GDB 33.0: When the Levee Breaks
Call it what you will, a deluge, a torrent, a flood, or even a barrage, but the Hurricanes have been scoring in bunches as of late. While this may be unsurprising as the lads do lead the league in goals for with 132, the recent offensive explosion on this eastern swing stands in stark contrast to the previous trip into Saskatchewan and Manitoba in mid-November. In that 3 game set the Hurricanes put up a total of 6 goals for and came out winless. This time around they’ve put up a whopping 15 goals through the first 3 games and sit with a record of 2-1-0-0. Tonight in Saskatoon the Hurricanes will look to continue their offensive onslaught and further dismantle the defensive levee built up by the opposition and continue what’s been a solid start to the final roadie of 2015.
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It’s difficult to predict how this game will manifest itself tonight. The Canes and Blades have only played once this season, a 5-2 home win for Lethbridge on November 21st, so there’s not much of a rivalry built up between these 2 squads. Furthermore, this is now a different look Blades squad as they traded highly-touted offensive defenceman Brycen Martin to the Everett Silvertips in the meantime. There is a disparity in rest between the two teams as the Blades have not played since Sunday afternoon; whereas, the Canes are coming off an emotional win over the Raiders in P.A. last night. Will the Canes come out flat-footed as they’re facing off against opponent that’s 17 points behind them in the standings? Or will they come out with energy and attempt to pounce on a team that seemingly has its eyes on the future judging by the recent wheeling and dealing? I’m hoping for the later, but your guess is as good as mine. One thing I do know is that it will be entertaining hockey as that is something the Canes have delivered on, night in an night out (see the recent game versus the Pats for evidence).
While the topline generally does the majority of the offensive heavy lifting for any hockey team, it’s especially true for the Blades this year. Of the Blades 87 total goals (the fourth lowest total in the league) the trio of Zajac, Hebig, and Gay have potted 30 of them accounting for 34.48% of the team’s production. Success for the Blades hinges largely on these 3 gentlemen having a good night, at least from a statistical perspective. The Blades defence has been relatively porous this season as the team has surrendered 124 goals against, for the third highest total in the league. You put those stats together and you have a team that has been struggling as of late going 2-8-0-0 in their last ten.
However, they are coming off a 2-1 SO victory over division and provincial rivals, the Regina Pats, on Sunday afternoon. That victory could be the spark that a young team like the Blades needs in order to get rolling again, after all this is a team that was a game above .500 twenty games into the season. One thing the Blades do bring to the table is an exceptional penalty kill. They currently boast a very impressive kill rate of 84.5% which sees them tied with the Kamloops Blazers at the top of the league in that department. This could make for an interesting story line as the Canes come in with league’s best power play, an unstoppable force vs. an immovable object type narrative if you will.
I have to imagine that the coaches’ speeches entering tonight’s game will likely be something along the lines of, “keep doing what you’re doing on offence, but we really need to tighten up our defensive game.” The offence has essentially been a juggernaut on this road trip with the aforementioned 15 goals through the first 3 games. Giorgio Estephan has been leading the way with 4 goals and 1 assist in those contests. Much like last season, he seems to be catching fire entering the holiday season. Perhaps holiday novelties like eggnog, candy canes, or poinsettias are his spinach. If the offensive trend of the first 3 games of this road trip continues tonight the Canes may well be quoting the Led Zeppelin song that this post gets its name from, “Now, cryin’ won’t help you, prayin’ won’t do you no good. When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move.”
The defence hasn’t been as sharp as they need to be lately with 13 goals against in the last 3. By all accounts, if not for a few highlight reel saves from Stuart Skinner last night, that total would be even higher. I believe the Canes are at their best defensively when they lean on the opposing fore-checkers hard. This is a team that thrives when they are physically engaged by banging bodies in the corner and limiting space and shooting lanes around the perimeter. As Brock noted in last night’s wrap up, the Canes struggled to control the front of their own net, well physical engagement in other areas of the ice will help to set the tone and likely lead to the Canes securing the top of the blue paint in this one. I imagine that there will be more attention to structure tonight in an effort to greatly reduce the goals against versus the Blades.
GDP: It will keep on rainin’ tonight. Canes win 5-3.
OGDP: Darian Skeoch continues to earn a reputation as one of the most intimidating players in the Dub with another “hit of the night” worthy check.
NSOGDP: The Blades get word of the possible connection between Christmas and Estephan’s hot play. In an effort to counteract it they decorate the Canes’ dressing room in a hodge-podge of other holiday decorations making it look like the storage area of a craft store.
What do you think? Who are you excited to watch tonight and what will be the outcome. Comment below.
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Professional student, prospective teacher. Red Wings/Blue Jays/49ers super-fan. Proud general manager of Team Mono and the Slumlords in a pair of fantasy hockey keeper leagues. Is there anything better than soup and sandwich? Twitter: @jsvsakamoto.