Thursday, February 6, 2014

43rd win doesn't come without its warts

Jackson Whistle - Marissa Baecker - Shoot The Breeze
  • What is with sloppy third periods? For the second time in three home games the Kelowna Rockets surrendered three-third period goals. Fortunately this time around, the Rockets escaped with a 4-3 win last night over the visiting Red Deer Rebels. A week ago the Rockets had a 5-2 lead heading into the third period before the Spokane Chiefs rallied back with three straight goals and won the game in a shootout. Last night's win came after arguably the teams' best first period of the season. The Rockets dominated play firing 23 shots on net and scoring four times. It wasn't even close. No less than 90 percent of the play was inside the Rebels zone. The visitors were over matched and looked like they were in a heap of trouble with two periods to play. 
  • The jump that the Rockets had in the first period was exceptional. The play that impressed me the most in the first period was Tyrell Goulbourne chasing down Rebels forward Aspen Sterzer. Goulbourne skated back hard inside the Rockets zone, separated Sterzer from the puck and then took it back up ice. That was textbook back checking by a player, that only this season is showing everyone how fast he really is.  
  • The biggest surprise for me was the Rebels starting goaltender. Head Coach Brent Sutter went with 16 year-old back up Taz Burman and elected to sit veteran 20 year-old Patrik Bartosak on the bench. Why would the coach throw his raw rookie to the wolves against a team that has lost only 7 times this season is beyond me? The experiment lasted all but 1:34 as Burman allowed two goals on four shots. Bartosak came into the game, and while allowing two goals of his own, settled his team down with his steady play. Bartosak stopped 36 of 38 shots the rest of the way but was rarely tested in the third period.
  • Whatever Rebels Brent Sutter said to his team in the first intermission, it worked. The Rebels played a more physical game and simply out hustled the Rockets for the final 40 minutes. Instead of playing significant minutes chasing the puck, like they did in the first period, the Rebels were able to force turnovers inside the offensive zone. Much like Friday in a win over Kamloops, had Jackson Whistle been average, his team would have been in a heap of trouble. 
  • Whistle was named the first star and rightfully so. The Rebels had several glorious chances in the second period but couldn't beat the 18 year-old until the third period. The key to Whistle's success was his lack of going down into the butter fly prematurely. Whistle's stand up style allowed him to make two to three blocker saves that looked routine but were anything but. Had the veteran gone to his knees, as many goaltenders tend to do, the Rebels would have likely beaten him high over the shoulder. 
  • From what I have seen of Whistle over the last few games, I have as much confidence in his play as I do in Jordon Cooke. I wouldn't have said that last year, nor would I have said that to start the season. Whistle is the real deal. He's proved it. He is a legit number one goaltender. While not as technically sound as some, Whistle battles and his big body is a massive advantage. The West Kelowna resident is extremely quick down low too. The only negative in his play is once he goes down it takes him a long time to regain his feet. 
  • It wasn't Marek Tvrdon's best game with the Rockets, but it was his best effort on home ice. Tvrdon scored a goal, had a great chance against Bartosak in the second period but failed to score and set up line mate Tyson Baillie for a tremendous chance in the second period. Being involved in the play allowed the 20 year-old to see time on the power play. Funny how when you work hard the coach notices and gives you time with the man advantage.  If you work, you will be rewarded with power play time.
  • A nice tilt between Rockets defenceman Riley Stadel and Rebels leading scorer Connor Bleackley. Bleackley had Stadel in trouble until the 17 year-old d-man changed hands and fired lefts towards the Rebels captain. How odd was it that the fight started while the Rebels were on the power play. You don't see that often.     
  • Austin Glover made his return after spending 3 months on the sidelines with a broken ankle. Glover made an immediate impact with a goal to make the score 3-0. Glover played the game alongside Colton Heffley and Carter Rigby. As a unit, that line had a relatively quiet game. 
  • I am looking forward to Friday night's game against the Oil Kings. The challenge will be great against a team that makes you pay for the mistakes you make. If the Rockets play against Edmonton like they did in the final 40 minutes against the Rebels, the crowd at Prospera Place will be even more deathly quiet then they were Wednesday night in the teams' 43rd win of the season.


daryl said...

I don't envy the coaching staff this year... You've got the top ranked team in the country that every team is going to get up to play against and a bunch of blue collared young men who probably feel at times they just need to show up and they'll win and a coaching staff that has to try to bring out the best in each of them every night! It's gotta be tough! These next 4 games will be interesting... they will have to get in the groove or the wins will not happen!

daryl said...

Zack Franko... 12 points and +8 in 9 games.... hmmmmmm! Still not liking that trade!!