Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's A Bumpy Road To The Memorial Cup

Talk about an interesting start to the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup year for the Saskatoon Blades.

The team is still winless at home and has had all kinds of things go wrong for them this season.  They've played some great games and lost. There have also been numerous other things, a short list would look something like this:

- Tough first periods. Outshooting the opposition 138-101 in the 1st this year, being outscored 11-8.

- Not great goaltending.  The team's 2011-12 MVP in Makarov has been flat out average this year. Maybe below average with an .890 sv%. Back up goalie has been started twice and pulled twice. That hasn't helped.

- Terrible discipline.  Had some horrific games to start the year in regards to being able to stay out of the box.

- Bad special teams. Were 22nd on the PP and 21st on the PK before this past weekend, where they had some success in this area.

- A lack of goals.  Prior to this weekend they had been outscored 39-17, average just over 2 goals per game.  Take away a 9-6 loss to Brandon and that falls to 11 goals in the team's first 7 games.  Simply not good enough.

Prior to this weekend, they would come out hard, get scored on and not have that pushback that they needed.  A typical sign of a lack of confidence. 

But, the players, team staff and fans finally got a chance to exhale over the weekend as the Blades got some puck-luck, worked hard and finally found the win column, taking two of a three game road swing.

The wins came at a perfect time and I think they might have turned a corner.

Tough losses Red Deer, Portland and a 10-1 decision to Swift Current had fans and media questioning what exactly was going on with this team. 

Confidence was pretty low.

Like I said, the team had played a few games during their tough stretch that they could have and should have won, but didn't.  Things appear to be much better now.  There's a lighthearted feeling in the room. The optimism is back, not that it should have left in the first place.  But to have the players 'squeezing the stick' a bit is normal when you get off to a slow start.

I never hit the panic button, but that time was coming close before the weekend.  All teams battle tough stretches during the season, it just so happened that the Blades was right off the bat.  I'm confident this little weekend turnaround could start off a solid stretch of hockey for the boys in blue.

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