Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Desperate Times = Best of Times

As a means of helping to evaluate any prospect, playoff hockey is one of the very best tools for us to have. You get to watch the prospect placed under the most stressful of times and how they react can be very educational.

Tonight's First Star Chris Doyle

Game 4 of the Prince Edward Island Rocket/Moncton Wildcats series had all the settings for a sweep after the Rocket lost a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime Game 3 Tuesday evening.

The Wildcats had shut the Rocket offense down to 3 total goals in the first 3 games. 2 of those goals came in an 11 second span so other than that the Rocket simply were not able to generate offense until Game 4.

Chris Doyle had been shut down in the first 2 games of the series and while he did not score in Game 3, he generated 7 shots on goal and played a good game. Game 4, Doyle broke though with a goal and an assist as the Rocket stayed alive with a 5-4 win.

Doyle's first goal of the QMJHL playoffs at 6:14 of the 3rd period broke a 3-3 tie and gave the Rocket the lead for good. Doyle then added his first assist of the playoffs on the power play at 10:22 to give the Rocket a 5-3 lead.

Doyle only took 2 shots on goal but he made them count as the first was the goal and the second led to the insurance goal. The Rocket more than likely will not win this series but we saw a side of Chris Doyle that we want to see more of next season for sure.

Second Star Tomas Kundratek

It has been a while since we had a reason to praise the young defender from the Czech Republic. Tomas Kundratek was the 2nd of the Ranger's 2008 3rd round picks and he took a very active role as his Medicine Hat Tigers defeated the Swift Current Broncos 5-3 to tie their WHL series at 2-2.

In both Tiger wins during this series, Kundratek played an active role at both ends of the ice. Taking shots, making plays and just out and out in the game.

Kundratek did not score but we will point to Kundratek's play in the first period when the Tigers jumped out to a 3-1 lead and never looked back. Kundratek was a +2, 2 hits and took a 2 minute minor for roughing.

In both Tiger wins, Kundratek was playing an active game at both ends of the ice. It is what we have been wanting to see out of Kundratek especially since the coaching change to John Tortorella.

The Tortorella system needs strong 2 way defenders who can pass as well as come back and defend. Kundratek is the best 2 way Ranger defensive prospect as Del Zotto/Sanguinetti are offensive minded and Dowzak/Sauer are defensive minded defenders.

For the Tigers to win this series against the Swift Current Broncos then this Kundratek has to show up. If Kundratek does not show up then the Tiger season will come to an end.


Tysen Dowzak and his Kelowna Rockets are heading to the second round of the WHL playoffs after sweeping out arch rival the Kamloops Blazers thanks to a 5-3 win Wednesday evening. Dowzak was scoreless but a +1 as well as a minor for roughing.

Like Kundratek when Dowzak is playing an active game then his efforts do more to help his team win. Dowzak's play allows the Rocket offensive minded defenders to take the game to the other team.

Now Dowzak and the Rockets get to wait for the winner of the Spokane/Seattle series (Spokane leads 3-1). That series should be a very good one since Spokane is the defending Memorial Cup Champion.

Mitch Gaulton and his Erie Otters looked bad during their first 2 games against Michael Del Zotto and the London Knights. Losing the first 2 games of the series by a combined 13-3, the Otters looked as if this would be a short series especially after losing their leading defenseman Paul Cianfrini for the rest of the playoffs.

This was Erie's first home playoff game since 2005 and they made the most of it shutting out the Knights 4-0 to cut the Knight's lead in the series to 2-1. The Knights let their emotions get the better of them including Del Zotto who took a boarding penalty and was a -2 for this game.

Gaulton now is being asked to play a more important role for the Otters with the injury to Cianfrini and the first thing he did well was to stay out of the penalty box. Gaulton now needs to be a leader for the Otters and this is his chance to get back in the good graces of coach Robbie Ftorek.

As for Del Zotto, he played an undisciplined game and as we said earlier about the need for Kundratek and Dowzak to be active, Del Zotto needs to focus on staying on the attack. The Otters took advantage of undisciplined play and this series is now interesting.

Game 4 of what is now a bitter series will be on Thursday.

(Chris Doyle courtesy of the Prince Edward Island Rocket, Tomas Kundratek courtesy of Tim Swanky/Medicine Hat)

No comments: