Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Things that make me go hmm
  • This series between the Kelowna Rockets and Seattle Thunderbirds features three first round NHL selections. Nick Merkley (1st round Arizona), Mathew Barzal (1st round Islanders) and Lucas Johansen (1st round Washington) are three marquee players that will make an impression in this series. 
  • Depth isn't a weakness with either team. The T-Birds have played three fewer playoff games than the Rockets, yet have 8 players with three or more goals. The Rockets have 6 players with three or more goals.
  • This series features several WHL 1st round bantam picks. The T-Birds have four regulars that were taken in the opening round. Mathew Barzal, Keegan Kolesar, Ryan Gropp and Jarrett Tyszka are all 1st rounders. The Rockets have Nick Merkley and Dillon Dube along with Reid Gardiner, who was a first round bantam pick of the PA Raiders in 2011, two picks after the T-Birds picked Ryan Gropp at #6.
  • What a great story just turned 17 year-old rookie goaltender Carl Stankowski has been for the T-Birds. Stankowski has played in every playoff game because of an injury to Rylan Toth. The Calgary product is the youngest goalie the Rockets have faced and also the smallest. Stankowski is only 5'9 and 159 pounds. Stankowski is a 2nd round WHL bantam pick, so is highly regarded as a type flight goaltender in his age group. 
  • The Rockets will have to key on several player in this series. Mathew Barzal is the obvious focal point, but 19 year-old Keegan Kolesar has been terrific so far in the playoffs. The Columbus Blue Jackets 3rd rounder had 11 points in a first round series sweep of Tri City and cooled off a bit with 3+3=6 in a four game sweep of Everett in the second round.  In last years Western Conference final, Kolesar had just 1 goal in a 4 game sweep of the Rockets.
  • These two rosters are even when it comes to age. Both teams have three 20 year-old's. That typically is no surprise. That said, both teams have 8-19 year-old's and 5-18 year-old players.
  • Why do I like 19 year-old Kelowna Rockets d-man James Hilsendager so much? It has to do with the fact that he is from Lloydminster......Saskatchewan! Nope, not Lloydminster Alberta. Of course, Lloydminster has the distinction of straddling the Alberta/Saskatchewan border.  
  • Can you name the number of former Rockets participating in the NHL playoffs? Shea Weber (Montreal), Duncan Keith (Chicago), Colton Sissons (Nashville), Vern Fiddler (Nashville), Michael Backlund (Calgary) and Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton) are the 6 Rockets alumni playing in the post season. Fiddler has been out with an upper body injury.
  • Discipline will be needed if the Rockets want to hang tough with the T-Birds. If they let it slip of the rails, like they did a few times against the Winterhawks, they will pay dearly for it. The T-Birds have a post season power play that is running at 37.9%. The Tips are 11 for 29 in back-to-back sweeps over the Americans and Tips. In the seasonal series, the T-Birds scored 6 power play goals on 18 chances for a success rate of 33.3%. The Rockets power play, conversely struggled, running at 8.3% in the four games, scoring once in 12 opportunities. 
  • Ryan Gropp led the T-Birds offensively in the seasonal series with 5+2=7 in four games. Ethan Bear had 2+4=6 while Mathew Barzal had 0+6=6 against the Rockets. 
  • The Seattle Thunderbirds have a Kelowna connection on their roster. Nineteen year-old Anthony Bishop was acquired from the Saskatoon Blades earlier this season. Bishop played his minor hockey at the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy before being listed by the Blades. Bishop was eventually traded to the T-Birds September 17th for goaltender Logan Flodell.  
  • I had to chuckle when a member of the Seattle Thunderbird media did some searching into the Everett Silvertips claim that they were significantly younger heading into their second round playoff series against the T-Birds. Fact was, Everett was slightly older or depending on who was in the line-up, the teams were essentially equal in age. Again, just because the coach says it doesn't necessarily mean that it indeed is true.   

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