Okay, first things first. Following yesterday's blog "Memorial Cup Previews" I was questioned as to how I could predict the Giants to be have a fourth place finish in this years tourney. As we all know, it is very difficult to follow a junior hockey club as we are absolutely lambasted with print after print about everything to do with the NHL. Living in a Canuck crazed market and then you throw in a team from the QMJHL and the OHL and you have really go to start digging for information. My predictions fall squared on the statisical information and new arcticles that I have been able to gather.
I hate predictions in the first place and now that I haven't seen two of the four teams play, this is a rather difficult situation. I hope I am incorrect on my assessment of the Giants, one thing that I did not take into consideration is the fact that the Giants have the hometown fans behind them which is always a boost to any hockey club. The Giants may actually be the wild card team in this tournament because of the fan support that they will receive from hockey crazed Vancouver. My intial feeling on the fourth place finish is that I expect maybe a tie-breaker game involving the Giants and Maineiacs with Lewiston winning. I have no doubt in my mind that the Medicine Hat Tigers will be in the final on May 27th.
Back to Business...
Vancouver Giants (Host) vs. Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
6:00 pm (PST)
Rogers Sportsnet ~ Live webstreaming $6.95 CAD per game (http://www4.insinc.com/memorialcup/
CKNW 980 (Vancouver) - www.cknw.ca
Expect the Giants to be poised to put on a show for their fans. I heard coach Don Hay on the radio the other day say that the players haven't really talked about the Memorial Cup at all this season. Umm, Don ....we we're born yesterday ...this tournament has been on these players minds either since the city was announced as host or they themselves was listed on the 2006-2007 Vancouver Giants roster.
The key to the Giants may be their defensive play as many may know the OHL and QMJHL are where the skill comes from and the WHL is were the toughness and grit comes from. Tyson Sexsmith appears to have silenced his critics (including myself) and really made a name for himself as a solid goaltending prospect. The Giants defense includes the likes of Brett Festerling, Cody Frason and A.J. Thelen all of whom are touted as solid NHL prospects. Not to mention Johnathan Blum who is expected to go in the early rounds of this June's draft, Brendan Mickelson, and Brent Regner.
The Giants will rely heavily on the scoring of Michal Repik, Wacy Rabbit and Milan Lucic. Someone needs to check-in as the Giants goto guy in desperate situations, maybe hometown boy Kendall McArdle who seems to like the spotlight can become the man of the hour.
Look for a heavy forecheck by the Giants in the offensive zone, but once the puck crosses center and into their own end expect a rather conservative approach to the defensive zone set up.
Plymouth, as I said before...I can't say much about how they play. Statistically speaking they appear to have some excellent goaltending and some highly productive offensive threats. The Whalers have some mamoth size in their line-up. A quick glance will show you that there are several players that are 6 foot and beyond, especially on the blueline.
The reports that I have read indicate that a lack of production from their blueline may be the Whalers biggest weakness. There are several big boys back their but maybe they all have hands like Dana Murzyn?
Goaltending will not be an issue as from what I have read and what I see in terms of recent statisics Michal Neuvirth should be a treat to watch. His 2.45 goals against average seems, well average...but the .093 save percentage...that's unreal.
Everyone can expect the Whalers to press for offense early on in the game, if Sexsmith cannot hold the fort early on this might be a long night for the rowdy fans at the old rink on Renfrew.
You could probably use this game to gauge the 'Offense wins games, Defense wins championships' theory. If the nerves don't get to them and the Giants are able to fend off an early offensive surge, we could be in for a dandy. Plymouth wants to score early and score often, meanwhile Vancouver will look to hold off and take their chances later on in the game.
Giants 5 - 4
Here's to a dandy at the Coliseum.....
Let's Get It On!