GDB 47.0: ON POINT
“On point.” It’s an expression that brings with it a bevy of meanings. In military parlance it refers to being the first man in formation, being the leader, or being the scout. In the world of ballet dancing it means being up on your toes. In everyday conversation it makes reference to being up to the minute, being exact and specific, or to simply meet another’s standards. Tonight at the ENMAX Centre “on Point” will encompass several aspects of those definitions, but it will have an added dimension as the Moose Jaw Warriors make their first visit of the season to our fair city.
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Normally, I would be hesitant to place a single player as the thematic centre piece for a game day write-up, but in this case it seems entirely appropriate. Let’s be honest, Brayden Point isn’t your average junior hockey player. He’s not even an above average junior hockey player. He’s a bona fide stud and gamebreaker. Injuries have taken their toll on the Tampa Bay Lightning 3rd rounder, but through 25 games played he’s put up an unreal 53 points. Pro-rated for the 47 games that the Warriors have played so far, Point would be sitting at 99 points on the campaign. For perspective, the current league leader, Regina’s Adam Brooks, has 71 points through 46 games. In the only previous meeting of the season between the Canes and the Warriors, on November 13th in the Jaw, Point torched Lethbridge for 2 goals and an assist in a 4-2 Warriors victory. If the Canes hope to get redemption for that earlier season loss they will need to limit Point’s impact on the game tonight. No small task indeed.
The Warriors are coming off of a 5-1 thrashing of the Hitmen in Calgary last night. The W at the Dome pushed Moose Jaw’s record to 24-17-5-1 on theyear. In the game last night the aforementioned Point came as advertised and put up 1g-3a in leading the Warriors to victory. However, Point is not the only dynamic threat in Moose Jaw’s lineup. LW Dryden Hunt is also having a great season for the visitors. Through 47 games Hunt currently sits tied for 3rd in league scoring with 68 points. His 29 goals are good for 2nd overall. Hunt and Point form the most potent offensive duo that the league has to offer. Behind those two players, the Warriors come at you with other skilled forwards such as Brett Howden and Noah Gregor. Simply put the Warriors forward corps can light you up.
Since being acquired early in the season from the Kamloops Blazers, overage defenceman Mark McNulty has been a rock on the blue line for the Warriors. McNulty has pretty much been a point per game player since dawning Warriors colours with 39 points in 40 games played. McNulty is an intimidating presence on the backend, at 6’6” – 210 lbs he’s not the kind of guy that loses corner battles very often.
Warriors’ goalie Zach Sawchenko is one of the best in the league. He’s often a one man highlight reel making regular appearances in the WHL Top Ten Plays of the Week. Through 32 games played Sawchenko has posted a 2.78 GAA to go along with a stellar .921 save percentage (second best in the league behind Everett’s Carter Hart). As the Warriors are playing on back-to-back nights there is a chance that Sawchenko won’t start, but considering that they will have 6 days off following tonight’s game, I’m going to presume the Warriors will go with their top guy against the number one team in the league.
The Hurricanes are coming off a surgical victory (aside from giving up too many odd man rushes) over the Spokane Chiefs on Wednesday night. The lads had to grind it out for 40 minutes before finally blowing the game open in the final 20 and skating away with a sound 4 nothing win over the Chiefs. It was great display of the Canes playing their game. They continually got the puck low to get the cycle started. From there pucks were fed back to the point in an effort to create scoring chances. It took a while to break down the Chiefs’ D, but by sticking to their game, and avoiding frustration, the Canes were able to earn 2 points and push their win streak to 8 games in a row.
Tonight’s game is Bryce Salvador Night and Lethbridge will be looking to run their streak to 9 in a row in front of the former standout Hurricanes’ captain. Lethbridge is arguably the hottest team in the CHL right now as they’ve won 9 out of 10 and 21 out of 24 overall. To beat the Warriors the Canes will need to rely heavily on their speed game and control puck possession as much as possible. I believe that tonight’s match-up is the perfect time to embrace the old adage of, “sometimes the best defence is a good offence.” If the Canes can assert their will and keep the puck hemmed in the Warriors’ zone it may be the best chance to neutralize the vaunted weapons that Moose Jaw boasts. As talented as players like Point and Hunt are, they can’t score goals 200 feet away from the Hurricanes net. Furthermore, Lethbridge will likely need to fire a ton of rubber at the Warriors’ net to slip a few by Sawchenko. Look for the Hurricanes to employ the same strategy as they did versus Spokane a few nights ago where pucks were being fired from all angles. Hopefully tonight there will be a few less defenders’ bodies in the way.
It is possible that one of Carter Folk or Ryley Lindgren may make their return to the lineup tonight; however, I won’t be surprised to see them held out a little bit longer in an effort to have key players such as these as close to 100% as possible. The Canes haven’t skipped a beat in their absence, so there is no need to rush them back. If I was a betting man I would say it’s more likely to see Folk draw back in tonight. His physical presence would be a welcome addition on the forecheck, especially to apply some pressure to the hulking presence of McNulty.
GDP: It will be a back and forth affair with two of the Dub’s best offences going toe-to-toe. The Canes depth will ultimately prove the difference in a 5-3 win for the home side.
OGDP: Brayden Burke builds off of his first career hatty and notches another goal.
NSOGDP: Former Canes captain Bryce Salvador will sneak onto the Canes bench in the second period to match up against Point and Hunt with the long change. It will be the epitome of shutdown defence before Salvador stealthily makes his way back into the crowd for the third with no one the wiser.
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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.