Monday, April 29, 2013

Missed Opportunities

Michael St. Croix (Edmonton Oil Kings)
The playoffs no matter what level it is NHL, AHL or the Canadian juniors is a battle of survival where really the biggest key isn't having the most talent but rather how fast you can advance. There is a reason why no team has won the Stanley Cup after playing 4 playoff series of 7 games.

The schedule is brutal and if you have a chance to take a team out then you had better do it or you might not pay right away but you will later. I make this point after the Edmonton Oil Kings let a 3-1 lead lead slip away in game 6 of their WHL Eastern Conference Final and gave the Calgary Hitmen a lifeline that they took full advantage of.

The Hitmen scored 3 unanswered goals to come from behind and defeat the Oil Kings 4-3 in overtime to force a game 7 on Tuesday night. Call it whatever you want but I am pretty sure Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 4th) and T.J. Foster will be having nightmares wondering how they missed on a 2 on 0 as Calgary's goalie Chris Driedger made a stick save that even Henrik Lundqvist would have taken notes on.

That pretty much was the kind of night St. Croix had as he didn't play badly despite being held to just a secondary assist on Edmonton's first goal of the game in the first period. St. Croix had chances but Calgary had a goalie who stole the show.

The real winners on Sunday just might have been the Portland Winterhawks who will have at least a full week of rest before facing either team in the WHL Finals. Portland has only played 15 games in 3 playoff series with just 9 of them in their last 2 series.

The "Evil Empire" sits at home resting, getting those dings and aches all healed while Calgary and Edmonton with have a day maybe 2 before they have to head to Portland. If you don't think that Edmonton won't regret letting game 6 slip away, just remember Henrik Samuelsson's slashing minor at 18:25 of the 2nd period.

That penalty set up Calgary's comeback in the 3rd period so circle that on the scoresheet when Portland packs their bags for the Memorial Cup.

(Baie-Comeau Drakkar)
Sailing to Their First Final

Lost in the soap opera that their QMJHL series with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada turned into was that for the first time in franchise history the Baie-Comeau Drakkar are going to play in the QMJHL finals. Samuel Noreau (NYR 2011 5th) and the Drakkar shutout the Armada 4-0 in game 6 to win the series 4-2.

Noreau was scoreless on 3 shots and a +1 but led the Drakkar with 3 hits as the team who's name translates in English to "Viking Ship" jumped on the Armada for 2 goals in the first and cruised from there. The Drakkar are going to face the Halifax Mooseheads for the QMJHL Championship and the right to represent the league in the Memorial Cup.

They will be huge underdogs against a monster of a team that the Mooseheads have but now that his suspension is over, the Drakkar will have their coach Eric Veilleux back behind the bench. Now while nobody wants to give the Drakkar a chance against the Mooseheads who are 12-0 in the playoffs, I will because of their coach.

Last year at this time Eric Veilleux was coaching the Shawinigan Cataractes who hosted the 2012 Memorial Cup. The Cataractes were eliminated in the 2nd round of the QMJHL playoffs and there was talk that Veilleux was going to be replaced as coach before the Memorial Cup.

Veilleux on the other hand had a plan for his team and his players bought into it. The result was the team that nobody gave a chance to win the Memorial Cup did exactly that.

Veilleux may have been suspended but I bet he has a plan for the "Viking Ship" so I won't be surprised if the Drakkar steal this series.


Samuel Noreau joins Tommy Hughes (NYR 2013 UFA) of the London Knights in playing for their league championship. If St. Croix and company can win game 7 then that would give the Rangers 3 prospects playing for their league championships.

That would be a first in the 9 years I have been doing this.

Toss in Shane McColgan and Josh Nicholls of the Saskatoon Blades who are this year's Memorial Cup hosts and the Rangers have a shot to be represented by every team in the Cup. That would be an even bigger feather in the caps of the Ranger scouting team.

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