Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The PIPE-ies: Top Single Game Performance

After a week of collecting nominations from our audience and media colleagues, last night on TPS we made it official. The nominees in all 10 categories were announced and now the voting for the winners can begin.

After the jump, the names of the nominees in the category of Top Single Game Performance during 2013-14. There are some absolute beauties in contention, we'll tell you what they are and why they are worthy of consideration.

In alphabetical order, the nominees for Top Rookie of 2013-14 are...

Jonathan Drouin: April 23, 2014 vs Val d'Or

Photo: QMJHL
To properly set the stage, the scene is Game 4 of the QMJHL semi-final between Halifax and Val d'Or. The Mooseheads, favored before the series began, dropped the first two games at home before winning game 3 on the road. The importance of Game 4 could not be understated; a win and the series is tied, a loss and Val d'Or has a stranglehold. 

Andrew Ryan scored an early power play goal to put Halifax ahead, Drouin collected the second assist on it. The lead didn't hold though and Val d'Or pulled even and then ahead with two quick goals. Halifax would knot things back up before the end of the 1st period - Drouin with the primary assist on Nelson Gadoury's marker. 

There were only two goals in the second frame, both from Halifax and Drouin had a hand in both of them. He scored the first one giving the Moosheads a 3-2 lead and then he set up Nik Ehlers for the 4-2 goal. 

Deadly forward Anthony Mantha narrowed the lead when he scored for the Foreurs but Drouin struck for his second of the night, and fifth point, with only a handful of minutes remaining in the game. The goal would go on to be the game winner. 

Shayne Gostisbehere: April 12, 2014 vs Minnesota

Photo: Yong Kim
"I don't know if I've ever seen anything like it," said one of our media colleagues in reference to the performance by Union Dutchmen defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere. I don't know if it's possible for a player to have a perfect game but this might have been as close as you can get. 

The setting was at the NCAA National Championship game between the college hockey Goliath from the University of Minnesota and the David of Division I programs, Union College. To be fair, there was no upset in the making no matter which of the four Frozen Four teams advanced to the title game and eventually came away victorious; all deserved to be there and there was no Cinderella story. 

That said, the Golden Gophers have a storied history while the Dutchmen had joined Division I twenty years earlier and had only recently enjoyed much in the way of success. 

The title game saw Minnesota score first and early, just 2:37 into the contest. However, the Dutchmen didn't fade but instead pressed the attack and rallied to tie the game - Shayne Gostisbehere grabbed the puck at his own blueline, sped through center ice, crossed Minnesota's blueline and leaned into a wrist shot that beat Adam Wilcox from 20 feet. Gostisbehere basically challenge the Gophers 1 on 5 and won getting his first point of the night, a goal, to tie the game. 

The Gophers scored 30 seconds later but then would have a 3 minute collapsed that Union pounced on. First Mike Vecchione scored to even the game and then Saskatoon's Eli Lichtenwald gave Union their first lead of the night. The play was generated by Gostisbehere who raced in off the blueline to the corner and beat a defender with a pass to the open man in the slot. 

Gostisbehere would add another assist in the third period after making a stellar stick check to break up a golden chance for the Gophers. The play went back up the ice the other way and Union would take a commanding lead. Union would go on to claim their first championship by defeating Minnesota by a 7-4. To add to the mystique of the night for Gostisbehere, the defenceman who never seemed to leave the ice, finished the game with an astonishing +7 rating. Yes, PLUS 7 in a national championship game. 

It was also fitting that Gostisbehere had the game of his life in the home of the Philadelphia Flyers, the team that drafted him and signed him almost immediately following the tournament. 

On top of that were some of the ridiculous plays he made both offensively and defensively that don't show up on the box score. Thankfully, the highlights of that night are available on YouTube. I totally encourage you to watch if you haven't seen it yet. 

Tristan Jarry: May 23, 2014 vs Val d'Or

Photo: Aaron Bell
The Edmonton Oil Kings and the Foreurs of Val d'Or had played a double overtime game three nights earlier, one that the QMJHL champs eventually won on a breakaway. 

When the two teams met again in the Memorial Cup semi-final, the winner would advance to the championship game while the other would head home empty handed. By the time the game was done, Edmonton and Val d'Or had played two games that had lasted almost as long as four regulation time contests. 

