Friday, May 31, 2013

Portland VS Halifax: Memorial Cup Final

no goal



photo gallery

real time fan discussion
I have been watching and following junior hockey since 1979 ... I simply dont recall a big game ...championship game where one player (non goalie) player was the difference - absolutely dominating performance by McKinnon
Scott Sepich
The Hawks had one more push, scoring twice in the last six minutes to pull within 5-4, but Nathan MacKinnon scored his third goal of the game into an empty net to give the Mooseheads their first Memorial Cup title.
“The guys are pretty upset,” said Portland acting head coach Travis Green about coming up one win short. “They played hard all year and losing a game of this magnitude is tough.
“We didn’t have the first period that we wanted but showed a lot of heart to get back into it. As a coach I have to be proud of the way our team fought back.”

What can you say?

That 3 goal lead the 'Hawks spotted the Moose is gonna sink you almost every time.  This one was different, in that generally when giving up the first 3 goals you can point to mistakes:  the goalie should have had this one, the D man had a bad pinch - sending the opposition on a odd man break, etc.  It felt to me that all of the Halifax goals were just really good players making unstoppable plays.   I'm not sure you can point to much and say, "If player X would have done a better job...."

The 2nd period was fun -  bringing the 'Hawks right back into the game.  I had to remind some folks that this team was capable of scoring 3, 4, 5 - or more - goals in a game.  They had done it all year.  The 4 they ended up with wasn't enough on this night.

Of course you can play 'what if' - Taylor Leier was having a hell of a tournament prior to his injury.  Bittner didn't seem to click on that line, although they didn't have much time to adjust to each other.  Preston Kopeck was having a pretty good playoff run as well - played his role just as he was asked to.

There was the crossbar that Bjorkstand rung - 1" lower on the shot, and its a tie game.  I really thought that Rattie disallowed goal was going to stand: anywhere else on the ice, if the puck goes off of a player from the other team, the hand pass is canceled.  Ethier one of those plays goes in the 'Hawks favor, and we might have a different outcome.

They made it to the last possible game, and were in it for 59 minutes.  In any other league, 16 wins = hoist the cup and go home.  58 other CHL teams would love to trade places with the 'Hawks.  Its just gonna be hard to realize how special that WHL championship is after coming so close to the Memorial Cup.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Portland VS Halifax: Memorial Cup Final preview

The Winterhawks victory over London puts them in the Memorial Cup Championship Game.  Its been an interesting tournament, and the main thing to consider is everything is based off of such a small sample size.  That being said, lets look at these teams and where they are trending.

How Portland got here:

 Goaltending is critical in any situation, but its never more critical than a single elimination tournament.  In 4 games, Carruth allowed 7,3,2, and 1 goals - in that order.  The logical conclusion would be to give up zero on Sunday, so you heard it here first.  He was bad in that first game, vs Halifax, and he'll be the first to tell you that. Most of us thought he would rebound from that game, and he has.

Dylan Bumbarger made the point coming into this tournament that the round robin portion was essentially a series of "Game 1's" - and the 'Hawks were 2-2 in Game 1's this playoff year.  That includes a loss to Everett, who had half the wins that Portland earned.  They also were 4-0 in Game 2's, which demonstrates their ability to make adjustments & correct mistakes.  London was the only team they've seen twice, and took care of business.  They have game tape vs Halifax, and know exactly what mistakes were made.

Special teams have been an issue all week.  By my math, Portland's powerplay is clicking at 12.5% right now, after going 24.5% on the powerplay in the WHL playoffs and 23.4% in the regular season.  I've heard a lot about bad ice, which really hurts the kind of flashy plays these guys thrive on, but you'd like to think they can adapt.  A goal (or 2) would go a long ways in the final.

The penalty kill has been even more of a problem:  a 64.3 % kill rate is a failing grade.  The PK was 93.7% in the playoffs and  87.9% in the regular season, and its my opinion that killing penalties was the #1 reason for team success this year.  The 'Hawks gave up 4 PPG's against in the entire WHL playoffs (while scoring 5 shorthanded), and have given up 5 this week.

A stellar special teams performance, and we are likely celebrating a Memorial Cup win on Memorial Day.

How Halifax got here:

I think the Mooseheads are smoke & mirrors.

They won 2 games, against Portland & London.  As we touched upon earlier, Carruth was terrible in that game.  Its been thrown around that 5 of those goals were bad - if he stops those, that game is 4-2 the other way.

The London game featured a complete goaltending disaster.  To recap, London committed to Stolarz for the OHL playoffs, and he was good.  In the league finals, they went down 3-1, and went with Patterson for the final 3 games - which they won.  No one knew who they would go with for Game 1 vs Saskatoon.  London played 2 round robin games featuring both goalies, and 1 game where the starter finished.  Give credit to Patterson for a good game VS Portland in the elimination round, but that's a different topic.

The other game Halifax played, they lost 5-2 to Saskatoon:  a team that had lost their last 13 postseason games.  What did the Blades have going for them?  Competent goaltending.  The only game that Halifax was in this week where they saw decent goaltending, they scored 2 goals & lost.  

The simple answer is to employ an above-average goalie performance against them, and the 'Hawks have the guy for that.


This game features a team that's played every other day since the tournament began VS a team that last played on Tuesday, going on Sunday.  You hear all the time about getting into a rhythm, they love to play every other day.  

The loss of Taylor Leier is pretty big, and the good fortune the 'Hawks have enjoyed with few major injuries this season were huge in their success.   Bittner hasn't clicked on the 2nd line just yet, but we've seen what he can do when given the opportunity, and the future is really bright with this kid.  Portland's depth is solid:  they've got kids in street clothes good enough to star on a lot of WHL teams.

This is a matchup where one goalie has 17 league playoff games of experience, and the other has 18 games of league finals experience.  Fucale is a much hyped 17, who is getting 1st round draft talk.  He might turn out to be something truly special, and that's great - but on Sunday he's still going to be a 17 year old goalie up against an overager with a pro contract in his pocket.  I like these odds.

Friday, May 24, 2013

London VS Portland: Memorial Cup Semi-final game

Much like the 1st meeting between these two teams, they got off to a slow start.  That trapping defensive style that London plays is a little tough to watch sometimes.  However, the 'Hawks were patient, for the most part.  Shots ended up 14-9 for London.

The 2nd period also was like the round robin game - each team scored a goal.  The London goal was on the powerplay, and came off of a broken play.  It seems like all playoffs that's been the only way to beat Carruth: funny bounces, broken plays, and perfect shots.  We've seen several plays like this one - a blocked shot that came right back to the shooter.  Carruth was playing the initial shot, so he was drawn out of position for the second shot.  That goal brought Max Domi to a final statline of 5 games / 1G / 2A / -9.

The Portland goal was a nice play with Wotherspoon shooting from the half boards with Leipsic screening in front.  Leipsic was right on the border of interference with the goalie, but the play was ruled legal.  It looked to me like #28 almost was holding the defenceman, pulling him into a screen position.  I don't think I've seen a forward do that before.

Shots for the period were 17-9.  The 'Hawks were buzzing for the last 6 or 7 minutes of the period - looking pretty good moving forward.  It was pretty fortunate that the 'Hawks were carrying the play, as on a rush Ryan Rupert slashed Carruth on the back of the calf on the way by the net - right where the goalie has no padding.  He seemed like he was in a good amount of pain, but didn't have any work for several minutes after the slash.

The 3rd period was more of a chess match, until Rattie scored a highlight reel goal midway through.  The release on that kid is world class - the goalie never stood a chance.  Walked in from the half wall, D man in decent position, but Rattie let an unbeatable shot loose - picked the top corner.  Perfect shot.

After that Rattie goal, it mostly came down to bend-but-don't-break, limit their chances.  Carruth's experience & maturity really showed in this stage of the game. He got some help, which was crucial, but staying cool, calm, and composed really payed off.  Shots ended up 12-8 London.

Upon seeing the replay of the last frantic seconds, a key play was Rattie batting a puck out of the air into the corner using his glove.  The biggest players make the biggest plays in the biggest games.  That is Ty Rattie.


photo essay

video highlights

presser video 

Carruth / Rattie post game

real time fan discussion
I'm bummed ... only one more game to watch our overagers and Ty and several others, gonna miss 'em, hope they go out in great style in Sunday. I think we'll see their best no matter the outcome, GO HAWKS! I'm outta here guys and gals ... thanks Dylan!

Scott Sepich
“He was great tonight,” Hawks acting head coach Travis Green said of Carruth, who stopped 34 of 35 shots against a Knights team that beat Saskatoon 6-1 in Thursday’s tiebreaker to reach the semifinal. “I thought it was his best game of the tournament, and just a great performance by a guy we’ve leaned on for a long time now.”
Carruth faced heavy fire late in the game, and came up with huge saves on London stars Max Domi and Olli Maata in the frantic final 90 seconds. Afterward, he deflected credit toward the guys in front of him.
“(London) brought a lot of pressure late but our guys did great,” said Carruth. “They blocked shots, took sticks away and let me see the puck.”

Jason Vondersmith
Carruth was up to the challenge, and the 20-year-old goalie enters the championship game playing very well. Since allowing seven goals against Halifax, he has allowed six in the past three games — three to London, two to Saskatoon and one to London in the semifinal.
 The Canadian Press
 Portland’s victory now sets up a dream final involving Winterhawks defenceman Seth Jones, the No. 1 ranked North American skater ahead of next month’s NHL draft, and Mooseheads forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, who are second and third on the list. Halifax beat Portland 7-4 during round robin play.

