Caught this one on the OHL Action Pack tonight after returning from a weekend vacation. The 67's came in to Oshawa playing their third game in three nights. They have to consider themselves lucky to come out of this one with a point as they were badly outplayed. Shots went in favor of the Generals 53-29, however a late 3rd period 67's goal by Ryan Martindale sent this one to overtime and eventually the shootout. It was there the Generals managed to come out on top after scoring on 3 of their 4 attempts.
Despite today's lackluster performance, it has to be considered a successful weekend for the 67's. Despite the fact that they lost 2 out of 3 games, they managed to come away with 4 points, with their one win coming against the defending Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires (4-3 on Friday). There does have to be some concern moving forward for the 67's though. Thought to be a strength of the team, the defense has not be strong thus far. Prone to turnovers and poor defensive reads/decisions, the 67's have looked anything but solid in their own end. Sure Anthony Nigro is out with mono, and sure Corey Cowick is out with his shoulder, but some of the other players need to take it upon themselves to step up their games. Even though the season is early, it does appear that the 67's may have some trouble separating themselves from the middle of the pack teams in the Eastern Conference.
Oshawa on the other hand seems to be headed in the right direction. They just got Calvin de Haan back, their younger players are taking steps forward, and they appear to have the right attitude on the ice. It does appear goaltending is currently a bit of a problem though. Neither Kevin Baillie nor Michael Zador have played well (just check out their save percentages, yikes!) and someone has step forward for the Generals if they too have aspirations of separating themselves from the middle to bottom tier of the East.
Some thoughts on individual performances from both sides...
Scott Valentine (ANA)
There's a lot to like about Valentine. He's definitely a mean S.O.B. Has no problem clearing the front of the net or giving a shot to the back or two of an opposing forward. Offensively, he has powerplay capabilities and seems to do a good job of getting his point shot through. He's also a quality skater, and he uses this to his advantage both offensively and defensively. For a physically aggressive defender, skating is important. However there is also a lot to dislike about Valentine's game. He took himself out of position at least twice by going for the big hit on an opposing rushing forward, neither time connecting. He needs to pick his spots better, as it would appear forwards are starting to get a bit of a "book" on him. He also made a terrible pinch offensively which led to an Ottawa goal. He has the skating ability to carry the puck into the zone, but again it comes down to timing and being able to get back to the defensive zone quickly enough. There is potential there, and let's remember that he's only played over 50 games in the OHL in 3 combined seasons. A long term defensive project but one with some promise. He finished the night -3.
Tony DeHart (2010, but 1990 born)
Really seems to have flourished as an OHL defender. He's playing with Calvin de Haan right now on Oshawa's top defensive pairing. Speaking of which, we really need to come up with a quality nickname for that pairing; the De-fence brothers (someone has to come up with a better one than that)? Quality player at both ends of the ice. Defensively he kept players to the outside and made smart decisions with the puck. Offensively he did a great job moving the puck out of the zone and running the point on the powerplay, where he scored his goal off a nice low point shot (that was deflected in by Tyler Cuma). With the way he's progressing this year, he could be on some NHL team's radar. Had a goal and an assist tonight.
Andy Andreoff (2010, but 1991 born)
Thought to be a potential 2009 NHL draft selection, Andreoff's poor offensive season seemed to sour NHL scouts. This year he's performing much better and he looked very good tonight. Moves up the ice really well, takes the puck to the net and scored the game's opening goal. Constantly involved offensively. Perhaps a nice bounce back season puts him back on the NHL scouting list.
Jeff Hayes (Overage Free Agent)
Hayes was the best player on the ice tonight. It's easy to see why the Generals captain is a fan favourite in Oshawa. While small, he's fearless and he used his speed to generate numerous scoring chances. His overall skill set is very solid. His goal was a wrist shot wired to the top shelf, while his assist came off some fancy playmaking from behind the net to Boone Jenner. Tough to say if there is a future for him in professional hockey, but you have to like the attitude and skill set he brings to the ice, even if he is undersized. Finished with a goal and an assist.
Boone Jenner (2011)
The Generals are lucky to have this guy. Their first rounder in the 2009 Priority Draft, Jenner has a lot of potential in this league. He showed really nice hands by finishing off the Jeff Hayes pass to the front of the net. The pass was flipped between Tyler Cuma's skates and Jenner showed a soft touch by corralling the puck and putting it over Mrazek's pad. He had a couple other offensive chances in the game and I like the way he goes to the net looking for the puck. He'll get better and more consistent from shift to shift, as the season goes on.
Calvin de Haan (NYI)
He had a pretty solid game. He got hurt again in the first period, but returned to action after missing a few shifts. I think there is definitely something bothering him, although their is no word yet as to what. The fact that he appears to be playing with an injury, and still looks as good as he does, is a testament to his talent level. Defensively, he was solid tonight. He reads and reacts to situations very well on the ice and does a great job in taking away space from opposing forwards by using superb positioning skills. He did make one bad pinch tonight that led to an odd man rush for Ottawa and caused him to take a slashing penalty in an attempt to break it up. But, for all the times he pinches and manages to create a scoring chance, I'm sure Chris DePiero doesn't mind the odd chance going the other way as a result. A smart player who's going to be a treat to watch for Team Canada at this years World Junior Championships. He finished the game with an assist.