The semi-final went to not one, not two but THREE overtime periods and over the course of the game, Oil Kings netminder Tristan Jarry faced 49 shots and made 46 saves. Considering it was a plus-4 hour game, 49 shots might not sound like all that much and the second goal he allowed was one he'd stop 99 times out of 100. However, quality definitely outweighs quantity and on this night, Jarry made some massive stops.

In particular, a huge save on Nicolas Aube-Kubel followed up by rebound saves on Anthony Mantha in 3OT which also led to perhaps my favourite play call from team broadcaster Corey Graham.  

You can find the highlights of that game on the Oil Kings website.

Nathan MacKinnon: April 19, 2014 vs Minnesota

The NHL Rookie of the Year seemed to just get better and better as the season went on so it was no surprise that his best outing came in the playoffs. Game 2 of Colorado's series against the Minnesota Wild saw the Avalanche looking to sweep the first two games at home after downing the Wild 5-4 in overtime in Game 1.  Mackinnon recorded 3 assists in that contest so what could he do for an encore?

The answers started coming early in Game 2 as Mackinnon scored an absolutely beautiful goal just under 6 minutes into the game. The former Moosehead accepted a pass through the neutral zone and then used his speed to force Jared Spurgeon on his heels. A quick shift from Mackinnon sent Spurgeon pinwheeling across the ice and back checking Charlie Coyle reached but couldn't slow up the Colorado rookie either. MacKinnon wired a shot to complete his terrific individual effort and tie the game. 

Three more times MacKinnon would hear his name announced in scoring summaries, all were for assists including a pair of set ups that included jaw dropping moments of skill. Even the empty net goal from Paul Stastny was made possible by a determined effort from MacKinnon. Truly and inspired performance by the Calder Trophy winner. 

Here is the highlight reel from MacKinnon's points that night.

Henrik Samuelsson: May 25, 2014 vs Guelph

Photo: Aaron Bell
To me it's not a surprise that all of our nominees had their big games during critical games - it's when the best players show up and play to their ability.

The Memorial Cup final saw the favorites, the OHL champion Guelph Storm, taking on the WHL champion Edmonton Oil Kings. Guelph had beaten Edmonton during the round robin stage and to that point, were the best team in the tournament. The Oil Kings would have to bring their 'A' game to have any chance at winning. 

They brought their A+ game instead. 

Outside of an opening minute blunder that game the Storm an early lead, few would argue that Edmonton was the better club that night. There were no passengers for the Oil Kings but one line in particular really rose to the occasion and that was the trio of Mitch Moroz, Edgars Kulda and Henrik Samuelsson. 

The American Viking had shown the ability to take over game in the past and doing colour that night on the TSN 1260 broadcast, he was the player I predicted would do so again and for once, I wasn't wrong. 

Samuelsson's first point of the game was a simple power play assist as he teed up the puck for Cody Corbett to step into. The line really started to take over the game in the second period as both Mitch Moroz and Eddie Kulda scored, Samuelsson collecting assists on both tallies. Not only was Samuelsson piling up the points but he was dominating the game from a physical perspective as well. Guelph had no answer for him along the wall, in the corners or in front of the net. 

With the score 4-3 for Edmonton, Guelph had just scored and looked to build off of that momentum, Samuelsson appeared and snuffed out those embers before they could ignite. It was a text book 2-on-2 that saw Samuelsson slide the puck to Kulda then beat one Storm player and drive the net with his stick on the ice to accept the return pass. When it came, there was no mistake. 

The final nail in the coffin was an empty net goal but don't picture a dump in from the far blueline. This was an extra effort play from Samuelsson that saw him strip Robby Fabbri of the puck as he tried to clear his own zone. The Oil King forward turned, out muscled Fabbri then shot the puck while diving, beat Nick Ebert with the shot and hit the wide open cage to seal the victory. 

Highlights of that game are available at the Oil Kings website.

We are collecting votes for the next week until Tuesday August 19th when we announce the winners of the 2014 PIPE-ies. If you want to cast your vote, let us hear it. Tweet us at @TPS_Guy and @DuckMillard and include the hashtag #TPSAwards in your vote. 

No comments: