Friday, May 8, 2009

Is it Sliding Away?

We really do hate those corny saying like "the hardest game to win in a series is the 4th one" but after watching the Calgary Hitmen blitz Tysen Dowzak's Kelowna Rockets 6-1; it is something that even we have to wonder about. This game was over just about from the opening puck drop as the Rockets really were missing their leading playoff scorer Jamie Benn who missed his 2nd straight game with an undisclosed injury.

It is doubtful that even with Benn in the lineup that he would have made a difference as the Hitmen in the last 2 games showed why they were the best team during the WHL regular season. They did everything almost to perfection including in our eyes defeating the Rockets in the mind games department as they goaded the Rockets into taking bad penalty as well as make bad play over and over.

Good teams will do that to you as Calgary controled the tempo from opening faceoff and dominating the first period. The Hitmen only scored one goal but that is only because Rocket goalie (and our WHL playoff MVP) Mark Guggenberger kept the score close.

In the second the firepower of the Hitmen blew open the game as they scored 3 times while netting 20 shots on goal to take a 4-1 lead. The Rockets played scared and it cost them as the talent level of the Hitmen in our eyes intimidated them.

Kelowna has forgotten what got them the original 3-0 series lead as they gave the Hitmen 9 power plays while surrendering 2 power play goals. Despite the 4-1 score this game was over and we have to question why Rocket's coach Ryan Huska did not pull Guggenberger if not for any other reason to give him some rest after facing 35 shots on Wednesday and eventually a total of 50 on Thursday.

That is how you get your players hurts and in this case we think Huska should have let Guggenberger get some rest in the 3rd period. The 3rd period was more about who could run who the most and we hate to say this but Kelowna looked more about trying to run Keith Seabrook then trying to fix the things that had broken down.

The key to the Rocket's playoff success has been their special team especially their penalty kill. In 3 wins the Rockets shut out the Hitmen, in 2 losses the Rockets have given up 5 goals in 14 chances.

The vaunted Big Bang Hockey has turned into Quiet Whimper and unless the Rockets remember how they got to 3-0 then odds are very good that Game 6 will lead to a Game 7 and quite possibly one very large meltdown by the Rockets.

You will notice that we have not said a word about Tysen Dowzak and sadly that is because there was not much we could say as just like his teammates, Dowzak took steps backwards in this game. A shame too because Dowzak had raised his stock big time.

So now the question in everyone's mind is have the Rockets reached the end of their path and are just going to roll over? Can the Rockets get back to playing the Big Bang Hockey where they took the game to everyone, they stay out of the penalty box and their own big guns of Almond, Backlund and (if he can play) Benn put up the offense?

We find out Saturday night in Kelwona.


So now we have the typical gamesmanship in the OHL final as nobody is saying whether or not Evgeny Grachev will be able to play in Game 5 on Friday evening against the Windsor Spitfires. Between Grachev's "flu" and goalie Thomas McCollum's "lower body injury" the Brampton Battalion on the surface appear to be ready to raise the white flag.

We would buy that if we were not such a fan of Stan Butler the Brampton coach as we know that Grachev will not play unless he is in a coma or about to give birth to an elephant. We expect in the biggest game of the Brampton season that Grachev will be in the lineup.

How effective he will be is another story but a 50% Grachev is still better than his subs, the key blow might be if the Battalion do not have McCollum in the lineup as his back up Patrick Killeen would be making his first post season start.

In any event we know that Brampton is going to come after Windsor and not just hand them the OHL crown.

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