- If their were any doubters, the Portland Winterhawks proved over the past two night's that they are indeed the class of the WHL. They rarely....and I mean rarely...take night's off and can make you look silly. Saturday night at Prospera Place it wasn't even close in the Winterhawks 5-1 win over the Kelowna Rockets. A weak goal less than a minute and a half into the game seemed to suck the life out of the Rockets who had little if no push back the rest of the way.
- The line of Nic Petan, Brendan Leipsic and Ty Rattie combined for 10 points. The theorists will say that is proof they are essentially a one line team. Not true. They still get solid contributions from all of their lines, while not as dangerous, are pretty solid.
- Nic Petan is going to score 50 goals as a 17 year-old. Unless someone can correct me, which is easy to do, Patrick Marleau of the Seattle Thunderbirds was the last 17 year-old to score 50 goals in one season in the WHL. Petan is smallish, but I don't care if he's 4 foot 3, he goes to the right areas to score goals. Petan is playing with two highly skilled players but he isn't riding on their coat tails.
- What the Hawks do that few teams are able to mimic is their ability to capitalize on scoring chances. Brendan Leipsic receives and breakaway pass and scores. Most teams would miss or would need three breakaways to score once. That's what sets the Hawks apart from the others. The ability to finish is incredible.
- As an example, Rockets forward Henrik Nyberg has a tremendous chance to score at the side of the Winterhawks net in the first period but his shot, which appears to be going in, is batted away from the goal line by defenceman Troy Rutkowski.
- Could the Rockets scare the Hawks if they met in a playoff series? Sure they could, but they would have to play fine tuned hockey. Soft goals can't happen. The Rockets gave up the opening goal that way on back-to-back night's. You have to force the Winterhawks to earn everything they get. They don't need help.
- The only positive to take out of the game was Jackson Whistle's performance in the third. The coaches elected to give Rockets starter Jordon Cooke a seat on the bench and Whistle responded with solid saves. The best stop came on Leipsic on Portland's first shot on goal of the period. WHL Plays of the Week perhaps?
- It should be mentioned that Winterhawks head coach Travis Green showed a lot of class - in my opinion - for not running up the score in the third period. Green knew the game was out of reach and the Rockets were in no way mounting a third period comeback. That shows respect for the team he's playing against and respect for the game. It won't matter one way or the other to Green, but I respect him more now then before we entered the weekend.
- Myles Bell failed to register a point in the two games. When your leading scorer is held off the score sheet your chances of winning against the best team in the league are greatly reduced. Bell wasn't the only one that was nullified. Ryan Olsen, the teams second leading goal getter with 27 goals, came up dry and Zach Franko had just one assist. You win or lose against good teams with your best players.
- The Rockets entered the weekend five points back of Portland. The margin is now 9. With 15 games to play and the way the Winterhawks are rolling, it would be pretty tough to even hope of challenging for first place in the overall standings. The focus must switch to a battle with the Blazers for first place in the BC Division and home ice advantage as the conferences second seed.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Winterhawks prove they are a cut above
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