Monday, May 6, 2013

Portland's Defense the Story of the Series So Far/ Mondays News and Links

The top 4 Defenseman of the Portland Winterhawks have logged some serious minutes so far in the first two games of the WHL Final series and should expect to log even more, over the next three or more games.

Seth Jones and Tyler Wotherspoon were much better in Game Two at clearing bodies from in front of the net and not allowing Edmonton to get shots that Goalie Mac Carruth could not see. This was the case in Game One where 3 of their Goals had somebody screening him in front. This team has shown again and again that it plays it's best when these two towering D-men use their imposing size and clear out smaller forwards.
Tyler Wotherspoon and Curtis Lazar Working on Positioning

Troy Rutkowski and Derrick Pouliot played a much more cerebral game it seemed, adjusting to the relentless fore-check that the Oil Kings throw at you. Pouliot has improved so much over the year at using better positioning to win battles on the boards and also at skating the puck out of danger instead of passing it across the ice. This negates another thing that Edmonton excels at which is getting sticks in passing lanes and turning an odd man rush the other way. Rutkowski had a costly turnover where it seemed he was gassed and passed the puck off the boards right to a waiting Stephane Legault, which lead to a huge goal and probably the turning point in the game. Troy was much better at playing a controlled game and using his speed to make sure the pass would end up on a Portland stick.
Derrick Pouliot Working on Dylan Wruck

Josh Hanson and Shaun MacPherson played limited shifts in Game One and even less in Game Two. I did not see MacPherson skate at all on Saturday, as Travis Green played a shortened defensive bench. When they are out there, they need to play a very conservative game, dumping the puck when there is any question that Edmonton may cause a turnover.

Derek Laxdal, the Edmonton Coach, continues to not give Portland a lot of credit. First, he was quoted as saying that he believed that the series with Calgary was their biggest test. Then, he stated in the press conference Saturday night that "the turning point in the game was the non-call on a trip of Michael St. Croix," in the second period that would have set up a 5 on 3. To hear a Coach complain after his team was out-played for 60 minutes and say that the biggest reason they lost is one missed call in the middle of the game, is astounding. To me it shows a lack of respect for the game that the Winterhawks played. If the Hawks got out-played by Edmonton like that, I would expect Coach Green to be mad as hell at the team's effort, not one call in a 3 Goal loss.
Derek Laxdal

No word yet on whether Travis Cheek, will play on Tuesday night in Game Three, but I would lean towards the negative. Cheek really gives the top line he plays on with St. Croix and T.J. Foster, the sniper that they need. Both Foster and St. Croix like to pass first and are not known for their ability to pick corners. So, Cheek coming back would give them a huge lift emotionally and help them on the score sheet.

Speaking of picking corners, when asked about whether he was picking the spot Brendan Leipsic scored on or whether they were both just excellent shots? Oliver Bjorkstrand went with latter, getting a chuckle from Carruth and Coach Green. Though he may not have said it, I think the Hawks snipers are best when they gt to know a Goalie. This is why they do so well on Goalies they face on a consistent basis (e.g. Eric Comrie, Brandon Glover). Often times the Hawks get shut down by a Goalie they are not used to facing. Though they should know Brossoit's weaknesses a little better now, I still think that he will continue to have an excellent series. Edmonton is going to need it, should they continue to get out-played.
Bjorkstrand Skating Past Henrik Samuellson

News and Links:
-Great piece from the Edmonton Journal about how the Hawks making the WHL final in 1979 saved the franchise.
-Look to Game Three from Paul Buker mentions that the Oil King's power play has gone 0 for their last 24,
-The Columbian has a mention about Henrik Samuellson leaving the game with a knee injury, only to not miss a shift after he drew a penalty on Adam DeChamplain. This got the ire of the crowd up and they booed every time he touched the puck.

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