Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Cougars looking for buskers . . . Skinner skins Oil Kings . . . Silvertips edge short-staffed Chiefs

As I write this, more than 48 hours has passed since the end of Super Bowl XLIX in which the New England Patriots scored a 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
Like many observers, I remain in a state of shock over the way it ended. But, at the same time, I will admit that I wasn’t surprised. If being shocked but not surprised is even possible . . .
The vast majority of football coaches, and not just in the NFL, are as predictable as the sun coming up in the east. It’s why they carry those colour-coded laminated sheets on the sidelines — if it’s first-and-10 from wherever, here are the options.
It’s why they spend so much time watching video — they are watching the next opponent and looking for tendencies.
Football, especially at the professional level, is about matchups. Teams work hard to get preferable matchups and then to exploit it when it happens in their favour.
So in the moments before the biggest play of the NFL season, with the Seahawks second-and-goal from inside the Patriots’ one, New England trotted out its goal-line defensive elephants. The Seahawks had three receivers on the field and, because of the Patriots’ personnel, knew they would see man-to-man coverage.
What the Seahawks didn’t count on was a perfect storm . . . receiver Jermaine Kearse got a piece of defensive back Brandon Browner but didn’t impede Malcolm Butler’s progress. Butler, who obviously had done his video homework, knew what was coming and let his instincts take over. Seattle’s Ricardo Lockette, quarterback Russell Wilson’s intended target, didn’t anticipate Butler being there, so the New England DB was able to go right through him to the ball.
Game over.
A TV camera happened to be on New England quarterback Tom Brady, who simply couldn’t believe what he had just witnessed. (Brady was named the game’s MVP, but the award should have gone to Butler, even if only for his impact on that one play.)
It is surprising that so many people who watch a lot of football were amazed that the Seahawks tried to throw the ball, rather than hand it off to running back Marshawn Lynch. But the matchups simply didn’t favour the  Seahawks in that situation and their coaching staff knew it.
In hindsight, though, I wonder why the Seahawks didn’t fake a handoff to Lynch to their left side and then have Wilson run a naked bootleg the other way. Wilson runs as well as any quarterback in the game today, and he would have been lined up under centre, rather than back in the shotgun.
They didn’t, though, and the rest is history.
Don’t forget, too, that professional football coaches are akin to generals. Every game is a war and the two leaders are the smartest men in the room. They don’t care what you or I think; all they know is that if you aren’t “for” them, then you’re “against” them.
And if you’re waiting for one of them to admit to a mistake, you will wait a long, long time.
BTW, it is games like that one that provide all the evidence needed to prove that sports is the ultimate reality TV.
If you don’t believe it, well, the Buffalo Sabres beat the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night to end a 14-game losing skid. So there’s that, too.

The Brandon Wheat Kings list F John Quenneville and G Alex Moodie as being out week-to-week. Both players suffered concussions as the Wheaties swept a weekend home-and-home series with the Moose Jaw Warriors. . . . Rob Henderson reports that G Justin Holder, “a 19-year-old former member of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Waywayseecappo Wolverines and Virden Oil Capitals and of the Brandon Midget AAA Wheat Kings, practised with the Wheat Kings on Tuesday.” . . . D Kale Clague (wrist) is close to returning to Brandon’s lineup. He hasn’t played for Brandon since Oct. 28 after being injured at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge in November. . . . Brandon leads the Eastern Conference and is three points behind the Kelowna Rockets, who lead the overall standings. The Wheat Kings are in Medicine Hat tonight as they open a stretch of four games in five nights.
The OHL now has five head coaches who have put up at least 600 victories, with Stan Butler of the North Bay Battalion having joined the club on Sunday.
Butler, who turned 59 on Monday, trails Brian Kilrea (1,194), Bert Templeton (907), Larry Mavety (658) and George Burnett (604). . . . Burnett, the head coach of the Belleville Bulls, leads all OHL active coaches in victories.
Butler was the head coach of the Oshawa Generals for two seasons (1994-96) before joining the Battalion in 1998. He was the head coach in Prince George in 1996-97 as the Cougars went 28-39-5, with the five representing ties. Ties? Oh, those were the days!
It has been almost a year since Cody Smuk was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Smuk, who played with the WHL’s Chilliwack Bruins, Lethbridge Hurricanes and Moose Jaw Warriors (2006-10) before spending four seasons with the U of Saskatchewan Huskies, now is undergoing chemotherapy. Darren Zary of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has more right here.

The Prince George Cougars are in the process of unveiling a Buskers’ Corner stage at home games. Andy Beesley, the Cougars’ vice-president of business, says there won’t be any charge for buskers to perform and it will give the performers a chance to “earn some change from appreciative fans.” If you are interested, call Beesley at 250-561-0783. . . .
F Troy Brouwer (Moose Jaw, 2001-06) scored twice last night to help the Washington Capitals to a 4-0 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Kings. That turned Brouwer’s 500th regular-season NHL game into a memorable one. . . . Interestingly, Washington assistant coach Lane Lambert was on the Warriors’ coaching staff for two of Brouwer’s seasons in Moose Jaw. . . .
A tip of the hat to friend Dan Russell, who will be saluted on Friday when the Paul Carson Awards are handed out at the Lamplighter Pub in Gastown in Vancouver. Russell, who spent 30 of his 35 years in media as the host of Sportstalk, will receive the Milestone Award. . . . Tickets to the event, presented by The Stadnyk Foundation and supported by Morguard and Steamworks Brewery, are available for $30, with all proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society and KidSport. Tickets can be reserved by emailing friendsofpaulcarson@gmail.com.

