oshawa generals

The Canucks Aren’t Gonna Tank, Not Now, Not EVER!

Throughout this season, I’ve asked myself this a dozen or so times and I’m sure you have as well: What if the Canucks continue to alternate wins with losses, slowly yet strategically move away an old player at a time and actually have a seven game playoff series, or worse….they win one? Earlier in December, the Nucks had the best % chance of landing Auston Matthews in the 2016 Draft. They just aren’t giving up on this season and I’m afraid they might do something stupid like make the playoffs again.

Honestly, how hard is it to #tank? Jim Benning knows that for it to work successfully he has to create situations where they CAN’T WIN!!!!

Jimbo is slowly wiping away contracts, trading away things that aren’t working and I’m not quite sure if Willie Desjardins has a heavy hand in the current look but this whole Medicine Hat Tigers thing is looking a bit suspicious. Of all teams, the Tigers? If Benning tried to assemble former players from the likes of the Oshawa Generals, London Knights or Kelowna Rockets; he might have more success.

Don’t get me started on the non BC issue.

As of Jan 13, the Canucks are a win out of 7th in the West and 8 points back of LAST….dead last overall. Figure that out. The Pacific division is much to blame for this season as it basically is giving hope to everyone in the division except the Oilers; and even then, when McDavid comes back who knows?

Just when you think the Canucks were about to really slide into first overall glory, they start winning again. They start breaking win streaks, they’re getting contributions out of guys that hadn’t scored in months, a timely injury to Ryan Miller yet again forces Jacob Markstrom into the starters role and wouldn’t you know it, he’s thrived!

Or how about guys like Linden Vey and Sven Baertschi? Vey was sent down at the beginning of the year and we all assumed that might be it, well I did anyways; he finally gets a chance to be called up and he’s actually getting involved, ya I’m stunned too! With Baertschi, he was in and out of the lineup as a healthy scratch and then the pairing with Bo Horvat came and they started to chemistry (I think we were looking for the words jel/gel, click or connect); they’ve combined for 16 points since December 18th.

Can this team do ANYTHING right?

There are literally tens of reasons the Canucks are surviving this season and not planning a special draft jersey for Mr. Matthews, one of which, actually two, are the Sedins and their continued production. At 35 years old (sigh, he mentioned their age again, EVERYONE mentions their age), Henrik and Daniel have 36 and 40 points respectively and if Jannik Hansen stays healthy all year they both should be in the mid 80’s or so by year’s end. Stunning.

They’ve carried this team when no one else could even be lifted and now we find out their thugs too? The recent brawl with the Panthers, Daniel Sedin losing 4 teeth and missing approximately 3 shifts; yet still able to confuse and frustrate opposing defenders. These guys are still so good and when they leave THAT’S when the true rebuild will begin.

The Canucks don’t have it in them to #tank. They aren’t the type of organization to completely give up and start over, stubborn in a way but I’m happy they give us hope; not Stanley Cup hope but like that Barack Obama poster kinda hope. We continue to beg them to move the Higgins’s, Sbisas’s, Veys’s and even the Vrbatas’s so we can see this team get in a position to start over. Some even say Milan Lucic would help that, I’m still not sure that’s such a great idea….but not the Kenins’s, they’re plural already.

Benning is finding ways to go moneyball on the NHL and he might be hitting singles just enough to start scoring runs. Yes, a complete baseball reference in a hockey article. Im multi-faceted in sports cliches so watch out! At the beginning, Sven Baertschi looked like we might be losing a 2nd round pick after not seeing quick results but if he ends up being Horvat’s permy linemate, a 2nd was an absolute deal.

Remember when we tried to get Emerson Etem in the Ryan Kesler deal? Well Benning got him for Nicklas Jensen or Jensen depending on the day of the week and how you prefer to pronounce it. It will work out as a something for nothing deal as Jensen wasn’t going to ever be a Canuck. Who is this guy and will we continue to hate all his decisions? Some people will but Benning is quietly shutting everyone up one sneaky move at a time.

He’s real sneaky.

So tanking probably isn’t in the Canucks cards this year anymore and if they had pulled the trigger on the season before Christmas, the team might be in deep deep trouble ala Bart Simpson

That was a nice stroll down memory lane. But back to what I was talking about, something something tanking right? In typical Canucks nation fashion, we all tend to jump the shark a bit too much and demand immediate answers that aren’t always practical, possible or rational (the last one might be redundant).

Seeing this season out as a team, a fan base and media as a whole might help us to learn a lot of what this team is actually capable of. It could be a sour, smelly garbage bin of despair or it could be the bonus fry at the bottom of your Arbys bag that you are so happy was there for you at the end; regardless no tank, potential big surprises and no one on the team we need to refer to as “18 year old (insert player here)” or “(players name with a y at the end then Hockey)”.

This is the Canucks. Its usually painful, frustrating, confusing and exciting every day of the week. Just chill out. Nothing new to see here.

Follow me on twitter, not because you have to but because you can write it off on your tax return: @always90four

Rockets Too Much For Ramparts; Generals Await

Safe to say the province of Quebec are not Rockets fans after this week. Kelowna amassed 16 goals combined against the Rimouski Oceanic and Quebec Ramparts in just over 3 days. Everything seems to have gone right for the Rockets and their final test comes Sunday.

One more game. One more team.

The Kelowna Rockets needed a big game out of their stars and it was the supporting cast that did most of the damage on Friday night. The media and fans alike no doubt would have expected Nick Merkley, Leon Draisaitl and Gage Quinney to be the ones leading the attack, would Chance Braid and Justin Kirkland do?

Braid and Rodney Southam both got an opportunity to drop the mitts against Ramparts Yanick Turcotte and it only seemed to fire up the Rockets, to the tune of 9-3. Sure the big guns had a good game but it was the secondary scoring that did Quebec in.

Justin Kirkland seems to be fine after coming back from injury. He picked a great game to get back in the groove. With 2G and 2A and a +3, what a way to stun the Quebec crowd! He wasn’t the only one. Chance Braid added to his big fight by completing the Gordie Howe Hat Trick with a goal and an assist.

Up and down the lineup, the Rockets were having statement games. Even though Rourke Chartier was the team’s leading scorer, he has been under the weather and hasn’t produced at his normal clip. I guess all he needed was a big game to get his scoring touch back.

2 goals and a +4 got Chartier right back to where he needed to be. The German sniper Leon Draisaitl made quick work of Zach Fucale putting up a pedestrian 1G and 2A. He continues to amaze and now, he doesn’t even celebrate his goals.

We could keep talking about all the guys that got points for Kelowna but how about the ones that kept the puck out? Cole Martin is beyond underrated. He played the ultimate shutdown role against Quebec stealing pucks and driving guys to the outside.

Martin gets praise at home but on such a big stage like the Memorial Cup, he has elevated his game to the point the scouts should be taking notice. He isn’t flashy and isn’t one for the stats but if you need someone to breakup a huge play, odds are Martin is there.

Can’t forget to mention Jackson Whistle who allowed only 3 goals. In a format like the Memorial Cup, every team is good enough to score a boatload of goals. He never allowed more than 3 goals in a game and in the losses he suffered he was far from the reason they fell.

Whistle has been able to surpass his predecessor Jordan Cooke with less than stellar numbers, but the big numbers that mattered were the W’s he produced. The goal scoring in front of him sure helps keep a calm hand when opponents are bearing down on his net.

So now the Rockets get to play the Generals for the Memorial Cup. Two teams that are equal in almost every way. If you read my post from just over a week ago you know I’m not shocked to see them both here.

The two best teams are right where they should be and the way the Rockets are playing, the loss they suffered the first time they played Oshawa will serve as a good reminder of what they’ll have to do to win. Scoring 9 times in the semi final is a pretty good sign they’re ready.

Sunday can’t come soon enough.

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Rockets FINALLY Play Themselves; Lose Round 1

There was really only one game most people had circled on the schedule at the Mastercard Memorial Cup: Kelowna Rockets vs. Oshawa Generals. It lived up to the hype and hopefully its the preview of the Cup Final on Sunday. The Rockets found themselves playing against a mirror on Tuesday night and they lost the first round.

Once the puck dropped after the hour long (or so it felt) Patrick Roy love fest, Kelowna and Oshawa took awhile to get into their groove. Scoreless after one, the tension was building. They matched each other hit for hit, save for save and it had the makings of a classic.

The second period wasn’t so kind to the Rockets and recent Canucks darling, Cole Cassels, put the Generals up on the wide open chance. Oshawa would go up by two later in the period but the Rockets more specifically Gage Quinney put the WHL Champions within one.

Kelowna’s power play hasn’t exactly been electric and the chances they received, they couldn’t bury. Oshawa was all over Kelowna keeping them to the outside and minimizing chances….hmmmm sounds familiar? Its a shame they don’t have cross country 2 game sets as a buildup to the tourney.

That 5 on 3 was the Rockets chance to get the game back to even keel. Despite their efforts, they couldn’t buy a goal and you have to give the Generals credit because that penelty kill was epic!

