Thursday, September 25, 2008

USNDT Enough - UAA Not Enough

The first word that came to mind on the ride home regarding the game was nonplussed. I didn't think it would matter to me much if UAA lost and if they'd played a bit better then maybe that would be true. I wasn't impressed with the backchecking. The U-18's got chance after chance to put a stick on the puck in the Seawolves offensive zone that they should have been denied. That inability to put a positive stick on the puck in their own end cost UAA 2 goals. And straight out of last years playbook on the other end ... the Seawolves didn't finish on chances that they should have finished. In one situation it was one pass too many when a shot could have converted. Another Seawolf player was high in the slot with an solid opening but chose to carry it in a couple of strides and then the opening was gone. And later ... Brian Bales gets nothing but crossbar.

The lines were a bit of a mish-mash. Lunden, Bales and Clark looked like a quality combination. Brian layed on a beauty of a pass to a trailing Luka Vidmar for a pretty tic-tac-toe goal. Kevin Clark rolled in on a clean break from the blueline and gave a nice deke before going backhand and finding the top corner. The 2nd line was Grant, Crowder and Moir. As the game progressed these guys seemed to find a little bit of chemistry; at least they started looking good on the cycle. They had more than a few chances but I'm not sure they'll be a permanent combo. The 3rd line was Selby, Parkinson and Jeremy Smith. I'll give props to Jeremy for effort. He created an opportunity or two with his hustle. I don't know when if ever Jeremy has played wing so I hope he enjoyed it. He played like he was enjoying himself. But overall the line was ineffective and all three guys looked like they were "pushing". The last line was Portwood, McCabe and Wiles. I think the third and fourth lines both managed a fair bit of time in the offensive zone (and overall the Seawolves had a pretty big advantage) but the 4th lines chances were few and far between.

The primary disappointment for me though was the last 5 minutes of the game. This was the part of the game where there was no question that the Seawolves were putting out 100 percent effort and generated good chance after good chance with nothing to show for it. Not being able to finish while creating that many chances is a problem. It was THE problem last year so any evidence of it this season isn't welcome. I know it's just preseason game #1.

I couldn't have liked what I saw from Curtis Lienweber any more than I did. I watched him closely. He made a couple of mistakes defensively but overcame them immediately. He contributed hugely on the offensive end. My pick for play of the night would be the sweet little lob pass he layed on for a Josh Lunden breakaway. It was a great pass. Expect to see Curtis play a lot this season. Expect to see him on the PK and the PP. If last year you'd thought the Seawolves were "x" number of players away from being successful then I promise you the number is now "x-1" because Curtis is the real deal.

I really liked what I saw from Tyler Moir going forward. He is a fine skater and brings a load with him into the corners. I think he might have been a wee bit overwhelmed by the speed of the game. I say that because I thought he looked a little lost a couple of times on the backcheck and he just couldn't seem to decide where to be. I'm sure he'll adapt; when he does he'll skate in a lot of games no doubt. In the same sense, I liked what Jade Portwood did tonight ... when I noticed him. The 4th line though was admittedly a bit out of sync so I'll have to watch Jade more closely before I can gauge how much ice time he is likely to see this year. Daychief and Tuton won't be out for long and it would take some hella good performances to keep them out of the lineup. I was glad Sidor got in the game for the last 7 minutes or so. He looked fine but didn't face any intense tests.

The only other player I hadn't seen before tonight was Brian Bales. Everything I've said about him appears to be correct. He can both score and set up. He was in good places for his linemates all night. He backchecked aggressively. He put out a full effort worthy of a spot on the 1st line.

All in all it's good fodder for much thoughtful analysis by the coaching staff. One more preseason game.

Click here to see the pictures I took. They're not what I wanted or was hoping for. But I'm no where near giving up on the effort. I'll get better as the season goes along just the same way the team will.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great commentary Donald. I was also a bit shocked to see some of the shortcomings of last season appear again. Out work, out chance, and outplay your opponent and still find a way to loose - sound familiar?? Lets hope the coaching staff will make some changes to the playbook to put those problems behind us. FOR GOOD...

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a better game than you predicted on Wednesday?

