Thursday, March 31, 2011

Not For the Faint Of Heart

Of all the playoffs series involving New York Ranger or New York Islander prospects, it is safe to say that the Chilliwack/Spokane series is not for those with ulcers or weak hearts. Despite being dominated in every area of the game, Roman Horak's (NYR 2009 5th) Chilliwack Bruins to their credit have not waved the white flag and are giving Spokane a fight.

Just like last night, the Bruins dug themselves a 3-0 hole but unlike last night this time they fell short falling to the Chiefs 4-2 and trail in their series 3-1. In many ways we can see the Rangers in this Bruin team as it is frustrating to watch a team repeatedly dig a hole before starting to play well.

In tonight's game, the 3-0 lead was after 1 period and the Bruins did not wait until the 3rd period before attempting their comeback. After 2 periods, the Bruins despite being outshot 30-16 were still in this game.

Roman Horak scored his first goal of the playoffs at 3:06 of the 3rd period to bring the Bruins to within 1 at 3-2. Sadly though despite chance and chance the Bruins just could not get the puck on the net as the Bruins beside the Horak goal was only able to get 1 other shot on goal.

How a team can attempt so many shots towards a goal and not get them through is just amazing. The Bruins hit the side of the net, they hit the back of the net but it was not like Spokane was doing anything special as nothing got through to the Spokane goal.

Now the Bruin season is down to "win or go home" starting with Game 5 on Saturday night. With reports that the Bruins have been sold and going to be relocated to Victoria then it also might mean more than the end of a season.

Staying in Washington, Nino Niederreiter (NYI 2010 1st) and his Portland Winterhawks are advancing to the second round after eliminating the Everett Silvertips with a 6-2 win that gives the Winterhawks a 4-0 series sweep. Niederreiter had a primary and secondary assist in the win to improve to 3-6-9 which is good for 3rd overall in WHL playoff scoring.

Once again Niederreiter made his points count as his primary assist broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Winterhawks a lead that they let go of. If you want to say anything about Portland it is that they have a great killer instinct.

When the Winterhawks get a lead they do not let up and keep the pressure on the other team until they throw in the towel. For Everett that moment came at 16:57 of the 2nd period when Portland scored their 6th goal of the game on a play started by Niederreiter who got the secondary assist.

Barring a miracle the Winterhawks should be taking on the Kelowna Rockets in the 2nd round while the Spokane Chiefs will go at it with Tri-City.

In the WHL's Eastern Conference, David Toews (NYI 2008 4th) and his Brandon Wheat Kings had a chance to push the Medicine Hat Tigers to the brink of elimination in game 4 of their series. Brandon had a 3-0 lead after 13 minutes of the first period when they committed the fatal flaw of not finishing Medicine Hat when they had them down.

Instead Medicine Hat cut the lead to 4-2 before the end of the 1st period and then out played Brandon in the 2nd and 3rd periods scoring 3 goals in the 3rd period to win 5-4. So instead of heading to Medicine Hat with a 3-1 series lead, Brandon has given back the home ice advantage to the Tigers.

Game 5 is Saturday night in Medicine Hat. Toews had an assist on Brandon's 3rd goal for his 5th point of the series but he was also a -2 in the game.

Jason Wilson (NYR 2010 5th) and his Niagara IceDogs are getting to sit back and wait for the winner of the Oshawa Generals/Kingston Frontenacs series after they completed the sweep of the Brampton Battalion knocking them out 4-1. Kudos to the IceDoges for the outstanding defensive performance they put on as they held the Battalion to just 3 goals for the entire 4 games.

With Marc Staal's old team the Sudbury Wolves providing the playoff shocker in eliminating the 2nd seed Ottawa 67s in 4 games let us send a shout out to former Ranger defenseman Jeff Beukeboom who is an assistant coach with the Wolves. Congrats to the Beuk as yes we freely admit that Beukeboom has always been a favorite of ours.

If it was up to us Jeff Beukeboom would be working in Hartford coaching the young baby Ranger defenders. The bad news though for Beukeboom and his Wolves is they have to take on the Mississauga St. Michaels Majors in the 2nd round.

We have been watching the Owen Sound Attack/London Knights series with a curiosity as to see if Scott Stajcer (NYR 2009 5th) will return to play after being out since November with a hip injury. To be honest we were thinking that Owen Sound was using the hint of a Stajcer return as a decoy to mess with London.

Really if you want to see some serious gamesmanship between 2 franchises then the soap opera going on here is really good. The Knights are run by the Hunters as in Dale Hunter (yes the one who once was suspending 21 games for a cheap shot) and seriously the verbal warfare going on here is worth watching.

Before the series, the Hunters were accusing Attack stay Joey Hishon of being a diver; the Hunters have been telling anyone who will listen how the Attack do this or that. To say that their rantings worked would be an understatement as London wound up with 14 power plays in game 4 of their series to Owen Sound's 5.

London won the game 5-2 to even the series at 2-2 which prompted Attack coach Mark Reed to become as unglued about some of the calls as we have ever seen a coach. Reeds is going to be sending a check to the OHL offices after he did what John Tortorella could not do after the Islander game and that is rip the refs (as well as the OHL).

And the reason we side with Reeds is because some of the calls against the Attack were so bad that even the London media called some of the calls "headscratchers"

But now we have a bigger interest as the Attack goaltending has been suspect so if Stajcer is ready to go then Reeds has a window open to stick him in goal. Risky to do yes but this series has been more about gamesmanship more than hockey.

Chapter 5 is on Saturday.

(Images: Horak/Chilliwack Bruins, Niederreiter/Portland Winterhawks)

No comments: