GDB 58.0: HELMS DEEP
I spent the weekend relaxing and watching the Lord of the Rings extended editions for the hundredth time with my girlfriend. I don’t know what it is about the middle movie of a trilogy, but to me, it’s almost always the best. The Two Towers is to Tolkien what Empire Strikes Back is to Star Wars. It’s darker, grittier, and progresses the plot in interesting and increasingly dramatic ways.
Simply put, it raises the stakes.
The Two Towers, unlike the first film, doesn’t have to bother with lengthy establishing sequences, and unlike the final film, isn’t constrained by a weighty conclusion. The middle film is more efficiently paced and intelligently arched than its forebearer or predecessor. It’s nearly perfect.
The battle of Helm’s Deep is arguably the best sequence of the entire trilogy and I would go as far to say that it’s one of the most impressively paced battle sequences ever cut to film.
Tonight the Hurricanes face the Hitmen in the middle game of a seven day “trilogy.” It’s not entirely common for two teams to face one another three times in a seven day period during the regular season, but that’s the case.
“Let the horn of Helm Hammerhand sound in the deep… one last time.” – Mah Boi – King Theoden
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Like the Two Towers, let’s avoid any unnecessary exposition (even though our entire intro was exactly that) and get straight to the point.
These two teams met up for an afternoon game in Calgary this past Sunday. The Hurricanes won 4-2 meaning tonight marks the first of two chances the Hitmen have to recoup any lost ground. It’s the first of two home games on the week for the Hurricanes (the other coming Friday against Portland) and while that may not be a meaningful indicator of potential success for all clubs, it sure holds meaning for Lethbridge. The Hurricanes are 25-3-0-0 at the Enmax Centre, something I’m sure the Hitmen are well aware of.
When things are as tight as they are in the East, every point matters, and if they have any hope of getting in the race for the division, Calgary is going to have to find a way to pull points out of Lethbridge. They haven’t had much success with it so far. The Hitmen have a 1-3-0-0 record against Lethbridge to this point in the season.
Lethbridge is a full 14 points ahead of Calgary, and were the Canes to win again tonight, it would further crush any hope the Hitmen might have at battling for the division.
Simply put, tonight’s game has some gravity to it and I anticipate two revved up teams.
The Calgary Hitmen are a good hockey team but are not without their flaws. Thankfully for the organization, a sensational pair of young defensemen has helped hide some of the aforementioned defects.
The heart of the roster is the blueline. Standout young defenders Jake Bean (#2) and Travis Sanheim (#32) lead the Hitmen all over the ice. They are a combined +12, sit 2nd and 3rd in team scoring (Bean has 50 pts and Sanheim has 45 pts), and in the case of Sanheim, sit near the top in team PIM as well. Simply put, keep your eye out for these two. Sanheim is older than Bean and was taken in the first round of last years NHL entry draft by the Philadelphia Flyers. Bean is currently projected to go in the 1st round of this years NHL entry draft, picked by many to go somewhere between 12th-25th overall.
It’s no secret that a key to the game for the Hurricanes is to shut down Bean and Sanheim. The Hurricanes weren’t actually entirely successful with it on Sunday, but with some welcome depth scoring courtesy of Kroeker, Folk, and Bellerive, they managed to overcome. Sanheim and Bean combined for three points Sunday – Calgary only scored two goals. Take away their time and space, and the Hitmen stand to suffer.
Another interesting wrinkle heading into tonight is the apparent loss of starting netminder Cody Porter. Porter played all but eight minutes of Sunday’s contest before going down to injury. As Calgary’s official post-game article summarized, “Hitmen goaltender Cody Porter was forced to exit the game injured with less than eight minutes to play after he fell awkwardly while making a save. There has been no update on his condition.” Yesterday’s release of the WHL Weekly News had Porter listed as day-to-day – meaning – I’m skeptical he will get the call tonight. It’s a lower body issue, and if I were to guess, is some sort of hamstring or hip-flexor strain. If Porter is indeed out for a few more days, Calgary will have to turn to trade acquisition Nik Amundrud.
