Yup, gonna have to call a spade a spade and tell it like it is from my point of view. Basically, the Hounds played poorly and juuuuussst good enough to beat a team that had 28 points less than them in the regular season. I knew the Hounds were going to end it in 4 or 5, but I didn’t think they were going to play as lethargic and sloppy as they did.
Having said that, they won the series and are off to Saginaw this week. I actually think they will play a lot better and give Saginaw a run for its’ money and quite possibly win the series; the Soo Greyhounds did play down to their opponent over the last 10 days and it made for frustrating hockey as a fan. The Greyhounds for whatever reason, only dominated the Attack on the scoreboard with empty (4) net goals, and although they held the advantage most nights with puck control and possession, they left Owen Sound in the game too many times and if they do that against Saginaw, they will get burned every time.
Teams that are successful, have a Killer (Dwarfs/April 27/Soo Blaster) instinct and bury their opponents and knock the wind out of them every chance they get. As much as Knights bench boss Dale Huner is loathed around many arenas, if his team walks into a series as the heavy favourite, his kids will let you know why….and in an embarrassing fashion most of the time. This wasn’t the case with the Hounds during the first round of the playoffs.
There were a couple of things that concerned me during the Attack series; the first one was that Matty, at times, didn’t seem prepared and gave up a few soft goals and I am sure he knows it. It is one thing to make dynamic killer saves (which he does on a regular basis, night in and night out), but letting in soft goals in the playoffs is a recipe for disaster and makes all the big saves null and void. Sure a lack of action in the D zone can put any goalie to sleep, but that is the challenge….stay alert, stay aware, and keep yourself mentally engaged.
The other thing I noticed is that for whatever reason; it perplexes me and a few other fans have mentioned it; what is the point of having Drew Wawrow on the bench taking up one of six D spots if he isn’t going to get a shift? I mean really.
Game 5, I did not see him on the ice at all; I am sure he got at least one shift, (I didn’t see it), but the previous games he was on the bench, he might have seen two or three 30-second shifts a night.
The other five D men getting regular shifts must be out of gas….I know Mac is a thoroughbred out there, but going against Saginaw, you are going to need at least 6 rested guys (with a normal heartbeat) playing regular rotations as Saginaw is big and fast and will run you ragged on the ice.
Heck, just for a few strides, put Drew out there for an offensive zone faceoff and when the play comes back, switch him off at that point….just give him some confidence and ice.
How is he expected to get engaged in the same boat as Matt Villalta, if the only time he gets on the ice is during the pre-game warm up?
Hey I am just an armchair critic, and I don’t know diddly squat neighbourino, but these are just my observed thoughts and inquiries.
I am not coming down on the coaches……at the end of the days…we won and advanced…..I am just seriously wondering why dress a 6th D if he only going to sit ?…….wouldn’t it make more sense to dress just five D and have another forward with some energy to Attack?
Anyway, I will stand by our coaches as I believe they have done a lot of remarkable things and as I’ve mentioned before, the players love playing for them, Coach Dean is very engaged with them on the bench, and it was nice to see the passion John had with his verbal exchange with his Attack counterpart on Wednesday night when it looked like an Owen Sound player was running our goalie ; that sends a clear message, not only to the Attack players and staff, but to the Hounds themselves, and it teaches them team bonding and commitment for one another.
So as much as I didn’t think the boys played anywhere near their potential, and at the same time, I didn’t leave the coaches off the hook, all in all, I am happy we are going to the second round. There, I just did my own damage control.
Moving on to Saginaw; After reviewing a bit of the OHL stats……..leaders in scoring, assists, etc; the fact that the Hounds figure prominently in these categories with Hayton, Peca, Frost being among the leaders in different categories doesn’t mean anything. With the Greyhounds scoring 4 empty net goals and a bunch on the powerplay doesn’t really act as any sort of measuring stick against a lesser foe.
Saginaw will be a true test and has been built to go all the way. The Greyhounds and Spirit were evenly matched this year with both winning in the other teams’ barn and both teams walked away with 4 wins.
Players to watch this series on the Spirit side are going to be Owen Tippett, and Brady Gilmour up front, and the back end guys like Riley Webb (6.04/202lbs) will knock you into the middle of next week if you are not paying attention. In net, Ivan Prostevov can certainly hold his own in this league with a regular season average of 2.94Gaa and a 9.10 save%.
The keys for the Hounds in my opinion to win this series is to frustrate the Spirit with their speed and not get into a tit for tat game physically. The Hounds are built for speed and not for going toe to toe with a bigger team such as Saginaw.
The Hounds will rely once again on guys like Barrett Hayton and Mac Hollowell to be successful if the Dogs hope to advance to the third round. Morgan Frost as dynamic as he usually is, needs to step it up a notch and get more engaged and I think he will. He hasn’t been the same Frosty over the past 6 weeks as he was in the first half of the season in my opinion.
I neglected to mention the names of some Hounds that played great hockey in the first round so here you go. Keeghan Howdeshell is a force out there and some lucky AHL team will be taking advantage of his services come September. A beast like this only comes around once and it’s surprising that he was overlooked and not drafted yet.
Every shift during the OS series, he was engaged and didn’t lose many battles for the puck, if, in fact, he lost any. Keeghan is strong on the puck and has a hard shot that rarely misses when he has a target in sight. The word around the Soo as I have said previously is that he is physically the strongest kid in the gym and you can see it when bigger guys go in for the kill and Keeghan gives a jolt and skates away with the puck. To borrow a phrase; “When Keeghan does a push-up, he actually just pushes the earth down”
Alex Johnston and Holden Wale were also standouts in the first round in my humble opinion. Let’s hope that Joe Carroll is back from having his melon rung in game 5 as he was also played very strong and engaged in the first round.
Back to Saginaw, I truly believe the Hounds can win this series and the reason is not only the product on the ice, but the coaching staff have proven that they can motivate the kids for the big games. All year, the Hounds have won games against bigger, stronger, older teams and it starts before the puck is dropped. We have won against Guelph, London, Saginaw, etc on many occasions this year. As much as the coaches can prepare the kids, it’s up to them to execute.
They didn’t seem engaged against OS but I know they will bring it for Saginaw. I see an upset (on paper) and the Hounds will win the series in 6 Games.
Hey, if I am wrong, I’ll get shamed on social media (Dog Treats), and if I am right, all you readers that disagree with me should make a small $ donation to the charity of your choice.
Go Hounds Go,