Tuesday, April 30, 2013

2013 WHL Finals preview

We are going to keep this simple.

Seems like you are always hearing about how you need secondary scoring to win in the playoffs.  While that's a fairly obvious statement, it mostly stems from the idea that your top line is going to see a lot of the other teams best defense paring, and often their checking line.  Depending on what degree of success defensively they have against you, that makes you dependent on your second line (and beyond) scoring - but they also will have a more favorable match up.

The 2012 WHL Finals featured a red hot Sven Baertschi - who put up 34 points in 22 games.  His partner in crime, Ty Rattie was credited for 33.  You couldn't ask for more from that line - they played really well.  Almost well enough to make you forget the heavy price they paid for their center, Marcel Noebels.

How 'bout that second line?

That series was pretty much Brendan Leipsic's coming out party - he drew lots of praise from Edmonton media, and it was well deserved.  One could argue that he rode that momentum into a WHL scoring title this year.

Cam Reid? Well, that 2nd round pick that Edmonton ended up with sure would have been nice, except who the hell knows if the 'Hawks would have been allowed to use it anyway.  I wonder if he wishes he stuck around St Cloud State for one more year - as they made the Frozen Four.

I distinctly remember the spring of 2007, when the 'Hawks had that 1st overall bantam pick.  There was a buzz all over town about the Trailblazers also holding the 1st overall pick - and we know how that turned out.

There was some concern with top bantam picks not reporting - and going the NCAA route.  Portland had that problem with Patrick Wiercioch, for example.  That same 2007 draft had the 2nd overall pick not report to Kelowna - which sucks for them.  The 'Hawks were looking at that same player, and traded down to the #5 slot to avoid that mess - and took Brad Ross.

I was really excited about that line of a 16 year old Ross, with Killian Hutt & Colin Reddin.  I thought they were gonna win us some games.

Ross is full of truculence - which explains why then-Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke traded up to get him.  I'm cool with that: I really liked when he beat up Mitch Wahl in back to back games.

However, that's not all you need out of a guy like that - you need scoring.  Toughness is a nice touch, but you have to put the puck in the net.  Ross did that, for the most part, but the WHL Finals is an entirely different story.

I predicted before the last Oil Kings series, "As Brad Ross goes, that's how the series goes."  Well, dude went out and put up 0 goals, 2 assists, was a (-1), an put up 31PIM.  When you have the #5 overall bantam pick, who is a 2nd round NHL pick, you need more than that.  You know, like a goal - maybe even two.

Throw in both Finals appearances and you are looking at 10 games played, 0 goals, 2 assists, (-4), and 47 PIM.  He missed a couple games in the Kootenay series, which only adds to the frustration.  Of course, he had a good run in 2012 - 22 points in 22 games - but zilch on the biggest stage.

I'm prepared to make the same prediction for the 2013 WHL Finals as the last 2:  as Portland's 2nd line goes, the series will go.  I think we all know how the Rattie line is clicking - pushing all time goal scoring numbers.  While I'm not sure its possible to stop them, you can't be completely dependent on them either. 

I am 100% confident in the De Leo - Bjorkstrand - Leier line will be good in this series.  They total 16 goals in 15 games played between them & and have a cumulative +28 rating.  Serving as the 2nd unit on the power play, they look to get favorable match ups.  You have to figure Edmonton will spend their best defensive resources in an attempt to slow down the top line (good luck with that) - leaving opportunities even strength for this line.  I'm optimistic.

Throw in some contributions from guys like Iverson, Taylor Peters, or Paul Bittner - and you're in there.

Bring on the Oil Kings - revenge is a dish served cold (on ice)

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