GDB 68.0: THE HEAT
(Photo Credit: Tyler Mikla)
In the fun filled, action packed “Beverly Hills Cop”, Detroit detective Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) disregards his boss and heads to Beverly Hills to avenge the murder of his friend. Throughout the film’s chase scenes, the hit song, “The Heat Is On” reminds of the action taking place and what lies ahead.
It may be an understatement, but in terms of the weekend’s back-to-back match up between the Hurricanes and the Red Deer Rebels, “The Heat” is most certainly on.
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In every sense of the word, this is a “marquee” match-up. Not since the Hurricanes playoff exit in 2009 has there been such a meaningful weekend for the players, coaches and fans! Regular season game? Certainly does not have the feel of it.
Buzz around the city is palpable! If there was ever a playoff atmosphere in the making, this is it. Heck just ask the Red Deer fans and Hurricane fans who are filling buses for each of the games in the visiting rinks.
The importance of the pair of games for the Canes and Rebels is magnified with first place in the Central Division, and potential first round match-ups, on the line.
The Hurricanes have defeated Brent Sutter’s crew on 4 separate occasions. The Canes have 3 regulation wins and a fourth in a shootout. Lethbridge has outscored the Rebels 20-8 and been an impressive 10/17 on the power-play – all while holding the Rebels to 4/18 on their PP.
Jayden Sittler has been between the pipes for all 4 wins, while Rylan Toth (3) and Trevor Martin (1) have taken the losses for Red Deer. Lethbridge has averaged 36 shots on goal and 29 against. There’s no other way to say it – the Hurricanes have had the Rebels number (I won’t say “owned them” as that is asking for trouble.) to this point in the season.
Looking back to January 7th, the last time these two met, I can’t help but think it was a game that gives us a better indication of how the two teams match up today than the record indicates. The Hurricanes won 4-3 in a shootout, and while it was good to get the victory, you could see the Rebel’s were improved.
Brent Sutter had made a handful of trades that saw Adam Helewka and Luke Philip join Jake DeBrusk on the Rebels’ roster. Since then, Red Deer has slowly climbed up the Central Division standings and have narrowed the point spread to within a slim 3 points of the Hurricanes.
The Rebels march into the game riding a 5 game winning streak, which includes a key weekend sweep of the Calgary Hitmen. Jake DeBrusk has awoken from a pointless sleep and racked up 8pts (3g-5a) over his last 6 games. Meanwhile goaltender Trevor Martin has backstopped the Rebels to those 5 wins, giving up a stingy average of 2 goals against.
Over the course of those 5 games, the Rebels’ power play has gone 4/19 while their opposition was held to 2/16. You don’t have to look too far down Red Deer’s roster to figure out who the Canes need to be concerned about. In addition to Helewka, DeBrusk and Haydn Fleury, the Rebels’ boast talented sniper Ivan Nikolishin. The Russian import has a team leading 79pts including 31 goals – 11 of which have come on the power play.
While the Rebels’ have been hot of late, Lethbridge has been fairly effective as well. The Canes went 4-1 in their last five games, with the only blemish being the 3-2 loss to Prince Albert (due mainly to the play of goaltender Rylan Parenteau…..again!).
As for their last game, a 7-2 win over the hapless Kootenay Ice, you can toss it aside. As coach Brent Kisio stated in one of his post game interviews, he took the opportunity to play with his forward lines, using several different combinations in order to give him an idea of some potential possibilities.
Kisio will be forced to use different trios depending on the status of Egor Babenko (and of course no Justin Gutierrez). The Red Deer connection of players, Brayden Burke, Andrew Nielsen, Cory Millette and goaltender Jayden Sittler all seem to rise to the occasion playing against the Rebels. It’s a trend that will need to continue for game one of this weekend.
Simply put, Kisio will be stressing the fact that the Rebels will be “hell bent with pressure”. Sutter’s troops will be forcing the play from the drop of the first puck. The Canes defense will have to expect to be forced early and often, thus quick, smart puck exits from the zone are a must.
Lethbridge has gotten into the bad habit of slow starts and giving up the first goal. It has to end.
Besides the usual list of goal scorers of Wong, Estephan, Burke and Millette, I look for the continued solid play of Jordy Bellerive and Ryan Vandervlis as factors.
Goaltending matchup? No doubts: Trevor Martin vs Jayden Sittler!
- Giorgio Estephan has made an immediate difference in the three games he’s played since returning from injury.
- Let’s pack the rink for the boys tonight! This really is the biggest game the team has played since ’09 and I think it would be appropriate to fill the barn and make it loud.
- Pressure cooker? You bet!
- Pressure is on the Memorial Cup hosts to get the best first round match up possible.
- Pressure is on the Hurricanes to face “payoff like conditions” for the first time in 6 years. But it is how the teams handle the pressure that should make the difference.
- Two things to keep in mind.
- All the Canes need to do in order to clinch first place in the Central is win their three remaining home games.
- Secondly, the Canes have a 3pt lead in the standings, which is better than 3pts back.
“Tell me you can feel it. The Heat is On!”
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Canes will rise to the occasion and eke out a 4-3 win.
OBVIOUS GDP: Fans will be holding their breath with each shot, each save, crossing their fingers during penalties, and there will be a chorus of “shoot, shoot!” on power plays.
NOT SO OBVIOUS GDP: Another shouting match between Kisio and Sutter.
ping Mai-Tai’s. You can trust me… I’m a book reader.
What do you think? Who are you excited to watch tonight and what will be the outcome. Comment below.
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Remember to tell him Canes Domain sent you!