Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The Opposition Perspective

Please see the followin very well written piece, sent to me from a good friend over at @canesdomain on twitter. Please visit his website at canesdomain.com

His perspective of tonight's match up between your Red Deer Rebels and the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

"I’m not really sure what the perception of the Hurricanes is outside of Lethbridge. I’m a born and raised Lethbridge native and the saga that exists in this market is second nature to me. Bickering, rumor spreading, fear mongering, trepidation… those are just things synonymous with all jr. hockey teams are they not?

Let me be clear. I don’t believe any of those things are currently an issue. I actually believe things to very good within the team and the organization right now. It would however, be naive to say those characteristics didn’t dominate this market as recently as last year. We are a jaded bunch us Lethbridge hockey fans. Whether justified in it or not, that's just how things are down here. Or at least, that’s how things were.

It would be premature to suggest that everything is okay four games into the Hurricanes 2015-2016 season, but things really do seem to be trending upwards. While it has yet to translate to massive crowds or a feverish movement in the city, there does seem to be a cautious optimism surrounding the club. There is what I believe to be a large number of hockey followers taking a ‘wait and see’ approach with the Hurricanes. It may take months, but if the Canes can carry on around .500, some of those followers floating in the distance may once again occupy a seat at the Enmax Centre.

For Rebel’s faithful unfamiliar with the Canes’, here are a few very early characteristics of the ‘15-’16 club.

The Hurricanes have solid goaltending. Both Jayden Sittler and Stuart Skinner have proven to be above average netminders. Skinner has been pulled in two of his three starts, but hasn’t been terrible in either case and looked very good in the home opener against the Tigers.

Up front, the Hurricanes boast a deep lineup. The first line of Estephan (Sabres 15’), Wong, and Bellerive has been extremely productive to date. Wong and Estephan have been standouts more than the young Bellerive, but his time is coming. The second line consists of two overage forwards acquired in the offseason. Justin Gutierrez centers Corey Millette and import sensation Egor Babenko. Babenko brings the flash while the two overagers have shown no fear crashing the net.

The bottom six consists of a few stand out rookies and a number of underrated sophomores. Watch for Carter Folk, Ryan Vandervlis, and Brayden Burke to make an impact. While the Canes don’t have much in the way of household name scorers, they are a deep team that can roll four lines.

The question marks come on the back-end where Andrew Nielsen (Toronto ‘15) and overager Arvin Atwal have been called on to do the heavy lifting. Atwal has shown more offensive flare than he was billed but makes the occasional risky play. Don’t be surprised to see Atwal mix it up after the whistles either. He plays with an edge - sometimes to his benefit - sometimes not.

Outside of the top two, the remaining defensive roster is a pretty meat and potatoes group. There are serviceable players here, but a number of egregious mistakes have been made on the backend four games in. If the Rebels can pressure Hurricane defenders, there will be turnovers and odd man rush opportunities to be had.

The Hurricanes have proven to have a very good powerplay thus far. The Rebels would be wise to avoid taking too many penalties. On the other hand, the Hurricanes have also proven to take some terrible penalties of their own. I’m not sure of actual numbers, but I would wager the Hurricanes are in the upper third of the league in taking offensive zone penalties.

Ultimately, Rebel’s fans should expect a close, entertaining affair, with lots of chances both ways."

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