Saturday, September 28, 2013

Game Four: Seattle @ Portland

Seattle (3-0-0-0, 6 points, 1st in the U.S. Division and Western Conference) @ Portland (1-1-0-1, 3 pts, Last in U.S. Division, 5th in the West)

Seattle comes into the Moda Center to face off against the Portland Winterhawks and the two teams are moving in very different directions.

Seattle beat Portland last Saturday in a shoot-out behind 2 goals from Roberts Lipsbergs. They then took down Vancouver on the road 6-0 on Wednesday night behind 31 saves from Goalie Danny Mumaugh (getting his first WHL shut-out) and 2 goals and 2 assists from Russian Alexander Delnov. They then closed out the perfect week last night with a 5-4 shoot-out victory at home vs. Tri City. The Americans forced the extra session and circus, after scoring a power play goal with their goalie pulled with 27 seconds left from Beau McCue. Lipsbergs was the only player to score in the shoot-out.

 Notes for Tonight's Game:
-Alexander Delnov leads a balanced Thunderbird attack with 7 points through 3 games this season.
-Coach Steve Konowalchuk switched up the lines this season, splitting up the potent line of Lipsbergs, Delnov and Connor Honey from last season, choosing instead to give his team two solid lines with Lipsbergs, Seth Swenson and Matthew Barzal on one line and Delnov, Honey and Branden Troock on the other. The Honey line has responded with 19 total points over 3 games.
-These two lines created all kinds of issues for an in-experienced (at the WHL level) blue line for the Hawks last Saturday.
-Justin Myles played in last night's game, meaning the Hawks will most likely see Danny Mumaugh tonight.
-Mumaugh played 4 games against the Hawks last season (one time was in relief) and gave up a total of 16 goals against.
-Seattle was plagued a bit by their youth last night as 16 year old Scott Eansor flipped the puck out of play, late in the 3rd period, setting up McCue's heroics.
-I may have been a little over-sighted in saying that Seattle's Defense would be a major weakness as they showed on the road Wednesday in Vancouver. They have a solid combination of height and overall size that Portland's smaller Forwards really struggled with last Saturday.
-Brendan Leipsic (who had just returned) will miss his first game of a 3 game suspension tonight. Look fora mix up of the top lines to try to get some offense created.
-Seattle's 3-0 start is their first since 1995.
-Justin Hickman will return tonight in Portland for Seattle, who got Shea Theodore back into the lineup last night in Seattle.
-In further analyzing the game from Tuesday, I noticed that Portland's Defense seems to want to force the play up the middle when trying the clear the puck out of their own zone. This led directly to 2 of the the goals against. Forcing play in that direction makes it a lot easier for the other team's Forwards to create a quick scoring opportunity the other way, that playing the puck up the boards would not.
-Hopefully Brendan Burke can get a little confidence back after getting yanked from Tuesday's game. Most of the goals were not his fault, but Burke was noticeably frustrated, especially off of the strange goal off of Josh Hanson's stick.
-Getting a win in a game like tonight, where you are missing a lot of key contributors, would go a long way this season, as the U.S. Division figures to be a lot tougher this year.

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