GDB R1G2 WRAP UP: SUFFOCATED
(Photo Credit: Keith Hershmiller)
You know that opening scene from The Return of the King where we see Smeagol (Gollum) out fishing with his brother Deagol? At first, they’re just having a good ole time together, probably sipping a few beers and talking about the prettiest hobbit girls around town (you know… fishing) – but then – things get serious.
Deagol finds the One Ring in the river and Smeagol wants it really bad. They start fighting and Deagol appears to be winning at first! Only, Smeagol survives the early onslaught and quickly turns the fight in his favor. Before he knows it, Deagol has Smeagol’s cold, bony hands around his neck… and it’s too late.
Struggle as he might, Deagol is slowly suffocated to death by the more cunning Smeagol and Gollum is born.
Trust me… this will eventually all make sense… I hope.
The Hurricanes were the better team to start tonight’s game. By the media timeout in the first they had earned a powerplay and outshot the Pats 8 – 3. Despite being the better team, Lethbridge had nothing to show for it thanks to strong by Pats netminder Tyler Brown. Brown was particularly good on the Canes first powerplay where he denied the home side two or three times in tight.
Much like the Canes pushed back after a media timeout last night, Regina was much better in the second half of the 1st. Were it not for two sensational saves by Skinner, it’s likely that the Pats would have held the lead after the first twenty minutes. As fate would have it, Skinner did make those saves, and while Regina would wind up finishing the period with a 11-8 shot advantage, they (like Lethbridge) weren’t able to get on the scoreboard.
The second period started with Babenko serving the remaining of an interference penalty. Again, Skinner was called on to make a number of saves as the Pats had zone possession for most of the powerplay.
The Pats didn’t strike on the powerplay, but just over two minutes after it ended, Brooks would open the scoring with a shot from the bottom of the circle. The Hurricanes 4th line had gotten caught on a long shift, and after an initial Pats rush was thwarted, Brooks took advantage of a discombobulated Hurricanes zone-defense and skated himself into the perfect shooting position before putting it behind a sprawled out Stuart Skinner.
With 6:07 remaining in the second, Austin Wagner took a pivotal tripping penalty. What should have been a turning point for Lethbridge, ended up being a great two-minute sequence for the Pats. The Canes powerplay was scattered, disorganized, and it almost cost the team a goal against. The Pats generated 3 or 4 grade A scoring chances – including Brooks ringing one off the post and a three on one that saw Brooks shank a hip-height saucer pass. Despite playing with fire, Lethbridge would only surrender the one goal before the period ended.
Lethbridge may have escaped a goal-against to end the 2nd, but it didn’t take long for Adam Brooks to find his way back onto the scoresheet in the 3rd. Early in the period Austin Wagner found his linemate streaking through the neutral zone with a perfect pass and, in all alone, #77 made no mistake. The goal put Regina up 2 – 0 with just over 18 minutes to play.
Harrison took a cross-checking penalty around the midway mark of the 3rd and you got the feeling the Canes’ hopes hung in the balance. Again, the Pats penalty killers did a sensational job of pressuring the Hurricane attackers into turnovers. It was frustrating to watch from a Hurricanes perspective and the crowd started to grow antsy. Regina would kill it off and put Lethbridge up against the 8-ball.
I would love to say the Hurricanes pressed Regina hard in the dying minutes, but the reality was that the Pats didn’t allow Lethbridge the zone-time. As had been the case since the media time out in the first, Regina kept Lethbridge to the outside, clogged up the neutral zone, and in the end, rendered the Hurricane attack completely useless. To add insult to injury, Sam Steel would add an empty net goal before the final buzzer to make it 3 – 0 for the road team. Game over. Pats win.
- Stuart Skinner was one of the lone sparkling “goods” tonight for Lethbridge. This section of the post game is reserved for stand-out “goods”. There aren’t many tonight because, while some good stuff happened for the team, there was very little that actually deserved standout recognition. Skinner is the exception. He was stellar tonight. He gave his team a shot when they probably didn’t deserve to still be in the game. He was the only Hurricane rewarded with one of the night’s 3 stars and I couldn’t agree more.