Globe and Mail
 Winterhawks defenceman Seth Jones said the final moments were tense as London, which fought back from a 3-1 series deficit in the Ontario Hockey League final and scored the series clincher with less than a second to go in Game 7, crashed the Portland net looking for the equalizer.
“My heart was beating 1,000 beats a minute and I was out there doing whatever I could to keep the puck out of the net — sliding around everywhere,” said a relieved Jones. “It was definitely a big win for us tonight. We fought hard (but) it was a little closer than I wanted.”
 Carruth, a 20-year-old from Shorewood, MN, turned in a masterful performance, stopping 34 of 35 shots he faced, including making several outstanding saves over the final few minutes of the third period as London poured on the pressure.

“As a team, we’ve had big games in the past, and that’s what we draw from,” said Carruth, deflecting praise to his team mates.  “We got off to a slow start but the boys played well late in the game, and as the game wore on, we were the better team.”


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Saskatoon VS Portland: Memoral Cup Game 3

Apparently the NHL handles supplemental discipline in this tournament (as well as goal replays).  Its my opinion that they will come down on Thrower, judging on how they have handled things this season.  I'm concerned with Leier: short term & long term as well.  That kid is a huge part of this team, and will be next season as well.

Other highlights from the 1st were:

Pouliot's stick work - there were 2 or 3 noticeable instances where the play was headed towards the 'Hawks end and #51 stuck his stick out and picked off the puck, and BAM the play was headed the other way.  Looked really good with his stick position in the period to me.

One of the biggest plays in the entire game was the save Carruth  made on the Stransky breakaway.  I'm a glass-half-full guy, and often times if a goalie is struggling and/or the shooter is hot I'm especially optimistic of our goalie making the save.  That being said, I wasn't all that sure on this one, until Carruth came up victorious on this play.  That's a huge momentum play, as well as confidence - as all goalies have struggled in this tournament.

One thing that was fun was when Ferland took Iverson into the camera well between the benches:

The smile on Iverson's face was great - as well as him touching on it during a mid-game interview.

2nd Period:

How 'bout that Pouilot goal: was it soft?  He just threw a wrister on net, as both teams were changing.  I felt he was rewarded for his good play over the game.

Powerplays were a big part of the 2nd.  The two that stand out were the 5-on-3 that the Blades had & the double minor on Ferland.

 The first penalty was on Pouliot, for taking a guy into the crossbar behind Carruth.  The Blades were trying extra hard to get into Carruth's kitchen all night, and the defense corps had to clean up extra garbage because of it.  I'm not sold that Pouliot's X-check was worth 2 minutes, but I'd feel pretty good if it was - I've got no problem with taking a penalty to help establish your goalies crease - especially from a guy who plays his position like Pouliot does.

Then Taylor Peters took a high sticking penalty.  The replay looked bad:  the puck was head high, he swung his stick at it and whacked a dude.  I've heard some in house accounts that the puck hit the other guy in the face, rather than #25's stick, but you can't get your stick in the vicinity of anyone's face and think you're in the clear.  This is a huge issue, now that you have one of your top 4 defenseman AND your #1 draw man / penalty killing forward in the box for a minute-and-a-half.  Petan took the draw, and eventually Rattie took off on a breakaway.  That's how the 'Hawks kill penalties - in my mind their PK is the #1 reason for the success they've had all year.

Then, after killing off the 2 man short portion, the Blades get a flukey goal:  centering pass goes off of Rutowski's stick, and past a screened Carruth.  Part of me thinks he should have had that one, but between the screen + deflection, I'm not sure.

How many times this year have we seen a 'Hawks powerplay that moves the puck like magic, but has zero sense of urgency to shoot?  Its often discussed that you can't just shoot whenever you want, as teams are so good blocking shots & heading the other way (and we saw that too on this PP) - but you have to get some shots AT SOME POINT - which just didn't happen.  Four goddamned minutes, like 2 shots got through.  Not good enough. 

Ferland had 10 pim through 2 periods.  That ain't good.

1 -1 after 2 periods.

The 'Hawks have been a 3rd period team for a few years - many credit that to their conditioning.

There were a few moving parts to the DeLeo goal: 'Spooner shot the puck so hard that it knocked the stick clean out of  Makarov's hand (at least I'd like to think it did).  The rebound ends up behind the net with Bjorkstrand setting up DeLeo out front -  with Bittner planted firmly in the slot.  DeLeo put that shot right where the goalie's stick would normally be.  Bittner ultamitley had little to do with that goal, but I sure liked the look of that big Minnesotan causing a ruck in the slot.  I could get used to that.

