Monday, March 14, 2016

One win in three games won't cut it

Is Cal Foote the next Madison Bowey? Shoot the Breeze Photo
  • The hopes of the Kelowna Rockets finishing in first place in the WHL standings took a sever blow last night with a 6-4 loss in Tri City. While the Rockets suffered the setback, the Victoria Royals won their 10th in a row with a 4-3 win over Prince George. The loss keeps the Rockets four points back of the Royals for first place with three games remaining in the regular season for both teams. They clash Wednesday at Prospera Place with it being must win territory for the defending champions. A loss and it is likely a date with the Kamloops Blazers in round one of the WHL playoffs. For the Rockets to avoid Kamloops, they must win their remaining three games and the Royals must lose no less than two of their final three. The Royals are in Kelowna Wednesday before concluding the season with a home and home weekend series against the Everett Silvertips.  
  • The Kelowna Rockets won't win 50 games this season. That was erased with last night's loss. The Rockets were attempting to set a new WHL record by recording 50 wins in four consecutive seasons. The best they can do with three games left in the regular season is win 49 times. 
  • What did I think of the weekend? The team needed all six points to give them a fighting chance of finishing first overall. They managed only three. While not mathematically eliminated from clinching the Scotty Munro Trophy, so many things have to go right for the team to earn top spot. It starts with beating the Royals, which in itself would be a massive psychological step forward for the team heading into the playoffs. Just knowing you can beat the hottest team in the WHL would be huge, even if the two teams don't collide until further down the road. 
  • What did I like? I liked the teams mental strength by bouncing back after surrendering a 3-1 lead to the Kamloops Blazers Friday night in a 4-3 overtime loss. The team played a solid game in Spokane the night after and were full marks for the 6-1 win. When three players end the night with 1+2=3, the chances of winning are significantly increased. Some would suggest that it should have been an easy two points considering the Chiefs are disseminated by injuries. That is true, but I find all the teams in the U.S Division and the Western Conference for that matter are strong and the parity has never been better. Even the last place Vancouver Giants are a handful. Two points in this conference is never a gimme. Just ask the Eastern Conference teams.
  • The Rockets so called 'fourth line' had a really good weekend. Tate Coughlin, Kole Lind and Tanner Wishnowski made a massive impact. The trio were creating scoring chances, were buzzing in the offensive zone and making life tough for the opposition. Wishnowski scored a goal and also dropped the gloves. Lind also fought. Coughlin, who has all the skill in the world but rarely shows it, made smart plays with the puck. Coughlin is playing the best hockey of his career.  
  • What didn't I like. The Rockets needed to win Sunday night. They didn't. I thought coming back from a 2-0 deficit was encouraging, but to be honest they just didn't get a save in the game. If you have read my remarks on this blog in the past, you will notice more times than not that I am a huge backer of the goalies. That said, Sunday night was not Brodan Salmond's finest hour. Nor will it be his last. It is the life of a goalie. Salmond is a young netminder who has huge potential, but in a must win situation, it is awfully tough circumstances when you are required to keep your team in the hunt for first place while playing 4 games in 5 nights. With number one goalie Michael Herringer on the bench for Sunday's game, Salmond allowed five goals through 40 minutes and was hooked heading into the third period. Hindsight says the change in goal should have been made earlier, but the team trailed only by a goal with 20 minutes to play. As luck would have it, the team was unable to score and the Americans put the game away with an empty netter. 
  • Tyson Baillie scored his 40th and 41st goals of the season on the weekend. Baillie becomes the first player to hit the 40 goal plateau since Rourke Chartier scored 48 times last season. Baillie also played his his 325th game, moving into third place all time for games played in a Rockets uniform. Baillie won't catch Tyler Mosienko for second place. Mosienko played 338 regular season games.
  • Rourke Chartier hit the 100 assist mark in his WHL career Saturday night in Spokane. Chartier had a good weekend with goals in three straight games. On Chartier's current goal scoring pace, the 19 year would have found the back of the net 44 times.
  • The teams top line, which consists of Cole Linaker, Justin Kirkland and Tomas Soustal had mixed results on the weekend. Soustal had a point in all three games (2+1=3) while Kirkland had just two points (1+1=2) in the three games. Cole Linaker didn't have a point in all three games. That line has been really good over the last month and will be a massive factor in a long playoff run.
  • Cal Foote had a good weekend. The rookie d-man, who is my pick for rookie of the year, had a goal and four assists in the three games. Foote was also a +2. You have to remember Foote often times leads the team in ice time and is playing against the oppositions best players. That isn't easy but Foote is making it look that way. To put Foote's progression into perspective, the 17 year-old, who isn't draft eligible until next year, has more points (35) than Madison Bowey (30) did at the same age. Do you appreciate him more after I pointed that out?

No comments: