Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Final Regular Season Game Has Playoff Feel

  • The Kelowna Rockets won for the 8th straight time Monday night with a hard fought 1-0 shutout win in Spokane. The victory clinches third place in the Western Conference and results in an opening round playoff series with 6th seed Kamloops.
  • Mark Guggenberger was acquired at the trade deadline to produce in the 'big game', and the 20 year-old hasn't disappointed. He was just steady Monday night, recording his first of what is hoped to be many shutouts in his time in a Rockets uniform. Their is no question that when Guggenberger is on his game, he can be a game breaker or a decision maker.
  • The key to the win was likely a 5 on 3 penalty kill early in the second period. With the Rockets holding a 1-0 lead, the Chiefs were given a tremendous chance to tie the game, yet Colin Long, Tysen Dowzak and Tyler Myers were tremendous in keeping the 4th best power play in the league off the board.
  • The game winning goal came on a weak wrist shot from Brandon McMillan at the blue-line that hit a Chiefs defenseman and popped over the shoulder of goaltender Dustin Tokarski. It was that simple shot on goal that produced results, yet I thought the Chiefs often made too many passes in an effort to get a quality shot on goal.
  • Any questions over the Rockets lack of ability defensively is being muted. Tyler Myers, Tysen Dowzak, Tyson Barrie, Brandon McMillan and Collin Bowman have put in some tremendous efforts against the top end teams, showing that the team isn't as inept as many had thought following the trade deadline. Do I wish the Rockets had more veteran depth back there? Absolutely. But Kyle Verdino and Aaron Borejko have had to hurry their development in an effort to spell off the top five d-men.
  • Who gets credit for moving Brandon McMillan back to defense? Coach Huska, coach Finley? You all deserve a pat on the back for putting McMillan back there and only strengthening that area. Who deserves the most credit? Brandon McMillan. McMillan has made a smooth transition to the position and appears to be getting better the more he plays.
  • I was impressed with the Rockets ability to play a solid defensive game against the Chiefs, looking for key times to create offensive chances. The Rockets were able to beat the Chiefs in four games in the seasonal series on the strength of not playing into their hands. That meant being patient, rather than trading chances. It shows that the Rockets are not a one trick pony. For offensively gifted forwards to buy into a 'wait and see approach' just tells you that each player on this team will do whatever is needed for the betterment of the team.
  • If the Spokane Chiefs were deathly ill late Friday night, the road to recovery was a quick one. The Chiefs appeared to have incredible jump, and looked nothing like a team that was tossing their cookies just 48 hours earlier.
  • The Chiefs were taking all kinds of precautions following the illness that hit them Friday night. Each player was given their own water bottle and hand sanitizer was found on the Chiefs bench. I almost felt like I was in my sons kindergarten class.
  • It will be interesting to hear the results of the medical test on several Spokane players after Friday's outbreak. Brady Calla was one player who had a blood test and gave a urine and stool sample. My question is, was it indeed food poisoning or just a bad flu bug? If it is anything other than food poisoning, which the Chiefs believe it was, my guess is that results of those tests will be kept behind closed doors.
  • The Rockets end off the regular season with 47 wins, yet could have been a team that won 50 games had it not been for losses to Red Deer, Portland and Chilliwack on two occasions.
  • After playing the Kamloops Blazers nine times this season, in a best care scenario we will see them an additional four times in a best of seven opening round playoff series. It marks the first time since the 2002 playoffs that the Rockets have faced the Blazers in round one. That season the Rockets had home ice advantage and eliminated them in four straight.


hocus_lopez said...

I think I read that the Rockets franchise record for most wins in a season is 51 (2002-2003). What's amazing to me is how close this team was to breaking that record. As you correctly point out, wins against some of the bottom dwellers puts them over that mark.

I guess the real point is that despite some sputtering throughout the early and mid season, this is a team that has come together and appears capeable of doing some great things in the playoffs.

I also agree that the defense has stepped up big time, and has done a great job of silencing their critics. The five you note above have been as good as any teams top three d-men, and the younger guys have done a stellar job of stepping up play.

IMO, this is a defensive unit built for the playoffs, and I firmly believe they are capeable of shutting down the oppositions top offensive lines. I am also impressed with the ability Barrie/Dowzak/Meyers/McMillian have displayed in moving the puck (the D-zone breakout has been a huge improvement since the start of the season).

Best of luck to the Rockets in the second season.

Regan Bartel said...

I appreciate your thoughts on this blog hucus_lopez. As skilled as this team is, defense wins championships.What I like about Long and Benn, as skilled as they are, they are reliable defensively. In a crucial game where you are protecting a one goal lead, it's nice to know your leading scorers can shut the door and are as good at one end of the ice as they are on the other.

hocus_lopez said...

Thanks, Regan. It's been a fun year, and I'm glad you're here to read, and that I am able to offer something of value, albeit a real small value ;-)

I agree about Long/Benn. They both have shown great improvement in their defensive play this season (both at even strength and on the PK). That ability, combined with their obvious offensive talents, make them a very valuable commodity.

If I remember correctly Long didn't see a lot of PK time last year. It's nice to see him diversify his play. I'm sure the coaching staff (both the Rockets and the Coyotes) asked him to step up his efforts in that regard. It's good to see the kid respond.

entropyyy said...

"in a best care scenario" case?

on a non-sarcastic note,the first round is really going to be a good one. The blazers are going to have to show what they're made of and come out hard. Hoping to see a few scraps out of this one seeing as every game something like a goalie fight should happen i'm busy. I have to give guggs credit too,I was thinking the rockets were going with a montreal thing and were going to start brown for the end of the season,and I can't lie,it took me a while to see the results from guggs,but as we can see with wins over vancouver and calgary,things are pulling together nicely.

and i know i'm behind in the schedule,but does it cause a question mark for anybody other than me that the rockets wouldn't draft a hamilton? seems a bit odd to me.

apsco17 said...

Hi Regan, I caught your post-game interview on am1150 with Huska last night where you asked and he confirmed that Backlund and Lucas will be back in the lineup on Friday night, but you conspicously failed to ask about KSD. Can you confirm his status? thanks.

Regan Bartel said...

Game time decision with KSD. You will see him in this series.