week might’ve been one of the best of the season for the Heat despite losing
two of three. People love to use the cliché “complete game,” but there are few phrases
that can describe what the Heat did this past week as accurately as that.
was a week of positives in almost
every aspect of the team, it’s nice to see some change, finally. It hasn’t been
an easy year as Stockton continues to toil in the underbelly of the Pactific
division, so all we can hope for are signs of life.
are some thoughts and observations for your reading enjoyment.
STEPS FOR THE BIG MAN
was a heck of a weekend for the big fellow; his best in a Stockton uniform to
be completely honest. After starting his season with no points in 10 games, Hunter Smith finally got some digits on his stats line. He picked up his first professional
goal in a barn burner on Friday night against Bakersfield, including one
assist. Then on Saturday he showed off some surprisingly nice hands by feeding
Blair Riley a backhand pass from behind the net for his third point of the
not just the points either. He’s been effective on the fourth line with limited
minutes. No, it’s probably not what you’d want from a former second-rounder,
but it’s what’s working right now. He seems to be in his element using his long
stick to his advantage in cycling. He’s never going to win a foot race, but he
looked decent this weekend. Let’s take the wait and see approach with him.
What a rough week for our old friend Joni Ortio. He was waived, his future was
uncertain, he cleared, and then he got pulled before the first period was even
finished on Friday night. Ouch.
not going to mince words: most of those four goals he let in on Friday night
were soft, weak, whatever word you want to use. Sure, the defense was a
steaming pile of hot garbage, but the goals he allowed should have been
like Ortio has done in the past time and time again, he left that bad start
behind and had almost a picture perfect game on Saturday against the same team
that embarrassed him the night before. He stopped 30 of 32, including a number
of would-be sure goals on numerous odd-man rushes from the Condors. Let’s hope
that game was an indicator of him settling in, because Jon Gillies and Kevin Poulin won’t
be back for a while.
willing to admit when I’m wrong. A few weeks ago I wrote about how Oliver Kylington
should’ve been sent to Brandon, and to be fair, he looked over his head at
that point. But Flames management was patient and waited to see what would
happen. I’m not ready to say he’s a superstar in the making or anything crazy
like that, but boy did he look good this week.
kid’s slicker than a greased up pig in silk pyjamas and he’s got Huska’s full
trust it seems. Kylington has been playing a boat load of minutes lately,
especially this week. He’s been up and down the pairings. He’s been with Patrick
Sieloff on the third pairing, he’s been on the second pairing with Aaron
Johnson, and he’s been on the first pairing alongside Jakub Nakladal. That’s
just to mention a few.
scored his third goal of the season on Friday, despite having an ugly defensive
game. He looked good on Wednesday and Saturday, however. He wasn’t without his
brain farts and tough learning curves, but that’s expected. The common knock
against Kylington has always been that he’s a tad selfish. While that’s okay
sometimes, he’s got to play it a bit more conservatively. If he can do that,
don’t be surprised to see him in a Flames uniform in the spring.
DREW SHORE SHOW
don’t know what has come over Drew Shore the last little while, but outside of Markus Granlund and maybe Derek Grant he’s been the best player for the last month.
picked up eight points in his last seven games (one goal, seven assists) and
has taken over second line duty now that Granlund is in Calgary. Prior to that
he was playing so well that he forced Bill Arnold to the fourth line – a feat I
didn’t think was possible given how steady Arnold has been this season.
the points though, Shore has been generating offense like it’s nobody’s
business. His signature strength as a centerman is his strong cycle game and
deceptively quick feet. He seems to have found a way to create at least a
couple of odd-man rushes each game as well.
OF THE MAN ADVANTAGE
just maybe, Ryan Huska has figured out how to run a power play. I’m cautiously optimistic
given a strong three games on the man advantage this week.
by Drew Shore (who had three points on the power play), the Heat went four for 12,
well above their season average of just 16.4%. Freddie Hamilton, a beneficiary
of Granlund’s recall, added two points on four successful power plays.
of the Heat’s offense on the man advantage is generated from the defense, and
why not? When you’ve got Nakladal, Kylington, Kulak and Johnson as your go-to
guys, it’s not surprising Huska has centralized the offense from the blue line.
Now, if they can just figure out that penalty