Sunday, February 28, 2010

Thoughts on Owen Sound and Brampton from February 28

I've been itching to catch a Battalion game since Cody Hodgson returned to action, and was finally able to watch this lunchtime affair (time changed due to the Olympic Gold Medal game) between Brampton and Owen Sound. The game was largely controlled by the Battalion, who out shot the Attack 36-20 and used a two goal game from Hodgson to defeat Owen Sound by a score of 5-2.

This Brampton win extends their win streak to 3, and gives them a 6-3 record in their last 9, with those three losses all by only one goal. After a slow start (as expected), Hodgson has 8 goals and 9 assists in his last 8 games. With a healthy Cody Hodgson and a solid defense, I certainly wouldn't want to play Brampton in the playoffs. They look poised to be able to push any team (Barrie and Mississauga included) to the limit.

Meanwhile, the Attack continue to be one of the league's most inconsistent teams. One night they look great, the next they look like the worst team in the league. With the expectations the team had going into this season, you have to think management (Dale Degray, Mark Reeds) could (and should) come under heavy scrutiny from the ownership in Owen Sound.

Here are some thoughts on players from both sides...

Owen Sound Attack

Roman Berdnikov (2010)

Was completely invisible and a disappointment. At times he looked behind the play and I question his ability to accelerate as he had visible trouble creating space for himself.

Garrett Wilson (FLA)
Wilson had a good game, which seems to be par for the course this season as one of Owen Sound's most consistent performers. I've talked at length previously about the strides he's made this season, so I won't go there again. He had a really nice drive to the net in the second period that saw him beat the Brampton defenseman to the outside, then throw a pass into the slot to teammate Steve Shipley who missed the net high on a wrist shot. Also in the second, he came up with a steal off a poor Ken Peroff breakout pass, cut towards the middle and rifled a slap shot on Patrick Killeen who kicked the rebound right to Bobby Mignardi for the tap in. Obviously, Wilson drew the primary assist. Next year will be really interesting for him as he could have a really big year, with even larger improvements to his skating and strength.

Joey Hishon (2010)
Hishon had an excellent game, definitely the best one I've seen him play this season. He scored a highlight reel goal at the end of the first period, as he stepped out of the box shorthanded, gloved a clearing attempt, took two steps to reach max acceleration and blew by Brampton defenseman Ben Alavie for a partial breakaway. Hishon then went backhand and roofed it over Patrick Killeen. His speed and acceleration made him a threat nearly every time on the ice, even if Brampton's defense did a largely solid job against him. I would still like to see Hishon use his teammates better though. Too much of the predictable inside/outside move coming down the wing. It's good to see him generate chances with his speed, but he needs to have less of a one track mind. One thing I was particularly impressed with was his play without the puck, or at least his determination towards it. While Cody Hodgson largely got the best of him, Hishon was fighting him all game long in the corners and along the wall and showed a dedication to play without the puck that has been a criticism of most.

Steven Shipley (2010)
I continue to be impressed with Shipley. While his acceleration may not be amazing, I think the knocks towards his skating are unfounded. I think he moves quite well for a bigger forward, and once he does get going, he's got the leg strength and balance to be able to get past defenders one on one. He missed a glorious chance off a feed from Garrett Wilson, as he roofed it over the net in the slot. All game long, he worked hard on the penalty kill and in the corners, and was having some success being able to bring the puck into the offensive zone. On the downside, I'm not sure what the deal is with him continuing to be on the point on the powerplay. Owen Sound went 0/5 and whenever Shipley was on the ice on the point, the team had trouble even gaining the zone. Not a knock against Shipley, but he's much more effective offensively as he gets closer to the net. Please Mark Reeds, stop this madness!

Geoffrey Schemitsch (2010)
Schemitsch did not have a strong game at all. Absolutely the weakest I've seen him play all season. He had a lot of trouble defensively in coverage, as he was on the ice for 3 goals against. On the first Cody Hodgson goal, he and partner Milan Doczy must have gotten mixed up because somehow Hodgson wound up wide open in front of the net 5 on 5 for an easy goal. On the third period Stephon Thorne goal, Schemitsch was very passive in playing the puck carrier and allowed Thorne to pick up a loose puck off the wall and go right to the net for the shot on Stajcer, whom he beat over the shoulder. Not only did he fail to engage Thorne, but he provided a perfect screen on his own goaltender. On the positive defensively, Schemitsch remains a strong one on one defender, as he uses his solid mobility to prevent forwards from beating him to the net. Offensively, he failed to get anything going. Two bad turnovers as he tried to move the puck up ice by throwing it through the center of his own zone. He just had a lot of trouble with a strong Brampton forecheck and appears to be struggling to play the role of puck rusher, unless he has time and space.