Frankly, neither Porter or Amundrud have been world-beaters thus far. It has to be a concern for the Hitmen. Amundrud was struggling in Saskatoon before the Hitmen acquired him (though his numbers improved quite dramatically in Calgary) and Porter sits in the bottom third among league goaltenders in GAA. Amundrud actually has better numbers than Porter as a member of the Hitmen, though he’s seen far less action (12 games compared to 32 for Porter).
I don’t have any answers for you, but the goaltending is certainly a story line worth watching heading into tonight’s contest. With Porter injured and Rylan Toth out indefinitely up in Red Deer, there’s no doubt the Hurricanes now have the edge between the pipes in the Central Division.
Seeing as I was unable to watch the game and he was actually AT it, I asked Jeremy to provide a quick summary of Sunday’s matchup at the ‘Dome. He obliged.
The Canes delivered a textbook performance in the matinee game versus the Hitmen on Sunday. The boys dug deep and somehow found an extra gear despite being on the tail end of grueling 3-in-3 stretch. All of the Canes lines and D pairings delivered effective minutes, which was very advantageous considering that the boys had to have some tired legs heading into Cowtown.
In reality, the game wasn’t as close as the 4-2 final would seemingly indicate. The Canes used their superior speed to dictate the tempo and draw penalties all afternoon. Special teams proved to be the difference as the Canes went 2/7 with the man advantage while successfully killing all 4 of Calgary’s opportunities.
Colton Kroeker played his best game in a Hurricanes’ uniform so far. Kroeker was physical in all three zones and continually created havoc in front of the Hitmen net. His efforts were rewarded in the form of a goal (his first as a Hurricane) and an assist. It was a breakout kind of performance that is hopefully a harbinger of things to come for the trade deadline acquisition.
It was also the second regular season game for 2015 2nd overall selection Calen Addison. The young rearguard was quite impressive. Addison showed great skating coupled with an ability to quickly and effectively read the play. His quick decision making belied his age, especially in light of the level of competition he was facing. The future appears bright.
Overall, it was stellar game for Lethbridge and the perfect capstone to a difficult stretch in the schedule. The Canes did what good teams do, they found a way to win in a tough situation with key cogs on the shelf. If this weekend doesn’t make believers out of the remaining naysayers, than likely nothing will.
So there you have it. The Hurricanes played a great road game in what should have been – from a pure exhaustion perspective – the most demanding contest of the weekend. It was a crazy busy weekend for me and the only Canes action I had a chance to catch was the first half of the game in Edmonton. Turns out it was probably the worst stretch the team played all week as they only registered a handful of shots over 40 minutes.
The Hurricanes ended up taking 7 out of a possible 8 points last week. Incredible considering how demanding of a schedule it was.
What can we expect to see tonight?
Well considering their home record, it’s a safe bet we will get a well contested game. Kisio really knows how to use last shift to his advantage.
We know Giorgio Estephan, Nick Watson, and Justin Gutierrez are injured and unlikely to play. Egor Babenko isn’t listed as injured and I think it’s safe to assume he is simply being sent a message as a healthy scratch. If/when he gets back in the lineup, he’s going to need to earn back the favour of the coaches in the form of some offense. It’s an interesting storyline and one fans may be curious to keep their eyes on.
THIS AND THAT
- “x” marks the spot. Unless I’m mistaken, any combination of a Hurricanes win or a Broncos loss will ensure Lethbridge is the first team to clinch a playoff berth.
- Thanks to all the regular readers who were patient with us taking the long weekend off. We did a little Tweeting and poked our heads around some of the games, but it was more or less a holiday weekend for us. Much needed.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Lethbridge, fresh off a much needed rest, keeps the good times rolling at home and posts a 6-3 win over the visitors.
OBVIOUS GDP: I will get kicked out of the upstairs lounge before I have time to finish the post-game article because it’s a midweek game and the staff want to go home.
NOT SO OBVIOUS GDP: The Hurricanes will clinch and Kisio, an experienced playoff-beardist, will spend the post game charting out a beard-growing game-plan for the first round.
What do you think? Who are you excited to watch tonight and what will be the outcome. Comment below.
Don’t forget to check out the sponsor of all this season’s game day articles, Graham Reimer of Dominion Lending here in Lethbridge. I personally know and vouch for the amazing work he does. If you need any advice or help with a mortgage or want to look into getting one, I cannot say enough good things about Graham and the Mortgage Crusher team.
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