Before the game started, it could be argued Ken Appleby and Jackson Whistle were similar in style, statistics and clutchness? Whistle did everything he could to keep the Rockets in while 200 feet away, Appleby did everything, a few more things and robbed a bank to keep the score in the Generals favour.

Goaltending should not have been the main topic of conversation but man did the tenders stand on their heads on this night. I can’t say it enough, these two teams better face off on Sunday.

You really do get a true appreciation of how good the Rockets have been this year when you see them face off against the Generals. Kelowna has pretty much ran the table this year and even with a few speed bumps in the playoffs, they were largely uncontested.

Oshawa had a bit of a harder road, a big test against the Erie McDavids…err Otters and they took that series deep. The Generals are an amazing shut down team and are very deserving of the accolades they receive. Its tough to see a loss like the Rockets had on Tuesday because they basically lost to themselves.

The only difference was that the team that beat them had a different looking jersey. It was three periods of excitement that no one wanted to end; I was begging for OT.

Oshawa now waits until Sunday to see who they will face for the Memorial Cup. Kelowna will wait too, hopefully until Friday to meet the Quebec Ramparts for revenge in the semi final.

It’s not over yet Rockets fans.

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Photo – lfpress.com

Kelowna Rockets, Oshawa Generals: Destined For Memorial Cup Final

The Kelowna Rockets dressing room still reeks of victory (and just plain stench) after beating the Brandon Wheat Kings four straight to clinch the WHL Championship. Dan Lambert’s boys looked like they almost cruised through most of the playoffs without much of a sweat.

Knocking off Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters in five games gave the Oshawa Generals a similar berth into the Memorial Cup tournament. These two teams are very similar and on Championship Sunday they’ll likely battle for junior hockey’s top prize.

Kelowna played all of 19 games this post season and faced adversity arguably only twice against the Portland Winterhawks. Once the Rockets took charge they never let up and put the Hawks away with ease. The Brandon Wheat Kings looked like they would challenge Kelowna but by the time they did, it was too late.

When the OHL playoffs started, many believed it would be the Erie Otters representing their league in Quebec City. Connor McDavid alone made quick work of his opponents, scoring effortlessly and often. But once they ran into the Oshawa Generals, their luck changed.

The Generals hit everything that moved. Cole Cassels (2013 Canucks 3rd rounder) didn’t completely contain McDavid but his overall game could not be matched. Oshawa in a lot of ways is the eastern version of the Kelowna Rockets.

Up front, the Rockets can score at will with their top two lines of Rourke Chartier/Leon Draisaitl/Nick Merkley and Tyson Baillie/Dillon Dube/Gage Quinney. in 19 games those 6 players combined for 49 of the Rockets 81 goals. They proved to be too much for three rounds and against Brandon they perfected their craft.

Oshawa liked the sound of the goal horn themselves. 78 goals in 21 games while only playing in 6 games with 2 goals or less. Pretty impressive. Cole Cassels and Matt Mistele combined for 23 goals and 12 power play markers, three others had 8 goals or more. The Generals were presented with opportunities and capitalized frequently.

Puck possession will be key in this tournament so look for the Draisaitl line to see a lot of Cassels. Even though both of these teams score in bunches, they way they control the play will keep the score quite low most likely. Of course, if I’m wrong that wouldn’t be the worst thing.

When it comes to goaltending its a deadlock. Jackson Whistle of the Rockets has proven he is indeed their #1 but has shown he is human as well. Whistle was the difference against Portland and benefited from some puck luck along the way as well.

He was guilty of giving up the first goal numerous times but hunkered down and slammed the door shut right after. If backup Michael Herringer is needed, he’s equally stingy and coach Lambert won’t hesitate if things get dicey.

Out east, Ken Appelby backstopped the Generals all the way. Posting 2 shutouts and a healthy .922 SA %, he even had time for a few game breaking saves against a certain future Edmonton Oiler. Highly debateable if the tenders are the main story; I have a feeling they won’t be.

Sure, there are 2 other teams in this tourny but Rimouski and Quebec will have beaten each other senseless by then and have rotated goalies on the regular. The Rockets and Generals have the early edge especially with a week of rest to recharge.

Having watched Kelowna develop the last three years into what they are now, its tough to bet against them. They aren’t just defense anymore. What Oshawa brings to the table is the equal compete level and ability to matchup almost line for line.

I’m playing my homer card and picking the Rockets to win it all but they’ve been here a few times looking like the favourite and come up short. 

Thankfully we will be watching these guys play for a second time if it gets that far and by then we’ll know who truly should be crowned the 2015 Mastercard Memorial Cup Champions.

I just want the cool hat.

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