’t about individuals, it is a team problem that we are addressing right now. The forwards have a responsibility to help out.
“What we are emphasising is that we must be much more intensively competitive down low and win more battles.
“We need to stop their cycle, close them down and get the puck out.”
Asked whether he thought some of the less dominating defencemen on his team were capable of more aggressive plays he said: “One hundred per cent, yes.
“Nobody in this league should be outmuscling us.
“There aren’t a lot of Brad Voths (Cardiff Power forward) flying around.
“They should be strong enough, that is not something you can teach, you either are or you are not. If you are not you’d be replaced.”
Finnerty, whose team play Coventry again this Friday, admits he is still looking for any new import players that can improve the side.
Steelers lie fourth in the Elite League table, 11 points behind leaders Belfast Giants, although they have seven games in hand on them.
This coming weekend sees them play a hectic schedule of three times in three days, all on the road.
On Friday, they play at Coventry, before games north of the border at Fife Flyers (Saturday) and Edinburgh Capitals (Sunday).