Wednesday night at Rexall Place the Edmonton Oil Kings jumped out to a 4-2 lead over the top team in the WHL after 20 minutes of play. I'm sure Saskatoon head coach Loren Molleken peeled some paint in the first intermission and it worked. The Blades outscored Edmonton 6-1 in the final 40 minutes to pick up their 49th win of the season.
Saskatoon showed that it can flex it's muscle when needed and can beat most teams on most nights, but over the last little while the play in their own end has been sketchy. The Oil Kings chased Adam Morrison after 9:11 and 3 goals on 6 shots Tuesday night. He's not their #1 man, but Steven Stanford is and he's allowed 4 or more goals in 6 of his last 12 appearances, including giving up 7 to Brandon recently.
We asked coach Molleken after Tuesday's win about the bulging goals against average and he mentioned the penalty kill as a problem and that his goaltenders have to be their best penalty killers. Still through it all Saskatoon is 7-3 in their past 10 and became the first team to reach 100 points in the WHL. They should be able to hold on and become regular season champs for the first time since 1987-88.
The Blades are one of the favourites to come out of the east but will have to deal with Kootenay, Red Deer and Medicine Hat to name a few teams, and one scout we spoke to tonight wondered if the previous 3 teams all have the goaltending edge over Saskatoon.
The Tigers were dealt a tough blow after beating Red Deer last night, as Tyler Pitlick suffered a broken ankle and could be out until round 2 of the playoffs. The Oilers 2nd round pick, 31st overall from last year was 3 goals shy of 30 and 3 points shy of 65 this season, and word from a scout was he was pretty impressive despite going pointless against Red Deer Tuesday.
One thing that Medicine Hat has is a lot of depth; 11 players have double digit goals and Kellen Tochkin is one point shy of giving the Tigers a 5 spot of 60 point players. If Emerson Etem scores 2 more goals it will give them a pair of 40 goal scorers..the other just happens to be the WHL's leading scorer Linden Vey with 107 points. I'm pretty sure they can win a round without Pitlick, but will need all their fire power as the playoffs roll on.
We'll see how they look without the big forward Friday night when the Tigers come to town to face Edmonton.