Scott Stajcer (NYR)
Despite giving up 5 goals on 36 shots, I didn't feel Stajcer played THAT poorly. He had a lot of bad bounces go against him. Deflections, screens, and just terrible defense left Stajcer out to dry. In the first and second period, he made a few really big point blank saves to keep his team in the game. At this point though, he's still not technically sound enough to be the type of goalie who can consistently steal games for his team. With how poor Owen Sound's defense has been this season, could we blame this on a lack of confidence?

Brampton Battalion

Matt Clark (ANA)
Simply put, Clark may be the best defensive defenseman in the league. He's nearly impossible to beat one on one, as his size, strength and mobility make him as close to a rock as you can find. His positioning is exceptional too, as he consistently wins battles in the corners or anticipates the direction of loose pucks. On the penalty kill he played a particularly strong game, holding Owen Sound to 0 for 5. Offensively, he'll never be an elite player, but he makes a good first pass and can actually do a decent job of running the powerplay, getting his shot through to the net. This guy is ready for professional hockey next year.

Cameron Wind (2010)
In the battle of under appreciated defense prospects for this years draft (between he and Schemitsch), Wind easily won today. He played a very strong game and it's easy to see why Central Scouting continues to be high on him. Wind possesses good size, good mobility, a developing aggressive nature and an untapped offensive potential. Having seen Wind more earlier this season, I can appreciate the improvements in his offensive game. He looks much more confident in his ability to move the puck up ice and completed several successful rushes into Owen Sound's zone. He also made a few very nice defensive plays, cutting off the passing lane and winning lose battles in the corners. He laid a beautiful hit on Bobby Mignardi around his own blue line too, as Mignardi tried to gain access with his head down. With Brampton receiving more and more attention, Wind could slowly start to see his draft ranking rise.

Sam Carrick (2010)
Carrick started the year so well, but proceeded to go through a tough stretch during the middle part of the season. He's played much better this month though and had a very strong game today. Carrick, anchoring Brampton's second line, demonstrated a solid all around game and a good ability to take the puck strong to the net. Despite being only averaged sizes, Carrick is quite strong and at one point on the rush, skated the puck up ice with one hand as he used the other to fend off would be attackers. He scored his goal on a slapshot from the blueline in the first period, as he perhaps fooled Scott Stajcer. He later added an assist in the second period on Cody Hodgson's second goal of the game after winning a puck battle in the corner and getting it to Hodgson. I think Carrick has an edge to his game that will only be elevated as he gains confidence. He threw a couple checks, ran Scott Stajcer, and hit an Owen Sound player from behind. That edge may be the key that gets him drafted higher than many may expect.

Cody Hodgson (VAN)
Ladies and gentleman, Cody Hodgson is back. He was head and shoulders the best player on the ice this afternoon. Played just a tremendous game. Every time he was on the ice or touched the puck, it seemed like he was close to scoring or setting up a goal. His conditioning looked excellent as he played a good majority of the game, and even in the late stages was impossible to strip the puck from. Strangely enough (and perhaps speaking volumes about Owen Sound's defense), Hodgson scored both of his goals by being absolutely wide open. His first, by stopping a point shot and finding himself wide open in front of Scott Stajcer. He proceeded to make a move and went backhand to the top of the net, leaving Stajcer on his stomach. His second goal was scored he took a loose puck from the corner, walked right out into the slot and ripped one over Scott Stajcer's right shoulder. On the penalty kill, Hodgson was excellent too. Looks like the back problems are behind him for the time being.

Patrick Killeen (PIT)
No goalie in the league has been hotter than Killeen in the recent months. In 2010, he's got a .925 SV % and four shutouts through 23 games. It was a big year for Killeen who needed to prove to Pittsburgh that he was worthy of being signed as one of their 2008 draft picks. Needless to say, he's made great strides this year. A big goalie, Killeen has really tightened up his technical skills. He controls rebounds better, he's reacting to plays quicker, and he's playing the angles more effectively. I think the biggest thing might just be an increase in confidence, as Killeen's become the team's number one goaltender for the first time in his career. The one goal scored by Owen Sound's Bobby Mignardi was a bit of a soft one though, as he kicked out a soft shot right into the slot for Mignardi to put home into the open net. While the rebound control has improved, rebounds off low shots still require improvement. Killeen made 18 of 20 saves for the win.

Anybody else with thoughts on this matinee?

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