- The 4th line had it’s issues tonight but I wanted to recognize the efforts of Brett Davis. He won a few faceoffs and generally played with great defensive awareness. In other words, he stood out for the role he played.
NOT SO GOOD
- Lethbridge lost the faceoff battle tonight and it really hurt their possession.
- A night after being the difference maker, the Hurricanes powerplay struggled mightily. Not only did it not generate offense, more often than not, the Canes PP would surrender more chances than it would earn. The worst moments for the PP were during the ghastly Wagner penalty in the 3rd. The chances on the man advantage were there, they just couldn’t turn them into anything.
- The Hurricanes’ neutral zone play was a killer. Regina had systematically found a way to crush Lethbridge’s transition game by pressuring the forwards and clogging up the middle. The Canes struggled to counter. They were missing elementary passes or having them picked off with ease. In the end, Regina was able to keep the Canes from entering their zone with speed, and when they did, it was contained to the far outside. Which brings me to….
- ….coaching. I’m not sure I’ve once mentioned coaching in the “bad” section but tonight I have to question the lack of adjustments made in the 3rd. Paddock had locked-in on the Hurricanes neutral zone systems, yet time and time again, the Canes came down the ice and tried the same passes and plays. By the end of the 3rd things had actually gotten worse. When they really needed to press, the Hurricanes couldn’t even find a way into the Pats zone.
- Regina won more puck battles than Lethbridge. It’s part of what limited coaching options for the home team. When you can’t win puck battles after a dump-in, you’re forced to carry the puck into the zone. When your opponent can also key-in and keep you from carrying it too, you’re in a near impossible situation.
- Regina is exposing the Canes right side defense. Tonight Wagner and Brooks were able to burst in down the left wing and find time and space.
THIS AND THAT
- Lethbridge initially had some success with the long-pass in this game. Lindgren and Folk both had breakaways but were unable to score in the first ten minutes. Had the puck not bounced over his stick, Wong would also have had a chance in alone. Those chances disappeared after the first media timeout.
- Adam Brooks is an absolute juggernaut. He’s been in on virtually every goal the Pats have scored. It’s not hard to see which player Lethbridge needs to focus-in on.
- With all due respect to Tyler Brown, this was not a standout performance for the Pats goaltender. He was good enough, yes, but the lion’s share of the credit ought to go to the Pats overall commitment to team defense. Brown needed to be great in the first ten minutes, but after that, the Pats netminder was on easy street thanks to the great play of his teammates. I actually felt Brown struggled with his rebound control most of the game, yet time and time again his forwards and defensemen were able to collapse, lift sticks, and get the puck away from harm. He wasn’t bad, so please don’t think I’m disrespecting him. I just really feel like his teammates made his night pretty easy.
- Overall, the Pats really impressed me with this win. I thought they were decent in game one outside of the 3rd period and for them to bounce back with this effort tonight…. the Hurricanes have their hands full.
It would be easy to point the finger at Lethbridge (and I did to an extent), but first and foremost I think we need to pay some respect to the team wearing the road jerseys tonight. Regina played a near textbook road game.
Survive the early onslaught from the home team? Check. Slowly wrestle control away and drag the home team into a very specific style of play? Check. Be patient, wait for a moment to strike, then do-so with cold, calculated efficiency? Check. Once leading, clog up the neutral zone and stifle the opposing team’s offensive outlets? Check.
Regina did ALL of that and they did it well. There are two teams on the ice, so as easy as it would be to carve the Canes for a poor showing, I think we need to accept that the Pats won this game more than the Canes lost it.
I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Lethbridge had found a way to finish even one of their golden chances in the opening five minutes. Lindgren, Folk, Wong, and Davis all had grade A opportunities to score and the finish just wasn’t there. Before they knew it, Brooks had found a way to score (again) and they were in trouble.
Coming back to the analogy from the intro, the Hurricanes represented the Deagol character. Initially, things looked good, but they didn’t capitalize when they had the early edge. Their opponent was smarter, more cunning, and eventually, both the Hurricanes and Deagol met their demise through slow, painful strangulation.