Thursday, March 28, 2013

Slapping playoff elimination right in the face

The Kelowna Rockets lost three consecutive games during the regular season. They weren't about to start a new losing streak in the playoffs. Tyson Baillie scored his 2nd and 3rd goals of the series, both on the power play, in a game four 4-0 shutout win, snapping a three game losing streak. Facing playoff elimination, the Rockets ripped out of the gates with 19 shots in the first period as the T-Birds took several trips to the penalty box. While firing 19 shots at the Seattle net, the Rockets d-core, which gets younger by the day because of injury, held the home team to just three shots.

As good as the Rockets were, a comeback bid by the T-Birds looked likely until Zach Franko’s third period goal on a 3 on 1 made the score 4-0. Seattle had a good push in the third period and the Rockets, despite giving up few quality scoring chances, played a good portion of the final frame in their own zone.

As much as T-Birds head coach Steve Konawalchuk wants to play the underdog card, it won't work in this poker game. Not now. Seattle holds the hammer, have their opponent down and in a vulnerable position and need one bold strike to knock the BC Division regular season champions out. The Rockets are the true underdogs having been forced to win the final three games of this series to advance to round two. Were the T-Birds underdogs heading into the best of seven? Of course they were, says Mr. Obvious. Sorry though. It doesn't fly with me now.

If the Rockets come back to win this series, which I believe they can, the talk across the league will hinge on how the T-Birds blew it and how the Rockets joined the Spokane Chiefs as the lone teams to dig themselves out of a massive hole.

Will the Rockets win a WHL title this season? Who knows? What I do know is coming back and winning this series would be a massive accomplishment that this team could be proud of for years to come. Playing without your captain, losing role players like Rigby, Wheaton and possibly Barnett, who has played just one game in this series, would be monumental. Winning this series would be massive. In the big picture, what was left of the playoff run would be gravy in my opinion. Regardless of what happened down the road, this team would be regarded as a character group to come back from being down 0-3.

Jordon Cooke didn't receive a star in the building Wednesday night but the 19 year-old goalie has been on the mark in all four games. He really has been the team’s most consistent player. While not tested greatly in game four, timely saves are so crucial. How about Cooke's breakaway save on Andrew Johnson in the second period when the Rockets are nursing a 3-0 lead? How about the left pad save he makes in that same period when defenceman Cole Martin has his pocket picked by T-Birds captain Luke Lockhart at the side of the net? Those are massive in the big picture. Maybe to the average observer those saves go unnoticed. I pick them out having played that position and the role the goalie plays in keeping his team in the drivers seat.

The T-Birds honestly looked disinterested in the first 40 minutes. The Rockets deserve credit for playing the majority of the first two periods in the offensive zone, but if an outside observer was watching this series for the first time, they likely would have been shocked when told the T-Birds were leading the best of seven 3 games to 0.

Best defenceman in the last two games? Seattle's Shea Theodore has really sparkled at both ends of the ice. Extremely quiet in games one and two, the draft eligible 18 year-old has really elevated his play. When he's on, Theodore is one of the best in his age group.

Thanks to all of the listeners for the positive feedback over the last few nights on Twitter. It is much appreciated. Doing the games solo isn't easy and getting emotionally involved as a broadcaster can be a drawback. I often get frustrated in the broadcast booth over errors that are committed or effort that isn't given when I know full well what these players are capable of. At the end of the day, despite the criticism, I want these players to succeed. The scary thing for the T-Birds is a good segment of the Rockets can play even better.


Peter Maryschuk said...

Way to go boys! One game at a time! Get some rest and we will see you at the rink on Saturday night. Fans, let's raise the roof off the building instead of sitting on our hands all game! If you can't come to the game and get excited give your tickets to someone who can.

g.k said...

Well Peter maybe the Rockets organization could do the same promotion the T-Birds do for their fans, $2.00 beers & food, that would get the crowd excited eh?? Don't get me wrong the hockey has been great but most fans that are at the games are there for the social aspect of it & need more to get them in the mood!! Cheap beer, food & better music would go a long way in getting the crowd pumped. Maybe even some cheerleaders like some of the NHL teams have. Go Rockets I know you can win this!!

Marc S said...

I was really disappointed in the turnout last night. It would have been nice if some of the Tuesday walk-up that saw a great OT game would have thought 'this is great fun I should do it again tomorrow', but I guess when you have a promotion for casual fans (I don't think fan is really the right word, but I'm not thinking of another to use) you only get the bump on dirt cheap night.

That was probably the best 2 for drunken Tuesday crowd of the year. I didn't even have that many people getting up in front of me while play was on because their beer was empty and they have to get another ASAP.

As far as the game goes, I think the T-birds need to get back to the physical play. I think being on the PK 5 times in the first really limits what you can do offensively and aggressively. I thought the way they played on Tuesday really wore the Rockets down as the game went on. Hopefully they can play that way Saturday and stay out of the penalty box.

Sports Nut said...

Can't agree more with both posters. The word FAN is from the word fanatical which means to be over the top for your purpose or goal. Our goal is to win game 5 and continue this series. The club itself has to assist in getting our fans up out of their seats and like g. k. said not just going to the game as a social outing. Go Rockets!