Monday, April 23, 2012

Blackjack! - Oil Kings Win 21st in a Row

The Edmonton Oil Kings hold a 2-0 series lead over the Moose Jaw Warriors and in the process pushed their winning streak to a remarkable 21 games. Despite a much better effort from the Warriors in game 2 it was the exact same result as the Oil Kings posted back to back 6-1 victories in the WHL's Eastern Conference Final. 

Some thoughts on the series and other things going on these days after the jump.

After Sunday's loss, a trio of us media types braved the Moose Jaw post game zone and chatted with head coach Mike Stothers, captain Kendall McFaull and marquee forward Quinton Howden. You can hear portions of those conversations tonight on The Pipeline Show but suffice to say it was a pretty frustrated group as they tried to wrap their heads around the latest loss.

The Warriors blasted shot after shot at Edmonton's net during the second period, 24-11 in the middle period alone and 49-32 overall, but allowed one more goal than they scored. Oil Kings netminder Laurent Brossoit was unbelievable during a game he called the best of his career (hear that on TPS tonight too) as he was beaten only once, on a deflection.

The bottom line on the night was that despite a significantly better performance by Moose Jaw, the final score wasn't even close.  The scene now shifts to Saskatchewan for games 3 and 4 but will home ice be enough to slow down the Oil Kings? Certainly the Warriors can be expected to put forth their best game of the season and they'll need to; there is almost zero chance of beating the Oil Kings in four consecutive games.

Edmonton's victory was even more impressive considering top 80-point man Dylan Wruck and Kristians Pelss, two of their top 6 forwards, were not in the line up due to injury. Plus, the Oil Kings soldiered on without Travis Ewanyk who missed the second and third periods after taking a shot off his forearm. There was some speculation on the catwalk last night that it was another shoulder injury for Ewanyk but that was not the case.  

Sources suggest that both Pelss and Ewanyk will return to action tomorrow night.

Photo: Andy Devlin / Oil Kings
- How about Klarc Wilson? He played the first two games of the playoffs for Edmonton but was scratched once Henrik Samuelsson's suspension was over. Now, with Wruck on the shelf, the Edmonton native has come in and scored on his first shift in Game 1 against Moose Jaw and now has 5 points in the series that is only two games in. He was named the WHL's Player of the Week for his effort. 

- Curtis Lazar has taken his game to a completely different level since the playoffs started. The 16-year-old leads the team in scoring with 14 points and has unreal chemistry with Stephane Legault and Henrik Samuelsson. The trio has combined for 36 points in 10 games (8 for Samuelsson). 

- I loved seeing Lazar drive to the net on his third period goal last night. He was hammered by 6'6 Cody Beach but still managed to tuck the puck across the line a second before the net came off its mooring. The official waved the play off before the review overturned it but Lazar knew better; as soon as he'd gotten back to his feet he signaled it was a goal.

- Now that the mainstream media is showing up to Oil Kings games the players on the club are getting wider recognition for their abilities. Laurent Brossoit as a potential member of Canada's WJC team in 2013? Sounds good to us

Photo: Jana Chytilova / IIHF Images
- Breaking news on Monday morning that the Portland Winterhawks have acquired "a window" to speak with defenceman Seth Jones from the Everett Silvertips for undisclosed draft picks. 

Nick Patterson from the Everett Herald writes: "Jones' rights remain with Everett. This deal just gives Portland a window to talk with Jones to try to convince him to choose the Western Hockey League instead of the NCAA. Davidson declined to reveal either the conditions of the bantam pick or the length of the window. If the Winterhawks are able to convince Jones, then another deal will have to be worked out to move Jones' rights." 

Considering Portland gave up their 1st round picks this year and in 2013 to get Marcel Noebels out of Seattle, I wonder what they would surrender should Jones land in Portland. Jones is considered the top defenceman available in the 2013 NHL draft and ISS head scout Ross MacLean recently told TPS listeners that he had the best U18 performance he's ever seen. 

- There are already a lot of folks lifting an eyebrow Portland's way over the team's ability to secure top European talents like Nino Niederreiter and Sven Bartschi and to lure players such as William Wrenn and Cam Reid out of college. There are a lot of whispers of shady practices being employed to accomplish those types of moves and that talk won't go away after this trade, especially should Jones join the team next year. "What a joke" was one comment I've already received from someone who clearly subscribes to the opinion that all is not on the level that the WHL and CHL claim it to be. I'm not in a position to make accusations but if something behind the scenes is going on, wouldn't you think that the rest of the teams in the WHL would be aware of it and try to put a stop to it? 

Photo: Andy Devlin / Oil Kings
- Last night during the Team 1260's broadcast I suggest that Laurent Brossoit might be the top goaltender right now in not just the WHL but the entire CHL. I followed that up by asking folks on Twitter to suggest goalies they would rank ahead of the Oil King. I was told Kitchener's John Gibson (8-4-1, .942 and 2.42 GAA)... Petr Mrazek in Ottawa (9-2-4, .927 and 2.47 GAA)... Medicine Hat's Tyler Bunz (4-3-1, .925 and 2.78 GAA) and Nathan Lieuwen from Kootenay (0-4, .896 and 3.53 GAA). For the record, Brossoit obviously has a strong team in front of him but as we saw last night, he's a major reason why the club is riding a 21-game winning streak. His playoff numbers? 10-0-0, .950 and 1.40 GAA. 

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