Shortly thereafter there was the Leipsic goal: #leipsnipe.  This has been a "blood in the water" team - they get one, they generally get a couple more.  This goal felt like that.  During intermission rumor broke that Leipsic signed a pro deal.  He hadn't done much to this point of the tourney, then buried this goal - which was huge.

Rattie with the casual 4th goal - dude acted like he's been there before.

Josh Nichols made it interesting with a goal with 3:33 left - good shot, good player, right time to score.  Brought the Blades back in it, if only briefly.

Its been fun watching the national (Canadian) media get used to Mac Carruth.  Things like being the last one off the ice after warm ups, to getting guys faces in scrums, to playing the puck ALL THE TIME, to things like intentionally fanning on the puck as a fake - he's got too much character to get used to in 4 years - let alone 10 days.


photo essay

Buzzing The Net: Leier hit

BTN: 3 stars

O-live twitter reaction to the Leier hit

Winterhawks prevail:
 How was a four-minute penalty kill actually counterproductive for the Blades? In their win, the Blades were buoyed by the combo of a late second period penalty kill and an out-of-the-box breakaway goal by Matej Stransky.
It was 1-all with 4:10 left in the second period when Saskatoon overage Michael Ferland got a double minor. Thanks in part to both Brett Stovin blocking "five or six" shots — by his own rough guesstimate — and the puck bouncing on some bad ice, the Winterhawks didn't capitalize. It didn't lift the Blades, though, despite a huge ovation at the end of the period from the announced crowd of 9,239. It took a lot out of them.
"It was probably our only positive of the game," Nicholls said. "Unfortunately, the period ended. What we really needed was a good first five minutes of the third period to keep that momentum. We weren't able to do that. We kind of slowed the game down. We have to keep pushing the pace and use our endurance to push teams to the brink."
"It took a lot of energy out of us," Blades coach-GM Lorne Molleken added. "We had some mistakes that Portland took advantage of."

Friday night should be fun:  1 win away from the Memorial Cup game.  I like these odds.

clean hits don't draw blood

Monday, May 20, 2013

Portland VS London: Memorial Cup Game 2


real time fan discussion
i will say one thing ... " the bull " is devoting a helluva lot of air time to this memorial cup - 90 minute pre game show before every game ... every game on the radio .... long post game show

gotta be a lot of stress on Les' voice

For hometown boy Leier, the thrill of scoring in front of friends and family brought a huge smile to his face in the postgame press conference.
“I think I heard my mom screaming from the crowd, so it was pretty cool to score a goal,” Leier said.

It’s the second straight year, and second time since the current format began in 1983, that all four teams have started at 1-1.
“It makes this tournament real interesting now,” summed up Winterhawks goalie Mac Carruth, who rebounded from a disappointing first start against Halifax. “Everybody’s got the same thing going and it’s going to be fun from here on.”

Bo Horvat and Alex Broadhurst replied with a goal and an assist each for London, while Scott Harrington also scored. Anthony Stolarz allowed five goals on 26 shots before being replaced by Jake Patterson. The Knights backup finished with five saves.Portland defenceman Seth Jones, the No. 1 ranked North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting ahead of next month's draft, had a relatively quiet night for the Winterhawks, but still finished with a plus-4 rating.
After London tied the game 3-3 early in the third period, Pouliot, a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2012, ripped a shot off Stolarz's shoulder and in on a Portland power play at 6:20. De Leo ended the London netminder's night at 6:43 by sliding a shot home from the slot.
The Knights had a couple of chances to get closer as the period wore on but Carruth shut the door.

With Portland leading 1-0 after a sleepy first period, the floodgates opened in the second. Bjorkstrand doubled the Winterhawks’ lead 2:17 into the second after wheeling out from behind the London net and snapping a shot shortside on Stolarz.
Rattie then stretched the advantage to three with a goal that was a carbon copy of his effort against Halifax on Saturday night. The St. Louis Blues draft pick moved into the London zone and toe dragged the puck around a Knights defender before slipping a backhand past Stolarz at 10:23 while falling to the ice.
 Ty Rattie led the Winterhawks with two goals and also added an assist, while Taylor Leier scored a goal and added a pair of assists. Mac Carruth turned aside 25-of-28 shots for the Winterhawks, who also got goals from Oliver Bjorkstrand, Derrick Pouliot, who scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period, and Chase De Leo.

 First and foremost: the goalie played better.  He said he would.  Other than that, this was the same 'Hawks team we've seen all year:  sick moves by Ty Rattie, secondary scoring, & help from the back end.  The entire second line scored goals tonight - which means victory on most nights.

It was a little sketchy after coughing up that 3-0 lead, but that's why they are the #adversityhawks.  Upon staking that 5-3 lead, I remarked, "If they can't hold a 3 goal AND a 2 goal lead in the same game, they don't deserve to win this thing anyway" - but they found a way to ride it out.

