Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Western Conference Final: A Story of Jekyll and Hyde

Game Three goes tonight for the Western Conference Final between the Kelowna Rockets and the Portland Winterhawks, with both teams coming from behind to win a game, so far in the series. The oddest thing about the series so far, has got to be how spectacularly similar the two teams won up in the Okanagan.

First, Portland quite literally (okay figuaratively) flew out to a 3-0 lead in game one and looked like they were going to skate Kelowna right out of the barn. Then the Hawk's defense fell apart, with their top two D-men playing the catalysts. Kelowna recovered from a poor start feeding off of a Madison Bowey short handed goal to slow down the game to the type they would like to play and got 5 goals from 5 different scorers to win in comeback fashion 5-4.

Secondly, Kelowna fed off the momentum of their game one victory by scoring two power play goals in the first and then chasing Portland's Brendan Burke with 3 goals on their first 11 shots. Then, just like in Game two, the losing team started to wake up and Portland scored three times in only 2 minutes and 10 seconds, erasing a 2 goal deficit, by taking a 4-3 lead. Portland outshot Kelowna 31-18 over their last 2 periods, on their way to a 5-3 win and a series tie.

So now, heading into game three with a series that is tied up at 1, there is just not much we can actually count on for the last, at least 3 games. We have seen how well and how poorly both teams can play and the only thing that is certain, is that there are sure to be more swings, both ways, before this is over.

Before Game three is upon us though, I have some specific concerns regarding a couple key Winterhawk contributors and these two are both in need of a great game:

-Much has been made of Brendan Burke getting yanked in Game two. I'm almost 100% sure that Coach Johnston will go with him to start Game three and that him being pulled in Game two was more a sign that the team needed to wake up then piss poor Goaltending (though the Stadel and Bowey goals were not that pretty). Despite trading for Corbin Boes, Johnston has never seemed to doubt Burke. Round three of the playoffs is also not a time when you want to start doubting. I have been a firm beleiver that Burke is much more mentally strong this season then he had been the previous year. Last year, he seemed to really suffer after giving up a poor goal, whereas this year he has responded for the most part. Is his REALLY poor play against Kelowna this year a concern? Well absolutely, but I think that Burke has a little of the irrational confidence that Carruth had, which enabled him tobounce back from some horrible outings against teams that had his number. 

-It was a great sign that Petan notched his first multi-point night (3 points) since he notched 2 points agaisnt Victoria in Game two. It was also his first goal since that game as well. Though he has 14 points in 11 games now this post-season, he has not been the Nic Petan of the regular season. His points per game has dropped from 1.79 to 1.27. This actually is similar to last season as well, where it dropped from 1.69 to 1.33 in the playoffs. Overall in 61 career playoff games he has 42 points, whereas in 198 career regular season games he has 269 points. His point production is a little concerning to me, as Portland's other top scorers have not suffered the same fate this season.

Consider that Oliver Bjorkstrand (1.58 to 2.0), Brendan Leipsic (1.52 to 1.91), Derrick Pouliot (1.21 to 1.82) and Taylor Leier's (1.27 to 1.45) have all gone up; Bjorkstrand and Pouliot considerably so.

The only caveat to the argument that Petan has had a disappointing playoff so far, besides the fact that it's not close to over is that he plays Center and has had to pick up his responsibilities doing other things on the ice (AKA the Jonathan Toews defense from alst year).

There defientely is some volition to this argument as Chase De Leo's points per game (1.13 to 1.0) has dropped as well and both have been great at back-checking for a defense that has definitelt needed help a lot of the time.

This having been said, stars need to raise their games, especially when they are needed and Petan was one of the Hawk's MVPs this season for a reason. Having a breakout game would quiet any of the concerns that his dropping point prodcution, not to mention losing three straight draws at the end of Game one to Ryan Olsen have started to escalate.

1 comment:

  1. Boes actually getting the nod in net for Portland in Game 3