Christian Thomas (2010)
There is a reason they call him Stumpy Jr. He resembles his father a lot on the ice. His skating stride and ability, his elusive nature and ability to win loose puck battles, and his fearless drive to the net all remind one of his father Steve. He did a really good job on the cycle tonight and seems to hover around the net for scoring opportunities. On the downside, I'm not sure he has the shot his father had, but he's still a quality player. Made a really nice hesitation move in the shootout to beat Petr Mrazek. He finished the game with 2 assists.
Kevin Bailie (2010)
I wasn't incredibly impressed by Bailie tonight. While he wasn't terrible, he also didn't do much to win this one for his team, save a nice shootout save on Tyler Cuma. A former first rounder by the Generals, Bailie just didn't stand out tonight. He's obviously a big goalie (listed at 6'3), but he doesn't play big. He spends a lot of time in the butterfly and tends to stay on the ground more than he should. The goal that really let Ottawa back in the game was as a result of a bad turnover by Bailie as he tried to play the puck. This was Dalton Smith's marker at the start of the 3rd period. He's definitely going to need to play better to get serious attention from NHL teams. He stopped 25 of 29 shots for the win.
Ryan Martindale (2010)
Probably the best game I've seen him play. He's a big guy and he played with a lot of attitude tonight. A good attitude. He used his size and tried to drive the puck to the net nearly every time he had it on his stick. He was also sensational defensively, stopping two easy goals for the Generals by returning to the defensive zone just in time. His late 3rd period goal off a nice slap shot earned Ottawa the point. On the negative side, I'd still like to see him use his teammates more, especially as a centerman. He tends to be too focused on making things happen and finishing them off at the same time, rather than making things happen for his linemmates too.
Tyler Toffoli (2010)
Toffoli also played a good game. He had two very nice passes that resulted in Ottawa goals and the more I see him, the more I'm realizing he's more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. I keep wanting to see him drive hard to the net with the puck, but I'm just not sure that's his game. He does need to shoot the puck more though and be a little more selfish (kind of the opposite of Martindale). On one opportunity he had a clear shot on net, but decided to make a drop pass to a teammate with a worse scoring chance. I think a lot of it could have to do with confidence level on the ice too. I'm not sure he knows how good he could be. Either way, looks like he's starting to come out of his little offensive funk. Had an assist and was +3 on the night.
Tyler Cuma (MIN)
Didn't have a good game again. Not sure what's going on there, it could be that he's just trying to do too much with the 67 blueline struggling. On the Tony DeHart powerplay goal he made a real boneheaded play, one that Don Cherry would have lambasted him over. With Petr Mrazek out of his crease to challenge the shooter and no Oshawa player screening him, he had a clear view of the puck to make the stop. However for some reason Cuma put out his stick to try and stop the puck and instead tipped it over Mrazek's shoulder to the top corner. If he lets that puck go, it's an easy save for Mrazek and an easy rebound to control. On the Jeff Hayes pass to Boone Jenner, he fell victim to Hayes puckhandling ability, failing to take the man and let the puck go between his legs to Jenner for the finish. Offensively, he seems to be forcing things too, trying to get his shot through and trying to make things happen when they aren't there. I think he's just pressing with the defense struggling.
Dalton Smith (2010)
Skating may be a bit of an issue, but he does so many things well I always tend to ignore it. He's always in the crease and causing trouble for the opposing netminder. He's got great hands, especially in close. On his 3rd period goal, he received a nice pass from Thomas Nesbitt (off the Bailie turnover) and put it from his stick to the back of the net at warp speed. He's also very physical and had a few really nice hits tonight. The complete package other than the skating, it's hard to think of this guy as anything but an NHL prospect.
Petr Mrazek (2010)
Mrazek had a heck of a game tonight. He let a real softie in on the first Oshawa goal (by Andreoff), but was outstanding from their on out. He made the best save I've seen this OHL season in the second period, robbing (I believe) Boone Jenner of a sure goal by stretching his pads and reacting to a quick pass and shot. He's definitely an incredibly athletic goaltender and moves very well in his crease, going from the butterfly to the stand up very quickly. He takes away the bottom of the net in the same way Mike Murphy does, by being quick and agile with his pads. It's pretty obvious he spent a lot of time watching Dominik Hasek as a kid too, as his flopping style resembles the Dominator. He has to be careful about committing to the play early though, as this is what burned him in the shootout. Oshawa's first two shooters used hesitation moves to get him down on the ground and out of position early before finishing off their goals. Still an impressive performance for a player who's going to start to press for the starting role. He stopped 48 of 52 shots, taking the loss.
That's it for tonight guys and gals. Anybody else catch this one?