Sunday, April 24, 2016

Chartier line doing heavy lifting

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • The 'Hockey God's' giveth. The 'Hockey God's' taketh away. The Kelowna Rockets found that out Saturday night in a heartbreaking loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds in game two of the Western Conference final. After stunning the Victoria Royals in a game seven improbable win, the defending WHL champions left Prospera Place with a similar feeling after a 3-2 setback. As fate would have it, goaltender Michael Herringer attempted to play a puck on his backhand at the side of the net in an effort to move it to the corner. With a slight hesitation, the puck would go off a hard charging Thunderbirds forecheck Scott Eansor and into the empty net. The goal came with just over three minutes left in regulation time and gave the T-Birds a one goal lead. It would stand up as the game winner. The miscue happened in a period where the Rockets were clearly the better team. They were carrying the play. You could sense the next goal was coming from the stick of the home team, igniting a crowd of over 6 thousand. Not as fast!
  • Clearly, game two was the best effort by the Rockets in the series. The team was able to battle back from a 2-0 deficit with goals from veterans Cole Linaker and Rourke Chartier. More on Chartier later. Despite surrendering the opening goal for a second consecutive game and giving up a second goal less than a minute later, the Rockets pushed the pace. The team had significantly more o-zone time than in game one and were equally as physical. Honestly, I thought they were smarter physically. The hit that Rourke Chartier applied on Ryan Gropp was outstanding. Both players fell to the ice but it showed Chartier's commitment to winning. Is that hit in itself not inspirational to his team-mates? Wow. 
  • Again Scott Eansor was the best forward on the ice with Rourke Chartier a darn close second. Why are these two players so noticeable? It's easy. They both work hard on every shift. Those two players have no give up in their game. Eansor is like an eight year old kid on Red Bull and buzzes everywhere. Chartier has the lung capacity of a long distance runner and never relents. Mathew Barzal will get much of the media attention, for which much is deserved, considering he is an elite talent. That said, Eansor and Chartier, for my money, have been the two most consistent forwards for either team throughout 120 minutes of this Western Conference final.
  • Where is this series being won or lost? With the Chartier line going against the Mathew Barzal unit, no excuses can being given for the Kirkland/Baillie/Dube trio. They are finding themselves playing against Scott Eansor, Donovan Volcan and Donovan Neuls. Is that T-Birds unit outperforming Kirkland/Baillie/Dube? Let's look deeper. Eansor/Neuls/Volcan have 3 goals and 3 assists in this series. Kirkland/Baillie and Dube have combined for 1 assist. During the regular season, Eansor/Neuls/Volcan combined to score 42 goals. Kirkland/Baillie/Dube found the back of the net 100 times. See a problem here? 
  • Let's don't forget what Chartier and his line is attempting to accomplish in this series. They are attempting to keep Barzal and his unit in check. They have done a great job. Sure, Barzal has two goals in this series, but both have come on the power play with terrific seeing eye wrist shots. Chartier is committing to playing defense while also contributing on the score sheet at the other end of the ice. How about his 2-2 goal in the second period? What an unbelievable pass by team-mate Tomas Soustal and what a terrific finish by Chartier.      
  • Despite Herringer's miscue for the game winner, lets not forget the right pad save he made on Matthew Wedman in the second period to keep the score 2-1. I have great faith in Herringer and my sense is his team-mates share the same mindset. The good news is Herringer has experienced what it is like to surrender a goal that could be crippling mentally and has been able to bounce back. Why would it be any different now? Showing mental fortitude is the making of a great goaltender, not a good one. 
  • The Rockets have had a shot go off Cal Foote in game one that results in a goal. Herringer has a puck go off Scott Eansor in game two. Isn't it time for a favourable bounce to go there way? Victoria Royals fans will shout out - NOPE! T-Birds fans will nod their head in agreement. 
  • I think we need to give some praise to the young Rockets d-core, who continue to improve and execute. Pressured beyond belief in a second round series with Victoria, this unit has made some smart plays with the puck and have played awfully good in their own end of the ice. Don't forget the T-Birds have two 20 year-old's on the blue line. The Rockets don't have any. This group is making huge strides in this lengthy playoff and will be a group that other teams say, 'Wow', in years to come.  
  • A nice response from Kole Lind in game two. While I didn't like his penalty, I did like his contribution when pencilled in with Chartier and Soustal. 
  • I think Tanner Wishnowski is putting in some solid minutes. Despite limited ice time, Wishnowski is hitting people and buzzing around the T-Bird net.  
  • Discipline. Discipline. Discipline.  It has to be better. It reared its ugly head again in game two. Calvin Thurkauf's cross check. Kole Lind's slash and Tyson Baillie's high sticking penalty can't happen. I am sorry, but it can't. Self control is paramount at this time of the year. This isn't game #33 in Prince George. I didn't like any of the three penalties. Suck it up and play smart.  
  • I would sure like to see how the game would unfold if the Rockets opened the scoring or played with the lead. We have yet to see that in the first two games with Mathew Barzal opening up the scoring. But again, both of those goals have been on the power play. Show discipline early and force the T-Birds to generate a goal even strength.   
  • The Rockets were down 0-2 in a second round playoff series to Victoria and bounced back winning three in a row. 
  • The Rockets lost a heart breaker in game two of an opening round series against Kamloops when Ryan Rehill scored with 5 seconds left in regulation time. The team bounced back in game three, in Kamlooops, winning 1-0. 
  • The Rockets are 2 and 0 in game three's in this years playoffs. 
  • In the 2005 playoff series between the Rockets and T-Birds, the road team won the first two games before the Rockets won the next two. Both wins for Seattle at Prospera Place were 2-1 and 3-2. That is the exact same scores in 2005. Crazy eh? The Rockets would win that series in seven games. 
  • The Rockets played the game without captain Rodney Southam who was suspended for a hit on T-Birds forward Cavin Leth in game one. No word on the length of the suspension. We should get word Monday on the length. 

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