GDB 32.0: 47 RONIN
One of the greatest tales of revenge ever recorded is that of the 47 Ronin. It’s an 18th century historical event that became a foundational legend of Japanese culture. 18th century Japan was, like much of the world, a feudal society. Asano Naganori, feudal lord and leader of 47 samurai, committed seppuku (ritual suicide) after assaulting a court official. From that point, the story revolves around the 47 leaderless (ronin) samurai seeking to avenge the death of their master. While the tale ultimately ends in a mass suicide, the ronin were successful in avenging their master and restoring his honour (posthumously) before meeting their own, self imposed, demise.
It’s a tragic story, but it’s a story of bravery, pride, and honour – three qualities the Hurricanes will need tonight if they intend to earn a victory in Prince Albert.
It was only a few weeks ago that the Prince Albert Raiders walked in the Lethbridge and did what few teams have accomplished this season – totally neutralize the Hurricanes offense. Were the Hurricanes in the game? Yes – and a few bounces may have turned the tide – but the bounces never came. It seemed to me, that while the Hurricanes brought effort to the game, the attention to detail wasn’t what it needed to be. The Raiders played a near perfect road game – completely eliminating the crowd, the energy, and finally, the Hurricanes.
Tonight Lethbridge has a chance to return the favour – to seek revenge for one of their least impressive games this season. Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, they face a formidable opponent in the Prince Albert Raiders, a team that plays a similar style of game.
If not for the surprise success of the Hurricanes, the Raiders have to be one of the most surprising stories of the 2015-2016 season. As it sits today, the Raiders sit fifth in the conference, one point back of Lethbridge, and only five points out of first. Unfortunately for Prince Albert, they haven’t been playing their best hockey of the season of late. They are riding a two game losing streak and sit 5-5-0-0 in the last ten games – not the sort of play that keeps you at the top of the conference. That said, even the best teams experience ebb and flow throughout a 72 game schedule, and there is no reason to believe the Raiders don’t belong in the conversation as one of the East’s best.
The Raiders have been able to win tight games this season, a quality that has separated them from teams like Regina, and Moose Jaw. The Raiders sit at a season total +2 goal differential, yet boast a .629 winning percentage. In contrast, the Hurricanes have a +32 goal differential, yet have only one more point to show for it. It’s an interesting stat and one that illustrates that numbers only tell part of the story.
As a surprisingly good team, the Raiders, like the Hurricanes, haven’t had their roster pillaged by the World Junior Hockey Championships. It’s not that the two clubs lack elite talent, but the reality is that players are sometimes not given the credit or attention they deserve when they play on a less proven team. The only player the Raiders have lost to the WJHC is Czech forward Simon Stransky. Compare that to a big, high profile team like Brandon, and well… you get the picture.
The Raiders, of course, benefit from keeping the majority of their best players with the team. Reid Gardiner for example, is scoring at the same pace as Brayden Point, but while Point is off looking to win a roster spot on team Canada, Gardiner is still with the Raiders and poised to make an impact in every game. Even though the Raiders are only missing one player, the loss of Stranksy will be felt. Simon currently sits second on the team with 31 points and a +7 on the season.
On the back end, I anticipate we will once again see the Hurricanes face Rylan Parenteau. Parenteau was exceptional against the Hurricanes in their first meeting of the season, earning a no-doubter shutout over a high octane Lethbridge offense. Parenteau is coming off a loss but it makes the most sense to get him back in the net against a team he’s already had success against.
Tonight’s game is the first of four in five nights. The Hurricanes are coming off a huge road win in Brandon, and a tough loss to the Regina Pats. At one point in Saturday’s game, the Hurricanes trailed 6 – 1. They would eventually score four straight to make it close, but for the second time this season, Lethbridge wasn’t able to pull a point out of the Brandt Centre despite battling hard. Brayden Burke, Egor Babenko, and Justin Gutierrez were all over the scoresheet on Saturday night. Burke finished the night with 4 points while the other two both recorded 3 of their own. It wasn’t the kind of game you usually see, but what really matters is who walked away with the win, and Saturday it wasn’t Lethbridge.
They aren’t to blame for the schedule, but the loss to Regina puts more emphasis on the importance of a win tonight. Knowing the Canes have yet to face the Blades, Oil Kings, and Rebels over the next four days means a loss tonight could really hurt their odds to escape this trip unscathed in the standings. It’s certainly not a must win (we are only in December after all), but you want to put yourself in a position for success, and points tonight would go along way to that end. Interestingly, the Hurricanes have yet to register a single ‘loser’ point this year. The only other teams to yet lose in either overtime or a shootout are Red Deer and Portland. Feast or famine?
Overall, tonight is a big game for our Canes. This club always seems to be ‘in’ games, and I expect nothing less. The Hurricanes are a really solid hockey club this season, and while this pre-Christmas stretch is tough, I can’t count this team out. Every time they have their back up against the wall, they seem to find away to scrape their way into, at the worst, mediocrity. That’s an admirable characteristic when it comes to playing on the road, and helps explain the Hurricanes 7-8 record away from the Enmax. Being abroad isn’t where they thrive, but they win enough to stay afloat, and when you’re 13 – 3 at home, that’s juuuuuuuuust fine.
GDP: The Hurricanes play a more complete game but only manage a single point in a 4-3 OT loss to the Raiders
OGDP: The Hurricanes will score a goal this time
NSOGDP: Since his legs are so long, Gutierrez will request to be dropped off far from the rink to walk off the bus cramps. Justin will get lost and accidentally wander off into the vast Northern Saskatchewan wilderness. He will eventually build a log cabin, star in History Channel’s Mountain Men show, and often reference his experience in Alaska as key to his survival instincts.
What do you think? Who are you excited to watch tonight and what will be the outcome. Comment below.
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