Don Jackson looked surprisingly composed. There are many things “that we do well,” said the EHC Red Bull Munich coach on Sunday evening. So you didn’t immediately notice that he just had something to do again, which he recently had to do regularly after playing against Adler Mannheim: commenting on a defeat. The Munich team lost the top game of the German Ice Hockey League (DEL) 1: 5, it was the seventh loss in a row against Mannheim, against their biggest rivals in recent years.
Jackson’s level-headed appearance was understandable. The 65-year-old American is experienced enough to know when to get loud in external communications and when it is better to put on the soft tones and highlight positive things. Apparently, he now sees the time for sensitive coaching, because it was not only bad for the Munich team against Mannheim. Of its nine league games so far in December, the EHC has only won two. He is no longer leader of the championship, just fourth.
Ice hockey teams, even as talented as those from Munich, go through periods of weakness from time to time – and if the schedule is as tightly timed as it is at the moment, it can quickly have greater effects. The Munich team are only weak in the domestic league, which is quite interesting. In the Champions Hockey League (CHL), Jackson’s team is the only German representative in the semi-finals after successes against top teams from Switzerland and Finland. What the Munich team can do in the CHL like at the push of a button – defensively focused and aggressively targeted – they have been missing in the domestic league for weeks. Just recently, Jackson had explained what makes his team stand out in the European knockout games: “Everyone put the ego behind and did exactly what it took to win the game.” He hoped, Jackson said, his players would take that mindset into the league. So far, Jackson has hoped in vain.
In Mannheim, the EHC found it difficult to create scoring chances in the starting third against the disciplined defending Mannheimers – the two best were thwarted by Felix Brückmann, who, according to Adler trainer Pavel Gross, was “outstanding”. After the 1-1 draw from Frederik Tiffels (22nd), the Munich team had more good chances to score, but although the Mannheim slot, the area directly in front of the goal, “sometimes really stank”, like Gross indirectly, the sometimes good Munich offensive efforts praised, the EHC failed to hit another hit. The majority game was emblematic of Munich’s weakness in the endings. Against the Adler, the talented Munich offensive group, which, unlike the Mannheimers, is injury-free, got ten full power play minutes, but remained goalless. The omission of the overpayment options “runs like a thread through the last few games,” said Tiffels. Jackson found that all offensive issues are currently relevant, there are “many complications”.
The closing problems in Mannheim were joined by defensive inattentiveness and physical inferiority. In Dennis Reuls 2: 1 (24th), Munich no longer got the space on the Blue Line closed, Tim Wohlgemuth’s 3: 1 (36th) fell after a quick counterattack. “If we allow something, there are often very high-caliber chances to score,” explained captain Patrick Hager. Meanwhile, seven games in a row with at least three goals conceded make it clear that the EHC also has great potential for improvement in a game without a disc. Jordan Szwarz’s 4: 1 (46th) was also preceded by a lost EHC duel behind his own goal. “We lost a few tackles early in the game, especially from key players,” said Jackson. Two cracking but fair checks by David Wolf to Hager and Trevor Parkes represented the physical dominance of the Adler and underlined that the Mannheimers got under the skin of the Munich team in the past duels.
In the coming days, the EHC will have to play three more times in the DEL before receiving the Finns from Tappara Tampere for the CHL semi-final first leg on January 4th. Perhaps the prospect of the beloved European air will get him back on track.