 I've been critical of patterns all playoffs that are "not sustainable" - winning off of flukey bounces & out of character sub-par performances by key players or goalies standing on their heads.  I feel you can chalk up almost every 'Hawks loss this spring in these categories.  Can you say the same thing about the goals that Ty Rattie is scoring right now?  Those things are crazy:  its 5 star highlight reel action every game.  However, he keeps burying them - which makes it a trend, rather than a set of occurrences.  We've been pretty fortunate to watch him knock out the Chiefs in Game 7 OT in their barn, and never look back.

If they can find a way to beat Saskatoon, then they are in fat city.  I feel pretty good about those prospects:  The 'Hawks are better than the Blades.  With a little help from the other game, they could be looking at an automatic finals appearance.  Worst case, they get in the hard way.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mac Carruth: Man of Character

Mac Carruth had a rough game in his first Memorial Cup outing.  He's had other bad games lately - Game 5 of the Edmonton series comes to mind.  He's had some good games as well, the Kamloops series comes to mind.  He also was victimized for 3 goals in the Spokane series.  Not one game, but over the entire series.

A few years back when the woman I love was new to junior hockey, we were watching a game with a TV feed, and the PXP guy used the phrase, "He's 20 years old - He's seen it all."   Of course, this makes a ton of sense in the context of the WHL, and zero sense in the context of life.

Mac Carruth has seen it all.

His rough outing in the Halifax game was part of a duel featuring a goalie with 17 games of playoff experience against a goalie with 18 games of league finals experience.  Fucale was finishing his 16 year old season as Carruth was signing his NHL contract.  The WHL goaltender with the most playoff wins in history has done a lot of growing up before our very eyes.

Mac Carruth had some things to say the day after his worst game of the season:
Carruth's response Sunday when asked how he reconciled having an off-night in an all-important first game of the touranment was awfully illuminating.
Instead of wallowing, he watched how the media picked apart the play of his teammate Seth Jones, MacKinnon's NHL draft contemporary:
"I just turned the page, I guess," Carruth said when a reporter asked a question that used that shopworn hockey phrase. "Watched Sportscentre last night — Seth Jones kind of got hung out to dry by you guys. But I thought Seth played great. Goals went in from behind the goal line. That's not his fault. That's mine. Every goalie is going to have one of those nights. That was mine."
 To be honest, the first thing that came to mind for me was Patrick Roy in 1996:  "I had my Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears" - such a great quote.  The idea is to deflect pressure on to yourself - and let your team do their thing.  In this case, it is wholly appropriate, as Carruth deserves the pressure, after an outing that he wants back.

There's more:
Portland's preparation includes letting go of the loss to Halifax. Know this much: Carruth, given a night to sleep on the setback, had a sense of humour about giving up seven goals in a big game.
"They were pretty opportunistic," he said of the Mooseheads. "Theyre a good team up front, good in net — obviously better than us. As a team, we played better than they did. Didn't get the bounces, didn't get the goaltending."
Rest assured, he swears he wasn't being jolted away Saturday night by visions of No. 22 in Mooseheads red and green exulting after another goal.
"I slept fine," Mac Carruth said. "Melatonin helped me a little bit."

Quite literally Carruth has been preparing his entire life for this tournament.  The chance to add a Memorial Cup to the WHL championship that he just earned is the #1 goal.   His maturity is evident.  He will be better.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Portland V Halifax: Memorial Cup game 1


photo essay

Yahoo! 3 stars

real time fan discussion 
So, before I read anything below, would it surprise any of you that I predict right now we win the Cup? 

I can see the case for it

only problem now is they're in the position where a bad luck game sinks you 

As long as the bad luck game does not happen in an elimination game, the Hawks should be OK.

Scott Sepich:

"It's obviously not the start we wanted," said Portland acting head coach Travis Green. "I thought we played really well for 25 to 27 minutes, but then the game got away from us for about 10 minutes there."
It was an especially rough night for Hawks goalie Mac Carruth, who allowed seven goals on 35 shots. The four-year WHL veteran posted a 1.63 goals-against average in the playoffs, but never looked comfortable Saturday as shots he normally stops kept finding a way to trickle past him.
When asked if he ever considered lifting Carruth for backup Brendan Burke, Green simply said, "No."

Windsor Star

Nathan MacKinnon scored at even strength, on the power play and while shorthanded in the second period Saturday as the Halifax Mooseheads exploded for five straight goals to defeat the Portland Winterhawks 7-4 in the first game at the MasterCard Memorial Cup for both teams in Saskatoon.
The slick centre from Cole Harbour, N.S., also added an assist to his hat trick, while Martin Frk, with a goal and an assist, Jonathan Drouin, Luca Ciampini and Stephen MacAuley also scored for Halifax. Zachary Fucale made 37 saves to get the win for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions, who got two assists from MacKenzie Weegar.
Willy Palov

Once the teams settled down during the first intermission, the game really opened up. Troy Rutkowski gave the Winterhawks their first lead of the game when his wrist shot from the point beat Fucale through a screen 39 seconds into the second period. Ty Rattie then put Portland ahead 3-1 92 seconds later with a nice backhand after cutting into the slot.
But Halifax's Jonathan Drouin responded just 65 seconds when he chipped a rebound over Carruth to cut the lead to 3-2. Nathan MacKinnon squared the game at 3-3 80 seconds later when he tipped Brendan Duke's point shot. The goal capped a combined four-goal outburst that lasted fewer than four minutes.

