Saturday, March 5, 2016

Lots of shots. Few goals.

Sometimes the shot clock doesn't tell the entire story
  • The Kelowna Rockets dominated puck possession. Territorial play was clearly on their side. The shot clock heavily favoured the visitors. The only result that really mattered at the end of the night though was the score-clock at Sandman Centre. It read, Blazers 3 Rockets 2. Connor Ingram was steady in the Blazers net making 53 saves in the one goal win. While the shot total looked impressive for the Rockets at games end, how many were from the outside? How many were shots from the blue line that forwards, the strength of this group, were unwilling to gather up for rebounds? You often hear goalies comment to the media after a game about a heavy workload by responding, “my team-mates did a great job of keeping the shots to the outside”. If Ingram used those exact words in a post-game media scrum, the 18 year-old would be right on the money. It will probably be Ingram’s easiest 53 save performance of his WHL career.
  • I have no data to back up my claim, but I think it's safe to suggest the d-core delivered more pucks on net then we have seen in any game this season. 
  • The Blazers start was impressive. It was the best part of the game for them outside of the score at the final buzzer. With a 6-1 shot advantage, Jermaine Loewen scored on an innocent wrist shot that beat Rockets goalie Michael Herringer to the block side. The Blazers were rewarded with the peppy start. The tide quickly turned though, with the Rockets out-shooting the home team 15-1 the rest of the way. The opening period ended 1-0 Blazers. Tomas Soustal would tie the score less than 90 seconds into the second and it was game on. The Blazers regained the one goal advantage less than four minutes later before rookie Garrett Pilon, who has scored at will against the Rockets this season, gave Kamloops a two goal cushion heading into the third period.
  • The Rockets elected to pull starter Michael Herringer and insert Brodan Salmond to start the third. The change was made to send a message to the 20 year-old goaltender that he needs to be better. Herringer is usually at his best when he has a lot of work, but needs to show he can be relied on when the shots are few and far between.
  • The hit. Rockets defenceman Joe Gatenby teed off on Blazers forward Jake Kryski with a massive hit at centre ice about 8 minutes into the second period. Blazers d-man Ryan Rehill made a five foot pass to an awaiting Kryski and Gatenby closed in on the unsuspecting forward and laid the boom. No penalty was called on the play. Kryski, surprisingly, returned for a shift or two before finally leaving the game. 
  • In looking at video of the hit, Gatenby didn’t leave his skates/feet before contact was made, but I have no dispute over the fact that Kryski’s head was the initial point of contact. Could Gatenby have avoided the head? In my opinion, no. Kryski was slightly bent over, in a typical skater’s posture, and was looking back when the pass was delivered by Rehill. The only way head contact could have been avoided is if Gatenby doesn’t step up on Kryski at all. You see many hits where the head is clearly targeted in a malicious manner. That needs to be stopped and the WHL does a pretty good job of policing that ‘dirty’ aspect of the game. If you leave your feet to hit anyone on the ice, head shot or not, it's a cheap hit. End of story. In this instance though, while the first point of contact was the head, it was unavoidable unless Gatenby makes no body contact at all. 
  • If the game is being called to the book in regards to eliminating hits to the head, then why not eliminate fighting all together? No, seriously. What is the first point of contact in a fight? The head. Is contact on an opponents head being initiated in a malicious manner? Uh, ya! The only thing eliminated in two players squaring off in a fight is neither player is in a vulnerable position before the fists start flying.
  • The Rockets are 5-1-0-0 in the seasonal series, yet five of the six have been one goal games. It was the Blazers first win over the Rockets this season. The two teams meet tonight in Kelowna before renewing the rivalry again next Friday in K-Town.
  • The Blazers went back in time by wearing retro Cooperall looking long pants in Friday’s win. I thought it was a great idea and they looked awesome. If people were criticizing the attire, give your head a shake and you are bitching just to bitch. It was trending on Twitter! Mission accomplished. People were talking about it. The only thing that would have added to the experience is if the Rockets also fashioned the same look.
  • Cole Linaker extended his point streak to a personal best 9 games with an assist on Tomas Soustal’s second period goal. Justin Kirkland matched that mark with a third period goal to make the score 3-2. Tyson Baillie was held off the score-sheet, snapping an 8 game point streak.
  • The Rockets now trail the Victoria Royals by three points for first place in the WHL. The Royals were a winner in Vancouver Friday night. The Rockets still have two games in hand. 

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