Department of Discipline

The WHL has suspended five players for infractions in Friday and Saturday games. . . . D Josh Connolly of the Prince George Cougars drew a one-game sentence for a slashing major and game misconduct against the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds on Friday night. He served the suspension on Saturday. . . . Cougars D Josh Anderson got two games for a headshot major and game misconduct on Friday. He didn’t play Saturday, so has one game remaining. The Cougars are at home to the Edmonton Oil Kings on Friday. . . . D Mackenze Stewart of the Prince Albert Raiders got a two-game suspension for a cross-checking major and game misconduct in Calgary on Friday night. He didn’t play Saturday in Red Deer, so has one game remaining. He will serve that tonight when the Raiders play in Moose Jaw. . . .
Two other players are sitting with ‘tbd’ suspensions. F Jesse Shynkaruk of the Moose Jaw Warriors took an interference major and game misconduct for a hit on F John Quenneville of the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings on Saturday. Quenneville is believed to have a concussion. The Warriors next play Wednesday when they entertain the Prince Albert Raiders. . . . F Jacob Cardiff of the Spokane Chiefs was hit with a headshot major and game misconduct against the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday. Cardiff didn’t play last night against the visiting Everett Silvertips.


In Regina, G Daniel Wapple stopped 25 shots to help the Pats to a 4-2 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders. . . . F Pavel Padakin scored his 17th goal just 17 seconds into the second period to give Regina a 2-0 lead. He also had an assist. . . . Raiders F Reid Gardiner got his 25th goal, on a PP with the extra attacker on, at 17:56 of the third period. . . . That got the Raiders to within one, at 3-2. . . . Regina F Sam Steel scored his 13th goal at 19:59 of the third. . . . Pats F Luc Smith, who turned 17 on Jan. 20, scored his first WHL goal in his 48th game. . . . Regina D Colby Williams had an assist and was plus-4. . . . The Pats (28-17-6) have points in three straight (2-0-1). . . . The Raiders (21-29-1) are in Moose Jaw tonight. . . .

In Edmonton, G Stuart Skinner turned aside 49 shots to lead the Lethbridge Hurricanes to a 4-3 victory over the Oil Kings. . . . Skinner, who turned 16 on Nov. 1, stopped 23 shots in the second period when Edmonton scored twice. . . . F Ryley Lindgren scored twice for Lethbridge, giving him four goals this season. . . . After a scoreless first period, the Hurricanes scored twice in the first two minutes of the second period, with F Carter Folk getting his seventh at 0:51 and Lindgren scoring at 1:46. . . . The Oil Kings tied it on goals by F Edgars Kulda, his first since Oct. 26, and F Brandon Baddock, his 13th, on a PP at 17:22. . . . Kulda, who has seven goals this season, scored for the first time since Oct. 26. Plagued by injuries, he was out from Nov. 2 until Jan. 9. The Latvian 20-year-old had played 15 straight games without scoring. . . . Lethbridge F Ryan Vandervlis, a 16-year-old from Red Deer, scored his first WHL goal in his fifth game this season. It came at 3:14 of the third and gave his side a 3-2 lead. . . . Vandervlis plays for his hometown midget AAA Red Deer Optimist Chiefs. . . . Assists on Vandervlis’ goal went to F Zane Franklin, who turned 16 on Jan. 5 and was playing in his third game, and F Mike Winther, 20, who was in his 281st regular-season game. . . . Lindgren got his second of the game at 5;47 of the third. . . . F Brett Pollock scored his 25th, shorthanded at 18:30, to make things interesting at the end. . . . Winther finished with two assists. . . . D Dysin Mayo had two assists for Edmonton, which got 17 saves from G Tristan Jarry. . . . “The offence wasn’t what concerned me tonight. It was our defence that concerned me,” Oil Kings head coach Steve Hamilton said on the team’s website. “Four or five times, we go off the grid, and that’s the end of the game. I think everybody’s disappointed tonight. You’d think 52 (shots) would get it done, but obviously it didn’t.” . . . The Hurricanes dressed 17 skaters, one under the limit. Among their scratches were D Nick Walter and F Tyler Wong. . . . The Hurricanes (13-31-6), who had lost their previous two games, won 12 games all of last season. . . . The Oil Kings (24-23-6) have lost two in a row. . . .

In Spokane, F Remi Laurencelle broke a 2-2 tie in the second period and the Everett Silvertips beat the Chiefs, 3-2. . . . Laurencelle, who has 13 goals, scored at 11:27, with F Nikita Scherbak drawing his second assist of the game. . . . Earlier, the teams combined for four goals in the first period. . . . F Keanu Yamamoto got the Chiefs on the board first, scoring his ninth goal, on a PP, at 5:07. . . . The visitors equalized when F Ivan Nikolishin got his 15th goal, at 8:00. F Brayden Low got his 12th at 10:10 to give Everett the lead. . . . Spokane F Dominic Zwerger tied it with his 11th goal at 12:30. . . . After two periods, Everett had a 10-7 edge in shots. . . . Early in the third period, Cody Nickolet (@DubFromAbove) tweeted: “The shots in this Everett-Spokane game right now are 13-9. There is 14 minutes left in the 3rd period. How is that even possible?” . . . The Chiefs scratched nine players, including G Tyson Verhelst (ill). Spokane didn’t list a backup goaltender on the game sheet, something that regularly happens throughout the WHL these days. . . . The Chiefs dressed 16 skaters, two under the maximum. That included 10 forwards. . . . Spokane was 1-for-2 on the PP, but couldn’t score on a late one after Low was penalized for checking from behind at 17:28 of the third. . . . The Silvertips (32-15-4), who have won three in a row in Spokane, lead the U.S. Division by three points over the idle Portland Winterhawks. . . . The Chiefs (24-22-4) open an East Division swing in Moose Jaw on Friday.

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