GDB 61.0: SNEAK PEEK?
And just like that, another lull in the schedule is gone and we are back for a Hurricanes game day preview. Don’t look now folks, but we are entering into the final weeks of the season. After tonight’s match up against Regina, the Hurricanes only have ten remaining contests before the playoffs begin.
It’s a crazy thought. As long (and at times arduous) as the season has felt, it also seems like it’s passed in the blink of an eye. It feels like only yesterday we were speculating about how likely squeaking into the playoffs would be and if the rebuild (of the rebuilt-rebuild) was on track….
We know allot more now, and while the playoffs are no longer in doubt, there is much yet to be decided. First place in the conference and division is still very much on the line, and with Lethbridge on a three game skid, now marks a good time to start back on the winning path…
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As I said in the intro, much has yet to be decided in the Eastern Conference. There are a handful of teams capable of still winning their respective division and I anticipate things will remain murky for another two weeks or more.
That said, the wildcard teams aren’t as up in the air. Barring a strong push from one of Swift Current, Saskatoon or Medicine Hat, it seems as if both Regina and Edmonton will qualify for the post season in the wild card positions. As such (and supposing the Canes win their division), there is a likelihood that the Hurricanes will face one of either the Pats or the Oil Kings in the 1st round of the 2016 WHL playoffs.
Now, I know what you’re thinking… “Brock, don’t think that way. You’re getting way too far ahead of yourself.” – and while it’s a valid point – it’s fun to start thinking that way! It’s been years since we could start mulling over 1st round match ups and I’m going to shamelessly start doing exactly that. At the very least it’s an interesting angle to approach this week’s Hurricanes games with.
(Note: The audio was recorded prior to last nights Pats win. To be sure, they’ve won 6 in a row now… not five.)
Lethbridge plays both Regina and Edmonton over the next 4 days and I can’t help but think how these games might shape how we perceive potential 1st round match ups. For example, with a win tonight, Regina will win their season series with Lethbridge by a commanding 3-1-0-0 record. As Tim and Sid would say, is that a “Super Stat” or a “Meaningless Number”?
Therein lies the fun of playoff predictions and analysis! Isn’t this great Canes fans?! It’s a treat to talk about these sorts of things. It really is.
Regardless of the implications, tonight promises to be a good game. The Hurricanes are floundering and have lost three in a row while Regina is red hot. The Pats are on a five game winning streak and have won eight of their last 10!
Two teams headed in opposite directions and the season series in the balance. Game time is 7 pm.
I will see. You. There.
As I just mentioned, Regina is red hot at the moment. Their current winning streak (6 games) is the longest in the WHL, but despite their recent success, the Pats are still five points back of Moose Jaw for third in the Eastern Division. Part of the problem for Regina is that the Warriors have been equally as hot. The ridiculous scoring tear Dryden Hunt is on has helped to shield Moose Jaw from the surging Pats with a 6-3-1-0 record in their last 10.
It’s a long shot, but with 14 games remaining, it’s not impossible that the Pats climb as high as second in the Eastern Division. I can only imagine that’s exactly the mindset their players have adopted. Overall, I expect the Pats to play a great game tonight. They should be focused, hungry, and to a certain extent, desperate to stay in the fight.
It could prove a terrible combination for a beleaguered Hurricanes squad. If Lethbridge has any hope of stopping the Regina freight train they will need to focus on Adam Brooks. Brooks has been a huge factor in the Pats resurgence. The young forward is currently on a 11 game assist streak. Over that time Adam has recorded 21 assists and 27 total points.
The Pats have given the Hurricanes trouble this season. They currently boast a 2-1-0-0 record against Lethbridge and can walk away with the season series with a win tonight. If Regina can improve their powerplay numbers they could become a real threat in the East. The Pats currently sit 21st in the league on the man-advantage. It’s a strange stat considering they boast some high calibre offense in Steel and Brooks. For whatever reason, it’s an area that has held them back this season and I for one am interested to see if it’s evolved since their last visit.
- I’m not sure who to expect in goal tonight for the Pats. Brown got the call in goal last night in Medicine Hat so it’s possible they elect to start Jordan Hollett.
- Adam Brooks was named CHL player of the week. Congrats to him.
- The Pats are looking good from an injury perspective. It’s a good time to be healthy as a number of teams in the conference are feeling the pain of losing an elite player or two.
There are any number of places to start when it comes to diagnosing the Hurricanes current slump. I will, however, begin by simply saying they need to reintroduce some desperation into their game. I was at all three games last week and the common theme was that the Hurricanes got outplayed all over the ice. Outside of a very brief few minutes last-Wednesday (vs. Calgary), Lethbridge didn’t once hold a lead last week.
It was about as pretty as it sounds.
That Wong PP goal in the 1st period of last Wednesday’s game aside, Lethbridge has been out contested to start three straight games. Frankly, they don’t have the offensive juice to overcome a lackluster start right now – or at least – they haven’t shown they do. You could probably count on two hands the number of grade A scoring chances the team generated over those three games.
Collectively, the forwards need to be better. I know players are banged up, I know Giorgio and Justin (Gutierrez) aren’t in the lineup, and I know guys are playing out of position to fill holes… but facts are facts. It’s hard to win if you only score 1 – 2 goals per game and can’t establish any meaningful zone-time. Unfortunately that’s what we saw last week and the challenge will be to improve tonight.
I haven’t spoken much on the defense or goaltenders because to me, they haven’t been the issue. Sure, anytime you give up 13 goals in three games the netminders and defensemen ought to look in the mirror too, but I stand by my position that the biggest issues are up-front. This team’s best defence stems from relentless offensive pressure and a stifling neutral zone backcheck. Until they return to form in those areas, we might see the losses continue to mount.
- Lethbridge should have the jump on Regina as the Pats played last night in Medicine Hat.
- It’s not an accident Gutierrez made the cover image. Could tonight be the night he returns? I don’t have any inside info on the matter, but here’s hoping.
- Happy to see Brayden Burke and Colton Kroeker weren’t listed as injured on the WHL Weekly report. I’m assuming that means they are only dealing with minor strains and bruises.
- My bet is Skinner starts in goal tonight.
- If he’s not too injured to play, this will be Kroeker’s first time playing his former club.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: With a few days to rest, refocus, and get prepared behind them – Lethbridge overcomes a strong effort by Regina to eke out a 3-2 win.
OBVIOUS GDP: Adam Brooks is shredding teams right now and my bet is, at the very least, he keeps his assist streak alive.
NOT SO OBVIOUS GDP: Giorgio and Justin wake up and discover they are both totally healed. They make their triumphant return, setting all the lines back to their original state and everyone lives happily ever after in a taco filled wonderland.
What do you think? Who are you excited to watch tonight and what will be the outcome. Comment below.
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