 I think this game is as simple as Carruth had a bad game.  I've been on record backing the guy, especially after Game 5 of the Finals.  Mac Carruth is the reason that the 'Hawks are in the Memorial Cup.  The way he plays the game is comprised of many double edged swords, chriping, being involved physically, actively playing the puck, etc etc etc.  He's a character - one that doesn't come around very often.  Kid is polarizing, but the numbers speak for themselves - and you don't become the playoff wins leader in a league like the WHL on accident.  You dance with the one that brought you.

Carruth will respond. Most of the post-game reaction that I put stock into agrees.  Getting smacked in the face might be the best thing that could happen to this team early in this tournament: now they have some adversity to deal with.  They can run with that "backs against the wall" mentality.

I didn't see anything wrong with the 'Hawks that isn't correctable for Monday night.  I heard a few references to the team we saw tonight being last years 'Hawks - and that seems accurate.  They haven't slumped in this years playoffs, and they won't start now.
 "It's simple mistakes, a couple giveaways and loose guys that needed to be picked up, plus penalties we shouldn't have taken," Rattie said. "It's all things that can be fixed, and we'll be better Monday."

Paying the cost to be the boss

Traditionally contending teams will load up at the trade deadline hoping to make a run at a championship.  Generally, if your run is successful, then it doesn't matter what you gave up, right?  In the NHL, I think that people hold the Ray Bourque trade, as well as the Joe Nieuwendyk/Jarome Iginla trade in these regards.  They both resulted in Stanley Cup championships, so what assests you spent are inconsequential.

In the last few seasons here in 'Dub country, we've seen some blockbusters as well.  A few that stick out are:

Brayden Schenn & a 3rd - for two 1sts, a 2nd, a 1st round import pick, and two prospects. The Blades were swept in the 2nd round that year.

Carter Ashton & and a 3rd - for two players, a 1st, a 2nd, and a 5th.  They won a round that spring.

Cody Eakin - for a roster player, 4 prospects, a 1st, 2nd, and a 3rd.  That 8 assets for one guy, although he helped power the Ice past the 'Hawks in the 2011 WHL Final.

We've seen some risky trades here locally over the last few years as well - folks have mixed emotions about the Marcel Noebels trade: those 1st's could be really valuable, but the league may have taken them away anyway.  Is making Game 7 of the league finals success? 

See also:  The Cam Reid trade.

This season, you had trades like the Oil Kings giving up a 2nd for half a season of (local product) Trevor Cheek, as well as a good D man + a 1st for David Musil.  

Kamloops gave up a 3rd & a 5th for Sam Grist, as well as picking up Joel Edmundson & a 4th -  for a roster player, a 1st, and a guy taken in the 1st round last year.  

Spokane gave up a 3rd, a 5th, and two players for Alessio Bertaggia.  

There's a pattern here:  none of these teams had the horses to run with Portland.

This brings us to the WHL Champion Portland Winterhawks.  They made no trades all season, aside from finding a home for Cam Lanigan.  Obviously the big trade was the Seth Jones deal:  two 16's that have shined for the 'Tips, an 18 D man who they are happy with, and a NCAA player that neither team was likely to sign.

Referring to the above discussion, it may not matter what the 'Hawks gave up - as they have now won the franchises 3rd WHL championship - and are in the hunt for the Memorial Cup.  That being said, Jones looks like a steal compared to the Shenn or Eakin trades, doesn't it?  

I was concerned at the time, as they gave up quite a bit in the Noebels & Reid deals.  However, if you look at the players in that deal: Betker wasn't going to make this team as a defenseman - we have good D men who can't crack the lineup as is.  Same story with Sandhu & Skapski:  the last thing the Winterhawks need is more promising 16's up front that you can't find ice time for.  Remember, the rotation they ran all year trying to get these guys shifts?  We saw a 16 year old forward score game winners in 4 straight games, only to be healthy scratched the next game.  There was no room at the inn for the guys that were sent to Everett.

Just for fun, lets assign the picks lost in the sanctions to the Jones trade.  One could look at it like they gave up those 4 assets, in addition to five 1st rounders.  

