Saturday, October 1, 2016

Hart, 'Tips hand Portland first loss: 3-1

Carter Hart has had an interesting history, when it comes to playing in Portland. He's been pulled on many occasions and had many others where his team pulled out the win, despite a very average outing by the Philadelphia Flyers' prospect. Friday night at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Hart was every bit the second round NHL draft pick though, turning aside 31 of 32 shots in his first game back from Philadelphia's camp. None of Hart's saves were bigger than the one where he gloved down a point-blank chance from Portland's Alex Overhardt with around five minutes left.

Everett started the scoring Friday night after Everett native Wyatte Wylie found a gap in Portland's defense and fired a perfect feed right onto Patrick Bajkov's stick. The 19-year-old got in alone on Portland goalie Michael Bullion and slipped a backhand shot between his legs. The Winterhawks answered exactly four minutes later, while on the penalty kill. Keegan Iverson, in his return to the lineup, after participating in the Minnesota Wild's training camp, broke up a play in his defensive zone. This sprung, the also freshly returned Caleb Jones. Portland's defenseman drove into the zone, carrying the attention of all three Silvertip defenders. He then deftly fired a pass to Alex Overhardt, who was alone in front of the net. Overhardt gently pushed the puck home to tie the game. This was Portland's first short-handed goal of the short season. 

In the second period, the teams played a pretty tight game, with moments of end-to-end play, but they remained knotted until just 13 seconds remained in the session. After Overhardt took his second tripping penalty of the game, Everett took advantage. Riley Sutter intercepted Colton Veloso's clearance play and Jake Christensen fired a quick shot towards Bullion. Graham Millar was Johnny-on-the-spot and he poked home the rebound of his own deflected shot, for the 2-1 Everett lead. 

The Silvertips extended their lead on a sharp-angled shot by Matt Fonteyne early in the third. The first-line center got Bullion to lean towards the middle, expecting a pass and fired a shot that Portland's goalie was not prepared for. The puck bounced off the right pad of the goalie and into his own net. It is a goal, that Bullion will no doubt want back. The Silvertips pressed Portland early in the third, controlling most of the play. Portland responded with 14 shots on Hart in the last 12 or so minutes of play. However, the Everett goalie was game and he shut the door on Portland, sending home 4,151 very unhappy fans.

Portland goalie Bullion turned aside 30 of 33 shots for his second straight three-goals-allowed game and his first loss. I would expect Cole Kehler to get the start Saturday night in Seattle, as the two continue to trade starts. 

Portland's power play went 0/3 on the night and is now 3/9 or 33.3% on the season. Everett's power play went 1/5 with one short-handed goal against.

Game Notes:
-Hart was the story of the night for me, as he made countless big saves when Portland was pressing. Besides the one on Overhardt, he made a big-time save on a breakaway by Evan Weinger and a couple on driving plays to the net by Rodrigo Abols.
-Abols was back in the lineup after participating in Vancouver's training camp. His return gives Portland three import players, one over the limit. Because they are over the limit, one had to sit and that was Joachim Blichfeld this night. As an overage and import player, Abols takes up two spots and seems likely to be traded.
-Keegan Iverson also returned and had a newly minted "C" on the left side of his jersey. Naming Iverson captain was a rather interesting move, in that he has been an enigmatic player for much of his time in Portland. He has faced suspensions and I've been at games, where he's thrown tantrums and stormed out, after receiving a misconduct. However, after seeing his play and leadership lead to a Neely Cup win for his team at training camp, as well as, the exuberance in victory, that his teammates seemed to enjoy, I'm not surprised. Sometimes teams go with the emotional leader as their captain and Iverson seems every bit this type of leader.
-Jones, Colton Veloso and Keoni Texeira were named the team's assistants. This gives Portland a leadership group that is all 19 or older, on a team that is remarkably young.
-Ilijah Colina, Bronson Sharp, Matt Quigley and Conor MacEachern were the healthy scratches besides Blichfeld.
-Without Colina, the Ryan Hughes and Evan Weinger line didn't show quite the same chemistry. Despite Abols being in the middle of this line, I don't think that he really had that poor of a game. He continues to show flashes of offensive talent and he did multiple times in this game. He navigated traffic a couple of times and got in tight, but could not finish. He needs to start finishing in order to show his value and force Portland to keep him.
-Brett Clayton came back from his preseason suspension and played well on a line with Jake Gricius and Lane Gilliss. The line had several good cycles and Clayton used his size to put some added pressure on Everett's defense.
-Iverson jumped into the right wing spot on the top line that Brad Ginnell and Ty Kolle had kept warm for him. There was a lot to like about the Skyler McKenzie-Cody Glass-Iverson unit and they came extremely close to finding the twine behind Hart.
-Mike Johnston and co. have not quite found the chemistry they want in their top-four. They tried every pairing possible between Brendan De Jong, Jones, Henri Jokiharju and Texeira, but I don't know that they've found two pairings they are completely happy with.
-Brad Ginnell had another great moment in his limited action. He fired a shot right to Hart's right pad, creating a rebound that Overhardt couldn't finish due to being illegally obstructed. I think eventually Portland's coaches will have to decide who between Ty Kolle and Ginnell they will have to reassign and neither is making that decision easy on them.
-Portland now heads on an eight-game road trip, starting with Saturday night in Seattle. The game will have a banner-raising ceremony beforehand.

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