Thursday, March 19, 2015

Late season struggles

  • What was rookie Lane Pederson doing on the ice in overtime? Why was back up goaltender Logan Flodell getting the start in place of veteran Taran Kozun? How could the Seattle Thunderbirds win after playing the night before at home against the Tri City Americans? It all went down last night in the Kelowna Rockets 3-2 overtime loss to a dreaded U.S Division playoff foe. A loss in overtime against a solid team like the T-Birds can happen, but the way this game played out has to be a little concerning this late in the season. The Rockets should have been the fresher of the two teams by a country mile. The T-Birds bused through the night after winning Tuesday night - at home - to the Tri City Americans. The home team should have been well rested and bursting with energy after playing Saturday - at home  - and having Sunday and Monday to recharge the batteries. The Rockets weren't flat, but they didn't play with the same energy or desire that the T-Birds did. What is Seattle playing for right now? Pride? The Rockets had more on the line with their slim hopes fading fast in a quest to beat Brandon for the WHL regular season title. As head coach Dan Lambert put it on our post game show, "Hey, they (Seattle) played harder then we did tonight. At the end of the day, that's the difference". 
  • The desperation or commitment to winning was clearly on display with the T-Birds shot blocking. How many pucks did T-Bird defenders take off a shin pad? Or maybe the question should be asked, how many shots did the Rockets block? The T-Birds commitment to winning was high. The Rockets wasn't. End result? A overtime loss for the fifth consecutive time. The only overtime win came opening night in Everett when Cole Linaker found the back of the net in a 5-4 victory. Do the Rockets start playing with desperation in the playoffs? Can they turn the switch on like that? The players, in interviews I conduct with them, tell me they can't. So if that is the case, shouldn't I be just a little concerned?     
  • Jackson Whistle was named the third star in last night's loss. The 19 year-old made a massive save against Seattle forward Donavon Neuls late in the game on a breakaway when Rourke Chartier attempted to leave the puck for captain Madison Bowey at the Rockets blue line. The problem was both players elected to go for a line change. Chartier was as stunned as anyone that Bowey elected to go for a breather when he did. The puck was left at the blue line as a gift for Neuls to pick up. It wasn't the only mental error the marquee defenceman would make. An ill advised pass at the Rockets blue line in the first period gave T-Birds forward Scott Eansor a free pass towards Whistle. Again, the veteran goalie made the stop.
  • Whistle made no less than four solid saves in the setback. It is hard to come down hard on him for the opening goal, which seemed to hit his stick and then trickle upward and literally bounce into the net. I can't see Whistle making that same mistake twice. 
  • Two nice goals in this one. Seattle's second period power play goal was Mathew Barzal at his finest. The draft eligible prospect stick handled the puck along the far boards like it was on a string before saucing a pass to Shea Theodore for a pretty three-way passing play. The Rockets also had a sweet power play goal in the third period when Leon Draisaitl located Tyson Baillie in the slot, who quickly backhanded the puck off to rookie Dillon Dube, who scored on his off wing to tie the game at two.         
  • With so many passengers, Rockets head coach Dan Lambert elected to move Leon Draisaitl with Tyson Baillie and Gage Quinney. That line created a few scoring chances, including a goal post that Draisaitl struck late in the game on a scramble beside the T-Birds net.
  • Tyrell Goulbourne played a gritty game. Not bad for a player who has been ill the previous few days and must have felt dehydrated at games end. There were many players that took the night off.  
  • The Rockets have scored just five goals in their last three games. That is five goals in the last nine periods heading into the final two games of the regular season. Those two games are against the Vancouver Giants this weekend.  

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