(Once upon a time the St Louis Blues thought it was worth five 1sts for Scott Stevens, but that's a different story)

Upping that to 9 assets, is the Jones trade that much more costly than the Shenn or Eakin deals?  Are they in the same ballpark?  I would argue they gave up quality assets, but ones that they could not use - so what the 'Hawks gave up had very little value to Portland.  Throw in the sanction picks, and you may have a price closer to what Jones was worth.

Especially if they go out and bring home the Memorial Cup.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Lets play: "Cheating / Not Cheating"

So I suppose it should surprise no one that the sanctions are still a hot story, and will be throughout the season, which comes to an end with the conclusion of the Memorial Cup.

Clearly there are things that are legal, and things that are not - and the 'Hawks should have known that.  Lets look at a few of them:

Armani Suits: Legal

When the Vancouver Giants won the 2006 WHL Championship, owner Ron Toigo bought the whole team suits:
For the Memorial Cup, the owner of the Vancouver Giants outfitted all of his players in lavish, tailored suits. Apparently, they are not Armani suits, but something just as dapper.
'Pretty expensive,' says Vancouver's Jason Reese, who adds that he has nothing similar in his closet back home in Gresham.
Owner Ron Toigo has spoiled his players in many ways, but the Giants have rewarded him with an outstanding team that will take the ice in the Memorial Cup at Moncton, New Brunswick.

Side note:  that Reese always did a number on the 'Hawks when he was with the Ams.  Of course, everyone had their way with the 'Hawks then, but those days are long gone (thankfully).

Plane tickets for families:  Illegal

I don't really have a link for this, so you know - use your imagination. Look up the Seth Swenson story perhaps?

Just know that Armani suits are not an incentive to sign, but plane tickets for your folks are.

iPads: Legal

Lets look again at our shining example of the level playing field again, Ron Toigo.  For Christmas 2011 he bought the Vancouver Giants all iPads
In lieu of all the ruckus about the Winterhawks and their penalties for player benefit violations (PBVs), stories are coming out about what other teams might do for players, including one of about buying I-Pads as Christmas gifts.
Vancouver Giants owner Ron Toigo admits that his club did exactly that a year ago. He said one of the corporate sponsors approached the club, offering up a deal for buying in bulk. He said that the Giants reported the purchase to the league and the league subsequently came up with a dollar limit on gifts. Toigo would only say that it’s a “couple hundred dollars.”
He says multiple clubs did the same thing, although he wouldn’t name the other teams.

iPhone:  Illegal

This is in reference for paying the team Captain's cell phone bill for the last 3 seasons.  I know as much about the details as you do, but I get the impression that they didn't even buy them phones - just pay the bill for phones they were using anyway. 

I've seen the point made that the team Captain is essentially an extension of the coaching staff, and is therefore a de facto team employee.  The coach needs access to his captain.

Again, iPads for Christmas given to the whole team are not a recruiting tool.  iPhones for the team captain - that's a violation.

When Brett Ponich signed in Portland, under Rich Kromm, I'm sure that he's thinking about that cell phone perk.  When he's slogging through an 11 win, (-38) season, he's just holding on for that hook up.  Going out on the PK with dudes like Ty Ariss, Lucas Alexiuk, and Lee Morrow as D partners - he's just looking at the light at the end of the tunnel - "Can you hear me now?"

Same with William Wrenn - dude was working with a full ride scholarship to Denver University, and that's a pretty good value in exchange for playing hockey.  When he left mid-season, with 2.5 years of school left, to join the 'Hawks, I'm sure that phone benefit was front and center.  Then in October:  JACKPOT!  He scored the "C" - and his cell phone billing worries were over.

When Troy Rutowski came to town, also under Coach Kromm - visions of cell phones had to be the driving factor of leaving Edmonton as an undrafted 16, to come to a 'Hawks team coming off of an 11 win season.  To have the vision to know that Mike Johnston would be hired, and in his 5th WHL season he'd earn the "C" - that's pretty good foresight.  Seems like a lot of work just to avoid paying the phone bill, but some dudes are cheap bastards like that.

I have no idea what make or model of phones these guys were using, but I like the iPad / iPhone comparison.  Go big or go home, I guess.

Its also worth mentioning that Toigo was one of the dudes yapping the hardest about how the 'Hawks need to be punished.  Makes sense.

Dwight Jaynes  had a recent piece looking at some of this stuff.
  • The Winterhawks have said from the start they were not aware of specific regulations against flying players' parents into Portland to watch their kids play. I believe them when they say that because as near as I've been able to determine, it's common practice in junior hockey. One NHL scout told me last week he'd been asking major-junior team operators all over Canada whether they pay for parents to fly in and watch their boys play. He said, "EVERY SINGLE ONE of them told me they commonly did it. It's something all teams have done." 
  • Be that as it may, if there is a rule against it, the Winterhawks broke it. So I asked Robison for something I'd requested by voice mail with the league office previously -- a simple copy of the regulation. If there's a rule, show us the rule and just like that, there's no question here of culpability. But Robison refused to provide that. Why?

