Saturday, April 8, 2017

Kehler keeps it close in Rockets win

Cole Kehler - www.shootthebreeze.ca
  • Calvin Thurkauf's longest goalless streak this season was 7 games. The 19 year-old Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick wasn't going to allow that to happen again in the 2017 WHL playoffs. Failing to score in an opening round, 6 game series win over the Kamloops Blazers, the power forward opened the scoring and the floodgates in the Kelowna Rockets 4-2 win last night over the Portland Winterhawks. Thurkauf worked his way from the right corner and fired a shot to the glove side of Winterhawks goalie Cole Kehler. It was the first of what would be four quick strikes by the Rockets, who also received goals from Reid Gardiner, Kole Lind and Dillon Dube. While firing 54 shots on net, the Rockets grabbed a 1-0 lead in the best of 7 series with game two tonight at Prospera Place.
  • Without the solid play of Winterhawks goaltender Cole Kehler, specifically in the opening two periods, the score could have been 6-0 after 2 periods. The fact is you need your goaltender to give you a chance and Kehler did that in spades. In a sense, I was surprised at how dominant the Rockets were in the opening 40 minutes when they owned the puck and only allowed the Winterhawks 12 shots on goal. I didn't think the ice would be so tilted in the opener. 
  • The number of odd man rushes the Rockets created and the number of turnovers by Portland in their own zone was staggering. The Rockets fore-check was lethal. The Winterhawks like to activate their d-men into the rush, but they were unable too because they were continually defending. I thought the line of Reid Gardiner, Calvin Thurkauf and Nick Merkley were especially effective by hunting down pucks in the offensive zone and spending a considerable amount of time creating scoring chances.
  • As lopsided as the shot clock and territorial play was after 40 minutes, the Winterhawks had a chance to make it a game in the third period. I noticed the change in play about three minutes into the third period. The Rockets didn't manage the puck well with a 4-0 lead and the pace of the game turned into a mad scramble, which played into the hands of the visitors. The coaches call it a 'track meet'. The Winterhawks would get a Brad Ginnell goal at the midway point of the third period and then found the back of the net when leading scorer Cody Glass sent a pass in front of the net that glanced off a Rockets player and behind Herringer. From there, in a game that looked like it was in full control, it was a mad dash to the finish before the buzzer finally sounded.
  • Keegan Iverson didn't score a goal in game one, but he was noticeable by standing in front of Rockets goaltender Michael Herringer all night long and making life miserable. I often thought contact was made by Iverson on Herringer, but no call was ever made for goaltender interference. And honestly, if the officials are not going to call a penalty with Iverson crowding the crease, the 21 year-old should stand there all day. That's exactly what he did. 
  • Speaking of Herringer, the veteran goaltender made two nice stops when the Winterhawks were threatening late in the third period. Everyone will talk about the glove hand stop he made off of Skyler MacKenzie, but I thought his right pad save on Evan Weinger on a Portland power play, when he had to slide across from his left to this right, was a significant stop. Herringer was dialed in despite limited work in the opening 40 minutes.  
  • I was really looking forward to watching Kole Lind and Cody Glass in a match-up of two players eligible for June's NHL draft. It is fair to say Lind was significantly more visible with a goal and an assist. Glass wasn't around the puck much last night, mainly because he was caught playing defense. It is hard to be dynamic offensively when you and your teammates are checking. Glass did pick up a goal when his centering feed went off a Rockets player to make it a 4-2 score.
  • The Rockets did lose defenceman Devante Stephens when the 19 year-old was hit in the corner in the second period. Stephens, who in my books is a top 4 d-man, seemed to twist his wrist as he went into the boards awkwardly. 'Devo' never returned and I would be surprised if he plays in game two tonight. 
  • Who was the best skater for the Winterhawks? Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, but I thought Colton Veloso had a strong game. I thought he was consistently around pucks and had the most jump of anyone on Portland's roster.     
  • If I'm head coach Mike Johnston, the positive I take out of this game is the play of Cole Kehler and the third period flurry, They need to persuade the Rockets to play that style if they have a chance in this series. 
  • The paid attendance at last night's game was slightly over 5 thousand.  That said, visually there was nowhere near that many fans in the stands. It is a little surprising at this time of the year and with an arch playoff rival in town, shouldn't close to a sellout be realized? Before we throw the baby out with the bath water, let's see what type of crowd shows up for tonight's rematch.  

1 comment:

pfwood said...

Frankly the "no call" for goal tender interference led to the Rockets taking matters into their own hands, and ending up in the penalty box. Speaking of which I don't get the double roughing on Cal Foote, unless it is because he got more shots in, or because of the size difference, neither of which should prompt a call like that.