Monday, May 27, 2013

The Moose rule

Halifax Mooseheads 2013 Memorial Cup Champs (Steve Hiscock)

In the end it was the Halifax Mooseheads who wound up with the big trophy after they defeated the Portland Winterhawks 6-4 to win the 2013 Memorial Cup. Portland just could not stop the tandem of Nathan MacKinnon (3-2-5) and Jonathan Drouin (0-5-5) when they needed to.

Still that doesn't mean this was a game that the Portland Winterhawks need to be ashamed of as in the bigger picture hockey won as this was a great game to watch as a fan no matter what the outcome. This was a game that featured great individual efforts, plenty of scoring, comebacks, heavy (CLEAN) hitting, and yes even a couple of questionable calls that one can make a case affected the outcome so fans can argue over.

Portland came out hitting every thing that moved and had Halifax pinned in their own end but they could not take full advantage of it and Halifax was able to weather the storm until Portland's Brendan Leipsic took a hooking call to give Halifax a power play. Halifax went to work and the puck wound up on the stick of Halifax defender Konrad Abeltshauser who launched a rocket of a shot that beat Portland goalie Mac Carruth over the shoulder to give Halifax a 1-0 lead at the 6:31 mark of the first period.

89 seconds later Nathan MacKinnon would score the first of his hat trick goals when he blew a wrist shot past Carruth to give Halifax a 2-0 lead. Pretty sure that the Colorado Avalanche have enough to show their fans why they should take MacKinnon with the first pick when the NHL holds the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in June.

As special as Seth Jones of Portland is, MacKinnon who was 7-6-13 in just 4 games is going to be very hard not to select with the first pick. Halifax made it a 3-0 first period lead when Martin Frk fired a one-timer past Carruth at 15:59 off a great pass from Jonathan Drouin. Drouin picked up his 3rd assist of the period on the play and Halifax took that 3-0 lead into the intermission.

In the 2nd period Halifax kept up the play tilting the ice in their favor until they got a power play close to the middle of the period. With Oliver Bjorkstrand off for slashing, Portland defenseman Derrick Pouliot gave Portland new life when he went on the attack shorthanded while everyone else was heading to the bench for line changes. Pouliot got the puck deep and while he didn't get any credit, the puck wound up on Ty Rattie's stick and he found linemate Nicolas Petan at the left side of the goal and Petan shoved it past a surprised Halifax goalie Zach Fucale to make a 3-1 game at 10:36.

Portland had a pulse and the Winterhawks took the play to the Mooseheads for the rest of the period where 2 plays that could have changed the outcome of the game happened. First Oliver Bjorkstrand fired what appeared to be a shot that caught the inside of the right cross bar, a play that I thought should have been reviewed just to make sure it wasn't a goal. The second was a goal that was disallowed as Brendan Leipsic "popped" a pass to Ty Rattie who was on the left side of the goal; Rattie knocked the puck down with his hand in the crease but the puck was kicked into the net by Halifax goalie Zach Fucale before Rattie could get his stick on it.

The goal was disallowed and I question the ruling because it was clear that Fucale put the puck in the net himself and Rattie should not be penalized for not being able to get his stick on the puck. The play was huge especially when Seth Jones would pinch in behind the Halifax net where Rattie would get him the puck and from there Jones just overpowered it into the net to make it a 3-2 game with just 1:19 left in the 2nd period.

If the disallowed goal had counted then this game is tied up going into the 3rd with Portland having the momentum. It wasn't and in the 3rd it was MacKinnon who took over the game as his 2nd goal of the game made it 4-2 at 7:36 (Drouin got the primary assist for his 4th point). 3:35 later at 11:11, it would be MacKinnon setting up Konrad Abeltshauser for Abeltshauser's 2nd goal of the game to make it 5-2.

Portland would not quit as they mounted one last charge first with Brendan Leipsic scoring off a rebound to make it 5-3 at 14:32. Then Ty Rattie made it a 1 goal game when he scored at 18:44 to make it 5-4. The Winterhawks would pull Carruth for the extra attacker but MacKinnon's 3rd goal of the game would seal the win for the Mooseheads at 19:37.

Halifax wins their first Memorial Cup in franchise history with MacKinnon winning the tournament MVP thanks in part to his 5 point final game performance. Drouin would finish the Memorial Cup 1-8-9 and he very much should go 2nd or 3rd in the entry draft.

Portland hold those heads high

Yes the Winterhawks lost but in many ways they are still winners for their effort against Halifax as they didn't fold despite falling behind by 3 goals twice. A break in the 2nd period and this game was all tied up. Ty Rattie showed why he is so special with a 1-3-4 performance that left him 6-6-12 which was 2nd best behind MacKinnon in the Cup scoring race. The St. Louis Blues are getting a very special player who I believe will have a much better NHL career than Nino, Sven, and Ryan.

Rattie was the guy who made the biggest plays for Portland in the WHL finals and the Memorial Cup earning him a spot on the Cup All-Star team. Derrick Pouliot joins Rattie on the team and Pouliot's play in many ways was overlooked especially in the last 2 games. It was Pouliot who got Portland back into this game even if he only had one point. Ranger fans will not like seeing Pouliot as he is a Pittsburgh prospect.

The Winterhawks will lose some key players off this year's roster but they will still return a large share of the roster and Brendan Burke will be ready to replace Mac Carruth as the starting goalie. GM/Coach Mike Johnson's suspension ended with the end of the Memorial Cup and if it was me I would have Johnson concentrate on being the GM while letting Travis Green remove the "acting" label from the head coach position.

Toss in Super scout Matt Bardsley and the Winterhawks will still be a team that contends in the WHL. This not the end for the Winterhawks but rather the start of a new chapter. They will be in the thick of things despite the sanctions as players will see that playing for Portland helps you get drafted by the NHL.

One season ends and ....

It seems like the 2012-2013 season was a decade long because of the NHL lockout and I have to admit I am really burnt out. I really need a break after doing this for the last 9 seasons almost non-stop. So a year in review for both Ranger and Islander prospects then who knows what?

The Rangers won't have a pick until the 3rd round of the NHL Entry Draft because of the Nash and Clowe deals. The Rangers do need to address a couple of key areas but they neither have the draft picks or the contract space to do either.

In any event thank you for sticking with me this season as an average of 80,000 hits a month is very humbling but like the prospects I too need to work on doing things better. Thank you once again for your support.

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