There's more to what he wrote - give it a read.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Edmonton V Portland: Game 6


photo essay

real time fan discussion
Now for the longest 20 min. in our season.
in our season in our lives
Well said!

To this point...
 Paul Buker on MJ:
“You know what makes this special?’’ he said. “You watch guys like (Troy) Rutkowski and (Tyler) Wotherspoon raise the trophy up. They were 15 or 16 years old when you first met them. And now you see them finishing their careers like this. You see Rutkowski, playing at home (he’s from Edmonton), raising that trophy. You see Ty Rattie get three goals. … I mean, what a story. It was just a phenomenal run.’’
Johnston said he had supreme confidence in the Hawks’ ability to overcome all obstacles this season, whether it was the WHL sanctions, or Michael St. Croix’s overtime goal that forced a Game 6.
“It’s one thing when you’re worried about a team because you don’t think they have what it takes to win, maybe you don’t have the personnel, or the character. But our team, through the course of the season, they proved time and time again, if it’s a big game, they will rise up.’’

"Crash" Cameron

“We had that 1-0 lead right off the hop and there was lots of energy in the building, lots of energy in our game, then to give up a couple of goals on the power play, it just deflates you,” said head coach Derek Laxdal. “It basically took us out of the game and fuelled their energy.
“We left it on the ice,” said Lazar. “We battled hard and Portland is heck of a team. Good luck to them.”
Terry Jones
  They trudged down the hall to the dressing room after shaking hands with the Portland Winterhawks, heads down and tears in the eyes of most of the guys.
On Mother’s Day a year earlier, the Edmonton Oil Kings carried the Ed Chynoweth Cup on the same ice against the same team.
On this day, after another exceptional season, the Oil Kings didn’t look like they deserved to be on the same ice as they lost a third straight series game at home, this one by the embarrassing score of 5-1.
 Chris O'Leary
 After Ty Rattie’s hat trick led the way to a 5-1 win, after Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robison handed Rattie the Ed Chynoweth Cup, and after all of the Portland Winterhawks took turns hoisting the trophy with their censor-riffic cheers echoing through an emptying Rexall Place, the torch was officially passed.
The Winterhawks wrapped up the WHL final in six games over the Edmonton Oil Kings on Sunday. They gathered at centre ice, piled over top of one another on the Oil Kings’ logo and posed for a team photo, physically pushing the past aside and assuming their spot as kings of the league.

Rattie's three goals gave him a WHL-playoff record 50 for his career, and the first two turned the course of Game 6 in the first period.
"My dad told me before the game that big-time players step up in big-time games," said Rattie, a St. Louis Blues prospect from Airdrie, Alberta.
Rattie was named MVP, which goes to the outstanding player in all four rounds of the WHL playoffs.
"This feeling isn't going to go away for a long time," Rattie said. "We knew we had the team to be here. We just had to finish the job."

 This game was much like the rest of the series, in that the Oil Kings couldn't score unless the 'Hawks made drastic mistakes, and the 'Hawks 2nd line was key. That snipe by Bjorkstand was amazing: the release on that shot was so good the cameraman lost the puck.  LB got some of it, but not enough of it.

If that goal cancels the Pouliot own-goal, then all that is left is the Rattie hat trick.  Dude ended up with 50 career playoff goals, which is amazing.  Comparing eras, where there were literally twice the scoring as there is now, and we just witnessed a guy put up an all-time number.  His 1st playoff goal was that Game 7 OT winner in Spokane, the last 3 were tonight.  Three game winners in this series.  We just witnessed a truly special junior career - with one tournament yet to be played.

Such a special season.  The main factors in my mind are obviously the sanctions, particularly the loss of Mike Johnston.  At that point, you've taken a team that was 20-4 and made them the underdogs.  They have their backs up against the wall - its "us against the world" - no better motivator than that.

The NHL lockout had a heavy affect on this team.  Its all 'what if' - but I believe that all three overagers: Carruth, Rutowski, and Peters make AHL teams in a normal year.  The fact that we entered these playoffs with all 3 of them signed to pro deals backs this up.  You NEVER have 3 signed overagers in major junior - your 20's are generally guys who haven't singed pro deals, and are trying to decide between going to school or trying to catch on in the minors. 

This team had a Captain, a record setting goalie, and a guy who took virtually every defensive zone faceoff for the last 2 months fall into our laps, rather than playing in the AHL.  There is huge value there.

For me, one of the biggest things about winning the WHL may be that the Winterhawks are not the Buffalo Bills - who lost 4 straight Superbowls, being the butt of choking jokes forever. 

Next game, in Saskatoon, against Halifax.  1st on the list - stopping this dude: