Thursday, March 1, 2018

A little concerning, or a lot?

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Am I the only one slightly concerned with back-to-back losses to the Prince George Cougars this week? After being outworked Tuesday in a 4-1 loss, the team played marginally better a night later but ended up losing 7-6. The game winning goal came on a Cougars power play with 18 seconds left on the clock. The winner was surrendered against a team who's power play is the laughing stock of the Western Hockey League with the worst success rate of any of the 22 teams. The Cougars were chuckling and jumping for joy Wednesday night, handing the Rockets their 20th loss of the season and beating their BC Division opponent in successive games. The Rockets ended the month of February with a 6-6-1-1 record in 14 games.
  • When it rains it pours and the Rockets need an umbrella to keep dry as they attempt to secure first place in the BC Division. In the last five wins, all five have been decided by a single goal. Too close for comfort against teams that are either out of the playoffs as of today, or are holding on by the hair on their chinny, chin-chin. Stumbling down the stretch is not a good sign for a team who isn't only playing for a banner, but needs to feel good about themselves heading into a collision course with the Tri City Americans in the opening round of the playoffs. I would like to come on this blog and suggest that losing close games to inferior competition in the last month and surrendering significant leads is no a big deal, but I can't. 'Look here everybody, it's all rainbows and unicorns'! No it's not from my perspective, but I am a realist and I want the coaches, players and organization to succeed. Right now they aren't and are playing below face value. I've often been asked how much longer will I call games on the radio for the Rockets? My consistent reply is, 'when the losses don't matter, I'm done'. They still matter to me. The harsh reality is, if the Rockets were competing in the Indy 500 right now, the caution flag would clearly be out.
  • After being outworked Tuesday night by a Prince George Cougars team that has really nothing to play for but pride, it was a significantly better effort in the rematch but the inability to keep the puck out of the net is concerning. The team has surrendered 25 goals in the last 5 games. Some shots are beating the goalie cleanly, or in some instances, a puck is going off a Rockets defender and finding the back of the net. Wednesday's game winner was scored with 18 seconds remaining in the game when leading scorer Kole Lind was assessed a four minute penalty for high sticking. The smallest man on the ice, 5'6 forward Iljah Colin (Elijah (different spelling) in biblical terms means 'miracle worker') scored the game winner as the Cougars won not once, but twice against a team that was 34 points ahead of them heading into two games at CN Centre. Too bad nobody in Prince George was there to watch it go down from the home teams perspective. In the Rockets case, maybe it was a good thing the attendance was so low as worst beat first on back-to-back nights.
  • Kole Lind had a four point night (3+1=4) and was named the first star. Lind's natural hat-trick came in the opening 16 minutes. It was Lind's third-three goal game of the season as he found the back of the net with his 33rd, 34th and 35th of the season. Lind likely had more jump in his step as he celebrated quietly the entry deal he signed with the Vancouver Canucks. The deal was made official today.
  • With Carson Twarynski with 38 goals and Lind with 35, when was the last time the Rockets had two 40 goals scorers? It is hard to believe, but you have to go way back to the 1997-98 season when Jason Deleurme had 52 goals and Brett McLean scored 42 times.  
  • How tough is it for the Rockets lately? Carrying a 4-3 lead into the third period, the Cougars scored four of the third period's 6 goals and handed the Rockets only their second loss in 31 games when holding the lead after 40 minutes. Typically the Rockets can nail down the game, but the third period has turned into their worst defensively, having allowed 80 third period goals against. Only Prince George has allowed more third period goals in the Western Conference.
  • The Rockets have allowed the third most goals against in the Western Conference (229), 23 more than they did a season ago with Michael Herringer having what some would suggest was an average season. Defense wins championships, or so I'm told. That said, I have seen the team win 5 of them, all with superior talent offensively outside of 2004, when the team won the ultimate prize, the Memorial Cup.
  • Connor Bruggen-Cate and Leif Mattson continue to impress. Bruggen-Cate has 15 more goals than a season ago and with two goals in his last three games, the soft spoken forward has 18 on the season. What I like most about Bruggen-Cate's play is his increased confidence with the puck in the offensive zone and his propensity to shoot the puck. Eight times this season, Bruggen-Cate has had 4 or more shots on goal. The Langley, BC resident tied a season high with 6 shots on net in Wednesday's loss. Bruggen-Cate and Mattson have combined for 93 points this season. Gentleman, take a bow.
  • Are the Rockets taking lesser opponents lightly? It sure looks like it. Two losses to Prince George (4-1, 7-6), a 6-5 victory over the Cougars a week  ago and a 3-2 shootout loss to the dead last Edmonton Oil Kings back on February 17th have me coming to that conclusion. So if that indeed is the case, which honestly I hope it is, let's see what happens Friday against the Western Conference leading Everett Silvertips. A win won't be my deciding factor on whether I can relax with the team having won just 5 of it's last 11 games (5-4-1-1). What I wanted to see against the Tips is compete. High level compete. I want to see the Rockets match the work ethic of a Tips team that is far better than just the services of it's elite goalie Carter Hart. If they can do that, my faith is restored. If they serve up a similar effort the last time these two teams met, February 3rd in a Tips 8-2 win, I'm going to look at the panic button and hold back the temptation to push it.
  • Quick hitters. 1) As bad as the attendance was in Prince George this week, the Cougars organization continues to pull out all the stops. They truly do a terrific job when it comes to on-ice presentation. I wish for them the glory years of the 90's with big crowds on a consistent basis. 2) Cougars GM Todd Harkins is one of my favourites. He is an honest dude who has really work hard to bring success to the franchise. Under his watch is a BC Division banner and a stockpile of high draft picks after his successful work at the trade deadline. Harkins is a smart hockey man. I hope Cougars ownership realize his value. 3) Jared Bethune's work ethic was dynamite in the two games. An overager that could mail in the final few games of his WHL career, the Cougars leading scorer works his *** off. Tip of the cap to him. 4) Whoever makes the popcorn at CN Centre, keep up the good work. Oh ya, I was digging in prior to both games. What is the key to partaking in the popcorn in PG? A scoop, which does not allow the user to put his or her hands in the bowl. If I see someone's hands involved in putting the popcorn from bowl into a container, as a germophobe, I'm out! 5) After a tremendous interview with Nick Drazenovic, I have a greater appreciation for the skills development coach. I think he would be a great hire as an assistant in the not so distant future. What a valuable resource he is to the younger players within that Cougars organization.    


Unknown said...

Regan it seems right now the Rockets have goal-tending issues and the team is not playing confident, smart hockey as a result. It looks to me like quite a few of those 25 goals were ones that should have been saved. What do you think ? Certainly the future of the net position looks good, but currently I don't see the goalie winning any games for them.

Regan Bartel said...

I often thought Jackson Whistle and Michael Herringer, as a first year starter, often raised their level of play to steal games for the team. What I'd like to see is timely saves from the goalies. Nothing more, nothing less.