Friday, April 11, 2014

Well, well...look what we have here!!

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Hello Portland! Nice to see you again. For the third time in the last four seasons the Kelowna Rockets will meet the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL playoffs. The two teams met in a second round series in 2011 that went six games before clashing in a first round set in 2012 with the Winterhawks ending the Rockets season in four straight games. The Western Conference final in 2014 features the top two teams in the WHL during the regular season. The Rockets had just five more points than the Winterhawks thanks to 3 more wins and two fewer losses. 
  • In 2011 and 2012 the Winterhawks had home ice advantage. The Rockets have that luxury in this years playoffs where they are 5 and 0.
  • These two teams met four times during the regular season with the Rockets winning all four games. The Rockets out-scored the Winterhawks  25-10. Sounds lopsided right? Don't get to excited though. The Winterhawks were without Brendan Leipsic for one of the two games in Kelowna in October and Nic Petan, Derrick Pouliot and Taylor Leier were all playing for Team Canada when the Rockets visited the Winterhawks in Portland just prior to and after the New Year. That said, the Rockets did put up some big numbers in those four games and didn't show any mercy against the short staffed Winterhawks.   
  • While the Winterhawks are making their fourth straight appearance in the Western Conference final, this team is poised to do it again next season. This isn't an old group that the Winterhawks are going with this season. In fact, the teams 18 year-old's are really the story. Chase De Leo, Nic Petan, Alex Schoenborn and Oliver Bjorkstrand combined for 142 goals this season. Those four forwards were born in 1995. The Rockets have two forwards born in 1995. Tyson Baillie and Cole Linaker combined for 33 goals this season.
  • Goaltending has to favour the Rockets. Jordon Cooke is the Western Conference nominee for goaltender of the year and was especially good in round one against Tri City. Cooke was equally as good in games one and two of the Seattle series. The Winterhawks are going with 18 year-old Brendan Burke, who also had good numbers in an opening round series against Vancouver before backstopping the Winterhawks to a five game series win over Victoria in round two. Cooke and Burke have identical playoff records of 8 and 1, but the nod in goal in this series has to go with Cooke.
  • Playoff experience will favour the Winterhawks. Just look at 19 year-old defenceman Derrick Pouliot who has 73 games of playoff experience after long runs in the last three post seasons. By comparison, 19 year-old's Colton Heffley and Damon Severson have 34 playoff games under their belt.     
  • No team can match the Winterhawks fire power, so the ability to defend will be critical for the Rockets to have success. While Madison Bowey, Mitch Wheaton, Cole Martin and Damon Severson have to be strong in their own zone, the forwards can make life a lot easier by fore checking hard and making the Winterhawks play defence. Without a solid fore check and significant play inside the Winterhawks zone, the Rockets will only be able to slam the door shut for so long. The forwards play a vital role in taking pressure of the d-core by playing major minutes inside Portland territory.
  • For what its worth the Winterhawks scored 28 more goals during the regular season than the Rockets, who allowed 25 fewer goals against.
  • While the Winterhawks should have the advantage in the power play category, that may have changed heading into the Western Conference final. The Rockets have the best power play in the playoffs with 14 goals in 40 chances. The Winterhawks also have 14 power play goals but in 57 opportunities. The Rockets penalty killing unit was the story in a second round series with Seattle, killing off 20 off 22 T-Birds chances. The Rockets also owned the best penalty killing unit during the regular season. 
  • Who wins this series? Statistics don't really mean much at this time of the year. The fact remains that the team that wants it more usually gets it!

2 comments:

Shooter09 said...

This is where the Tvrdon, Olsen, Rigby, Heffley and Golbourne's come in to play. Big bodies finishing their checks, in your face, in front of the net, hard to play against players will earn their ice. Can not let Portland push our smaller players around and try to intimidate them.

Shooter09 said...

This is where the Tvrdon, Olsen, Rigby, Heffley and Golbourne's come in to play. Big bodies finishing their checks, in your face, in front of the net, hard to play against players will earn their ice. Can not let Portland push our smaller players around and try to intimidate them.