EX G4 PREVIEW: CANES @ BRONCOS
In the wake of a 2-1 loss to the Broncos Friday evening, the Canes head east down highway 3 for a rematch tonight in Swift Current.
Thoughts and speculation after the break…
As I mentioned afterward, the game Friday night was tight. Both teams played a solid game from beginning to end. While the Bronco’s looked better early, the Canes acquitted themselves nicely for stretches in the second and late in the third.
As currently constituted (without all regulars in the line-up), the Canes and Bronco’s appeared evenly matched. I could see the Bronco’s and Canes battling for one of the final playoff spots this season. I know they are young, but I was really impressed by the play of a number of the Bronco’s young defensemen. Swift Current is probably better than they are being billed and outside of Brandon, the East isn’t necessarily the strongest division this year. Where the goals come is the big question for the Broncos. Without DeBrusk and Gawdin, the Bronco’s didn’t look very threatening Friday evening. Most of their best scoring chances were actually generated from the point (including the opening goal).
I was intrigued by Bronco’s import sophomore Andreas Schumacher. At 6’5 he is a rangy winger. I did notice him throughout the night but can’t help but think he needs to bulk up and build some lower body mass. He is all legs and got knocked down pretty easy on a few occasions. With that said, don’t be surprised to see him step up bigtime for the Bronco’s this season. The Swede will be one to watch in ’15-’16.
While goaltender Travis Child played well, I didn’t feel the Canes made life very tough for him. As noted in the post game article, the Canes offense left much to be desired Friday night. While I can’t deny the speed or effort level, the Canes just didn’t seem to really threaten for goals. Child made the saves he needed to make, and outside of being caught a little deep in the net on the Babenko goal, gave the Bronco’s what they needed. Will they elect to give big starter Landon Bow the nod, go with Calgary native Caiden Kreitz, or return with Child? For what it’s worth, my money would be on Kreitz. Bow will be the heavy lifter this season and they may want to ease him in.
As far as the state of the Hurricanes, a few questions remain unanswered. There are still 16 forwards vying for a roster spot, a number of whom are rookies. I would argue Davis has put himself in a great position to earn a role on the team, and while Franklin hasn’t been as noticeable as he was in camp, he has still played pretty well. I imagine we will probably see another player or two released/assigned early next week following tonight’s game. I expect Bellerive will be back in the lineup after getting Friday night off. Is tonight the night he breaks out and asserts himself or is it going to take more time? He is another player that has looked good but is probably capable of finding another gear. He had some really nice looks against the Tigers but was robbed more than once.
On the back end, we might see Atwal get the night off, but with Nielsen gone to Leaf’s rookie camp, the coaches may want his veteran presence on the ice. One of Allan, Reagan, or Pankewicz may be most likely to take a seat while Merezhko draws back in. With nine defensemen left on the roster, further assignments and releases are inevitable. Credit the defensemen for making the decisions difficult for the coaches. . From what I’ve seen, I’m not sure much separates the names in question.
Based on what I’ve seen and what I assume to be the organizational depth chart, we can really start to narrow things down. My best guess would be,
Nielsen – Atwal
Pankewicz – Merezhko
Kennedy – Reagan
That leaves Skeoch, Watson, and Allan battling for the role of seventh defenseman. Watson is the only left shot of the three and could be a shoe-in alongside Reagan. I am doubtful they would play him with Merezhko (at least not early) because of a combined lack of age/experience. I am going to assume Pankewicz makes the team at this point – meaning the decision for left shot defenseman comes down to one of Kennedy or Watson. On the other side and for various reasons, I don’t see how any of Atwal, Merezhko, or Reagan don’t make the team. By default, that leaves a decision to be made between Allan and Skeoch. They are both big, right shot journeymen blueliners and I haven’t seen much differentiate the two from one another.
The defensive conversation is still the most interesting to me, and as the exhibition games go by, I expect we will continue to see more of the names I mentioned above in an effort to let them play themselves on/off the roster.
In goal, may we see Skinner get in his first full game? It would make sense to me to get Skinner a start now then give Kegler another crack at 60 minutes against the Ice next week. Sittler could then start or split time with Skinner against the Hitmen the following night. Perhaps the coaches will reward Kegler with another crack at the Bronco’s tonight, after what I thought was a pretty solid start Friday evening in Coaldale. Regardless, the Canes netminders have been a bright spot through three exhibition games. All three have acquitted themselves nicely and the Canes have found themselves in a position to win every night.
- Keep your eyes peeled for rookie camp footage/photos of Nielsen and Estephan from Leafs and Sabres online media outlets. It’s always great to see newly drafted guys get a chance to play with some of the top talent and be treated like kings. It must be a pretty special experience and I’m happy
to see those two Canes rewarded for their play.
- Big shout out to all who took part in the 24-hour hockey game at the Enmax to raise funds for Cancer research. Good work fellas.
- As I write this, I’m sitting on a plane bound from Calgary to Toronto. I will be spending the next three days out on PEI with my dad fishing for blue fin tuna. My question for you is, what is your best fishing story/trip? Have you been on one? Where would you want to go?
Game Day Prediction: The Canes play a strong road game and offense manages to create more scoring opportunities. The Canes skate away with a 3-1 win.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: After some hostility Friday night, Pankewicz and Spencer become involved in a scrum and drop the gloves.
Not so Obvious Game Day Prediction: On the way through Medicine Hat, coach Kisio will promise the players that if they win he will take them all to the waterslides on the way back. What he fails to mention is he meant the Holiday Inn slides back in Lethbridge and not the far superior Medicine Hat slides. Due largely to his killer hair and chill urban stylings, coach Josh Macnevin is able to quell a waterslide induced uprising before it tears the team apart.
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