Tuesday, May 20, 2008

One Game 2 Winners

Well we did not think we were going to get a perfect set of games for the 2008 Memorial Cup and maybe we were spoiled by the first 3 games. Sure Monday's game between the Belleville Bulls and Gatineau Olympiques had some great plays overall but we found ourselves disappointed because the game bordered on some very suspect play.

We understand that these 2 teams were desperate and trying so very badly to avoid being the only team without a loss in this year's Cup with just one game remaining for each team. The loser of this game faces the need for a miracle and some serious help from someone else.

After Monday's game it is the Gatineau Olympiques who need some big time help as they lost to Belleville 6-3. With the loss now the champions of the QMJHL are one game away from being eliminated from title contention.

The Olympiques are the ones who need to first defeat the Spokane Chiefs on Tuesday and then hope that the team that just defeated them the Belleville Bulls defeat the host Kitchener Rangers in regulation on Wednesday.

The biggest winners on Monday were the WHL Champions the Spokane Chiefs who because Belleville won in regulation clinched a spot in Sunday's final no matter what happens against the Olympiques. If we fully understood how they have figured this out we would explain it.

Tuesday Update, ask and we shall receive as Aaron Bell of the CHL was kind enough to break it down for us: It's a bit of a weird quirk, but the first tie breaker between two teams with the same record is their head to head game. The worst Spokane can finish is 2-1 and either Belleville or Kitchener (both 1-1) will finish 2-1. Spokane already beat both of them. So when Gatineau lost last night (0-2) the best they can finish is 1-2 so that clinched first for Spokane.

Thanks to Aaron Bell of the CHL for providing the explanation for us.

As for the way the game went, Belleville jumped out first grabbing a 1-0 lead about mid-way in the first period thanks to Red Wing draft pick Jan Mursak and then followed it up with Florida prospect Shawn Matthias scoring an unassisted shorthanded goal when Gatineau goalie Ryan Mior missed played the puck and Matthias took it away from him to score an easy goal for a 2-0 lead in the first.

Gatineau was able to comeback and tie the game before the first period ended and the two teams traded goals in the second period (with Belleville scoring a second shorthanded goal) to set up a 3rd period where the Bulls took command of the game midway in the 3rd period with 3 late goals to win 6-3.

It was an ugly sloppy game and after what we witnessed in the first 3 games, a huge letdown.
As a whole we did not like the way both teams came very close to being dirty. Overall there were 19 penalties in this game and what we did not like were how 13 were stick fouls.

We are talking about those calls were hooking, high sticking, tripping or slashing and in our eyes that many is unacceptable at this level. Using your stick is how you wind up hurting someone and we do not want to see that happening.

What also stood out was how each team also simply did not play with any real common sense. Rogers Sportsnet pointed out how each team stopped 5 of their own power plays by taking a penalty of their own. That is either desperate hockey or just dumb hockey.

For Gatineau when they try to figure out what went wrong they have to start with going 0 for 7 on their power plays. What helped the Olympiques make it to the Memorial Cup (their power play) has betrayed them so far in the Memorial Cup.

It is sad too because hockey fans have only gotten tiny looks at just how powerful the Olympique offensive machine can really be. As offensive players none of the other teams can make the highlight reel kinds of plays like the Olympiques can.

If one got to see the perfect "thread the needle' pass that Paul Bryon made to teammate Claude Giroux to tie the score up at 3-3. Give teams credit though they have bottled up for the most part Claude Giroux and in many ways by doing so have shut down the Olympiques.

We also have to say how impressed we were with the play of Colorado draft pick Nigel Williams (goal 2 assists) of Belleville as we thought he deserved the game's first star not the second. The 6'4 defenseman was a force all over the ice but his extremely impressive +5 for the night blew us away.

It is going to be interesting to see how Spokane plays against a very desperate Gatineau team on Tuesday. We were in a way looking forward to this matchup when they first announced the schedule as this is a matchup of the best team defense (Spokane) against the best offense (Gatineau).

It is a meaningless game now for Spokane while Gatineau has to win to try to force a wild card game for the right to play in the semi-final. We however expect Spokane to come out playing hard but they might benefit from losing since it would force a wild card game while they will have off until the Sunday final.

It will be interesting to see how hard Spokane plays but even more so how much does Gatineau have left in the tank to try to stay alive. In any event we will be there to see how this drama unfolds.

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