Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Major Ice Melt

So the jokes have already begun now that the 2011 Memorial Cup final has been set. The host Mississauga St. Michaels Majors will meet the champions of the QMJHL, the Saint John Sea Dogs.

If you are looking for flashy pretty hockey on Sunday then you might be in for a big disappointment as the Majors are at their best when they make you look your worst. The ghosts of the New Jersey Devils have found a home in Mississauga.

Yes it is the ugly defensive minded hockey that gives TV executives nightmares and no team when they are on does it any better than the Majors. If it is ugly, if it is frustrating and if it makes you reach for the No-Doze then the Majors are playing their game.

If there was any game that Major's captain and New Islander prospect Casey Cizikas was meant to play then it is this one. For Cizikas who has seen first gold and then an OHL championship elude him, this is his last real chance to win a championship.

And in both losses that Cizikas has had to endure were because the Majors did not play their usual defensive game. Sunday we will not be at all surprised if Cizikas earns himself a star because we know he has to stop the Saint John offense.

We are huge Cizikas fans because nothing makes us happier than a blue collar guy who shows up with his lunch box and sets up shop in your face. The best games we saw him play all year were the ones when he did not score but boy did he kick some serious butt on defense. 

No Islander prospect showed the kind of work ethic like we saw out of Cizikas this past season. It was a year where Cizikas came together as a solid 2 way prospect and we have to wonder if not for a late season injury he would have held on to his lead as the top Islander prospect scorer.

The scoring is secondary but it will help Cizikas earn a place on the Islanders sooner than later. Too often the prospect "experts" put way too much on how many goals and assists a player has.

No what should define a prospect is how hard he is willing to give up of his own game in order to win. Yes scoring is a key part of the game but in a one game "winner takes all" then shutting down the other team's best offensive weapons is going to be your difference maker.

Look at the Game 7 played by Boston and Tampa Bay as it was one mistake on defense that was the difference between who is heading to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Bruins shut down the Tampa Bay's offense especially in the late stages of the 3rd period.

Heck Tampa could not even get into the Boston defensive zone in the last minute to generate any real scoring chances. That is why come Sunday that the player to watch is going to be number 11 of the Majors Casey Cizikas.

If there was one play that ever defined a prospect then it has to be this one from the World Under-20 Championships. It has to be one of the best efforts killing a penalty from a prospect we have seen at any time.

Go ahead and time how long Cizikas on this play dominated the penalty kill against the Russians because if he plays like this on Sunday then it will be happy ending for the host team.

That is the kind of work ethic that Cizikas brings every night and the game against Kootenay on Friday was no different. Cizikas when he is out killing penalties has to be the most dangerous player on the ice.

In the 3rd period with his Majors hanging on to a 2-1 lead against the Kootenay Ice, Cizikas as he seems to do in every game created a shorthanded scoring chance. This one though would have gone in if not for Kootenay goalie Nathan Lieuwen making a sprawling great play of his own.

The Majors have come back from a heartbreaking Game 7 loss in the OHL finals and a opening night loss to Saint John to win 3 straight games. The team that most expected to be in the Memorial Cup finals has shown up and that is bad news for Saint John.

The wake up call had to have been their opening loss to the same Saint John team they are facing on Sunday. In that loss the difference was a bad Major's penalty kill (3 for 8) but since then the Majors have killed 12 out of the 14 power plays they have faced.

Neate Sager over at Buzzing The Net has been grading each game for it's entertainment value. A Major game is always going to be ugly whether it is a win or loss as it is the nature of their system and the lower the grade the better the odds of a Major's win.

Last Sunday we both agreed that the Major's was a snoozer as Sager graded the game as a "C-" so it was not a surprise when Friday's win over the Ice was graded as a "C". And for the Majors to win then the game will most likely be another in the "C" grade area.

"C" as in Casey Cizikas we bet.

(Cizikas courtesy of Aaron Bell-OHL Images)


Kmp said...

Was hoping Kootenay pulled a Windsor.

Jess Rubenstein said...

No not me because I disliked how the Ice played their game. McNabb will be the captain of the Canadian diving team at the 2012 Olympics.

Nothing stinks more than seeing a very talent team (which the Ice were) have to resort to cheap tactics and dirty hits.

They were very talented and did not need to do those things