Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Message received loud and clear

Tuesday night playoff hockey was definitely good for most of the New York Ranger prospects and not so good if you're a New York Islander prospect. But while the night was a winning one for most of the Ranger prospects, some of their wins were downright ugly.

Monday Plymouth Whaler's coach Mike Vellucci publicly called out his team after they had dropped the first 2 games of their playoffs series against the Guelph Storm. Hard to blame the coach when you worked all year to earn the number 2 seed only to have a 7 seed outwork you, outplay you, and steal home ice advantage from you.

Tuesday night, the Whalers showed that they had gotten their coach's message quite well after they whipped the Storm 7-1 to win game 3 and cut the Storm's series lead to 2-1. JT Miller (NYR 2011 1st) didn't play a perfect game but he was strong enough to help the Whalers win.

Miller had a primary as well as a secondary assist on Plymouth's last two goals of the game (both coming on the power play) with the first assist being a very smooth set up in the crease area. But Miller also took two penalties during Whaler power plays that take away from his efforts in this game.

While neither penalty cost the Whalers any goals, they are the worst kind of penalties to be taking especially while on your own power play (Whalers went 5 for 8). Miller's two assists give him a 1-2-3 mark after three playoff games,

On the Guelph side of the ledger, Islander prospect Andrey Pedan (2011 3rd) was the most part held in check by the Whalers but Pedan did earn an assist on the Storm's only goal for his 4th point of the playoffs (1-3-4).

Game 4 takes place on Thursday in Guelph.

What the Whalers avoided is what is happening to the Victoriaville Tigre as the 4th seed in the QMJHL playoffs finds themselves in a huge 0-3 hole to Samuel Noreau (NYR 2011 5th) and his 13th seeded Baie-Comeau Drakkar after dropping game 3 by a score of 8-2. This one wasn't even close as the Drakkar jumped out to a 3-1 lead after the first period and then doubled it after two periods.

This without a doubt is the biggest shocker in any of the three Canadian Junior leagues as the Drakkar were a team in trouble at the end of the QMJHL regular season. Their coach gets fired with three games remaining and the team in a six-game losing streak yet somehow they have turn things around and are about to knock off the fourth seed.

Noreau has not scored but he is playing within himself and not trying to overdo anything but he is taking the body and playing decent enough defense that is allowing the Drakkar to keep their top pair defender's rested. Of course we are realistic enough to know that the hardest game to win in a series is always the 4th game but given the way the Tigre play so badly on Tuesday; a 4 game sweep is very possible.

(update serious stick tap to Neate Sager of Buzzing the Net for posting this. The Tigre attempting some gamesmanship before losing Game 3)

Remaining in the QMJHL, Kirill Kabanov (NYI 2010 3rd) and his Shawinigan Cataractes really did just enough to defeat the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 3-2 to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their series. If you break the game down then the Cataractes scored two goals 20 seconds apart in the first period, added a third in the second and then hung on for the win in the third.

Kabanov had a secondary assist for his third point of the series on three shots but he took a penalty that wiped out a Cataractes power-play but like we said the Cataractes did just enough to earn the win and that's what matters.

Moving out west to the WHL, in Regina the Moose Jaw Warriors were able to regain home ice advantage after taking game 3 from the Regina Pats 5-3. The Warriors jumped out with 5 straight goals in the first period then held off the Pats the rest of the way.

Give Regina a lot of credit as they are giving Moose Jaw fits during this series and if we are Moose Jaw we be trying our very best to get rid of these guys as soon as possible. The longer Regina thinks they can win this series the harder it is getting for the Warriors.

Dylan McIlrath (NYR 2010 1st) with the exception of a double roughing minor at the end of the game has stayed out of the penalty box and Moose Jaw needs that. McIlrath also had a secondary assist on what turned out to be the game-winning goal for the Warriors for his 2nd point of the playoffs.

As much as we want to see Moose Jaw advance; at the same time we have to admit a bit of guilty pleasure seeing two archrivals going at it like this. If we were Mike Stothers the coach of Moose Jaw then we would be telling our team to play game 4 Wednesday evening as if it was a game 7.

The last thing 2nd-seeded Moose Jaw needs or wants is for the 7th-seeded Pats to turn this into a best-of-three series because Regina has already shown that they can beat Moose Jaw in Moose Jaw.

In Kelowna, Shane McColgan (NYR 2011 5th) and his Kelowna Rockets find themselves down 0-3 after a 6-3 loss to the Portland Winterhawks. The game was much closer than the score indicates but Kelowna simply is no match for Portland with the talent that Portland has on their roster.

Between Ty Rattie and Sven Bartschi with their combined for 8-10-18 in just 3 games, the Rockets simply have no way of stopping this duo. Kelowna also is missing their leading goal scorer Brett Bulmer who got himself suspended after 3 separate "kneeing" penalties he took in game 2.

And give Portland's defense a lot of credit too as they have kept Shane McColgan off the scoreboard other than a couple of assists. McColgan isn't being ineffective but rather Portland is just not giving him any room at all to even breathe.

We would be shocked if Kelowna finds a way to extend the series past a 4th game on Thursday night. Unless Portland just gives away the game we just don't see how Kelowna can even win to avoid being swept.

The BCHL opened up their conference finals with Steven Fogarty (NYR 2011 3rd) and his Penticton Vees hosting the Merritt Centennials and not being nice hosts. Penticton shutout Merritt 5-0 behind a 4 goal 2nd period to take a a 1-0 series lead.

Fogarty as he really has been during the BCHL playoffs rather quiet which is disappointing for us to see but at the same time he has not play badly. The best way to describe his current play would be kind of like Brandon Dubinsky this season.

Defensively there are no complaints about Fogarty's play but we wish he would be more active on the offensive end. Game 2 will be Wednesday evening in Penticton.

Playoff notes

Spokane will be without the services of defensemen Brendan Kichton (NYI 2011 5th) for the rest of the playoffs season after Kichton underwent surgery on a broken jaw which he suffered during game one of Spokane series against Vancouver.

It is a huge blow for Spokane to lose their leading scorer but they were able to manage win in game three on Tuesday evening. Kichton finishes the season as the Islander's leading scorer at 17-57-74 and offers a promising future for the Islander defensive corps.

Now that is North Dakota Fighting Sioux had been eliminated in the NCAAs, the rumors are starting about Brock Nelson (NYI 2010 1st) possibly forgoing his Junior season and signing with the New York Islanders. Sorry North Dakota fans but this is how we see it for Nelson, make the move to the Islanders if you believe with 100% certainty that you will play for the Islanders.

Nelson would be better off returning to North Dakota for another season rather than spending it in the AHL. We say that because of the dollar difference as Nelson would lose almost $1 million in salary and bonus money if he played in the AHL.

We would say to him to get a nice insurance policy, spend another year at North Dakota then leave for Long Island when you know you're going to go directly to the NHL. It's not worth your time or effort for 62,500 (basic rookie AHL salary).

Nelson in our eyes is just on the borderline of being an NHL player tomorrow. if he's worried about the labor uncertainty facing the NHL then again staying in school would be the best idea until you know for sure that there will be an NHL season.

(Miller - Plymouth Whalers, Noreau - Baie-Comeau Drakkar)

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