Remember even though these kids may be only 17 (and a few still 16), but they are the elite for their age group nationally. Many of these kids will be true freshman next year at BC, BU, DU, ND, UM, NH, etc. The good news, this one didn't count!

Kris said...

One thing I noticed was that Bryce looked a lot sharper than Johnny O out there. He might take over the first string goalie duties or at least be the 1a goalie. We shall see it was the first exhibition and John is a good goalie and should look better by next week or sometime early in the season when some rust falls off.

Donald Dunlop said...

The most interesting/telling comment of the night came when Shyiak said that somebody was going to have to "earn the starting job" in net.

I think either or both right now is fine between the pipes. I'd expect to see an early defined rotation so that each guy knows what to expect. After a couple/three weekends Shyiak should know who he wants to go with. Or maybe by that time both guys are playing well enough that you continue with a rotation. The idea of both guys playing well enough to split the weekend duties is very appealing to me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for not posting the score... Not like that sort of thing would be interesting to people living out of state...


On second though, sorry for being a dick... Just pointing out info that matters to those of us very far away. Narratives are nice and we can figure out what happened... but without at least a score, mildly confusing,

Anonymous said...

Sorry, the scroll, missed the score the first couple of time on the site...

Anonymous said...

Just heard that Campbell Blairs wife is taking a job in Portland. Looks like uaa,s golden boy scout will be taking his classy self south.

Anonymous said...

I thought Bryce looked very sharp also. Square to the puck and much more relaxed. lets face it with UAAs inability to score that Goalie job is as tough as it gets. The other team scores two goals then what. johnny had his shot last year you got to switch things around. The kid only lost 8 games in his last 2 years of Juniors playing for medium teams. hopefully the whole team will step up and provide scoring support for both the goalies. But Shiaks right the job needs to be earned

Donald Dunlop said...

I think worrying about how the Seawolves goaltending will be is secondary to worrying about how many goals the team can score.

In one sense it is a good sign that most of the scoring came from the blueline. In another sense it is a bad sign since forwards only accounted for 1 goal.

It's been clear for two years that Shyiak&Co are putting together a team that relies on skating and puck movement and there is no doubt in my mind that they have 3 QUALITY puck moving defensemen in the lineup (Lienweber, Robinson, Lafranchise). And a fourth that is wiley, experienced and strong who will effectively do whatever he needs to do (Lovdahl). Round that out with Backstrom, Hunt and Vidmar and I like what our blueliners bring to the offensive game.

So what can the offense bring to the offensive game is THE biggest question for the Seawolves. The forwards can depend on the fact that the puck is going to get to them during a transition. Clark, Lunden, Bales, Crowder, Parkinson and McCabe are going to HAVE TO put the puck away. If Daychief, Grant and (Wiles/Selby/Portwood/Tuton/Moir/Haddad) can chip in a few here and there then all the better. But just to reiterate ... If the Seawolves top six can't find ways to get the puck into the net then it will be another difficult to accept year. If the Seawolves top six get the job done then long suffering fans will get some nice relief.

Anonymous said...

I think that if its the same old music the first few games then there going to have to switch to a mostly Defense game as they are not going to out offense many in the WCHA.The fans might not like it but they stand a much better chance of winning than just blindly sticking to something that wont work. Bottom line is they need to come out flying against there next opponent because everybody was embarrassed over the U 18s game.

Suze said...

The U18 team has a long history of beating Division I teams. Not just Fairbanks 2 years ago, but last year they beat Duluth, Northern Michigan, Western Michigan, Yale, Robert Morris, took Notre Dame to overtime, and tied St Cloud and Nebraska Omaha.
BU squeeked by with a 1 goal win over them.

Puck Swami said it perfectly on USCHO, so I'll quote him:

Resist the temptation to draw meaningful conclusions to a practice game...

The NDTDP-U18s has beaten many high level D-I college teams over the years and I would not put too much stock in such an early season exhibition loss as an indicator of a college team's talent or potential (or lack of either).

Exhibition games are there for college coaches to try out new players and situations to evaluate what is positive and what needs to improve for regular season play. The results means nothing, really.

If you win, you generate a little chemistry and confidence, and if you lose, it motivates you a little more to play harder, smarter and more together.

That's all it is.

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