Sunday, 18 May 2014

Memorial Cup: Edmonton Oil Kings 5, London Knights 2

  1. Did anyone know that Lars Eller's little brother Mads plays for the Oil Kings?  Because if I knew that before, I quickly forgot it.  The last I remember hearing from him, he'd gone undrafted in the NHL Draft last summer.  
  2. As a consolation prize, he got picked up by the Oil Kings in the third round of the CHL draft in July this year.  He also played for Denmark in the World Junior Tournament, but they were in the 'A' tournament, which was held in Poland.  They won it, and will be in the main tournament in Toronto/Montréal next January, so we can see Mads playing then.
  3. Mads is on the left wing on the third line for Edmonton.
  4. Michael McCarron bangs deep in the Oil King zone on his first shift of the game, and works the puck loose for a couple of decent shots/whacks at the net.
  5. He's penciled in as the fourth line centre for the Knights, but the announcers make the point that Head Coach Dale Hunter will mix and match during the game.  We'll keep an eye out for Mike, and see if he works his way up the lineup and gets more icetime than he had against Val D'Or.
  6. There are lots of penalties through the first half of the game, which means Mike McCarron is not getting many shifts.  Six minutes into the second period, the Knights go through another powerplay and come up empty.  The forwards skate dejectedly to the bench, frustrated and showing it.  That's just enough of a gap for Edmonton to take advantage of.  They rush the other way and score, just as Mike had stepped on the ice and was trying to catch up to the play, due to the lazy play of the Knights previous forward line.  So he gets a -1 to his stat sheet, which is undeserved.
  7. I haven't been following the Memorial Cup my whole life, and got back into it recently since the Canadiens have had a lot of prospects involved.  The last three years, the three host teams have had long layoffs before the tourney due to an early exit in their respective leagues.  
  8. Michaël Bournival's and Morgan Ellis' Shawinigan Cataractes are the poster boys for teams to use that long layoff productively and come into the Memorial Cup ready to go, they ended up winning the whole thing.  
  9. The two subsequent hosts didn't fare as well.  Last season, Darren Dietz's and Dalton Thrower's Saskatoon Blades were blown out of their playoffs, swept in the opening round.  They won one game in the Memorial Cup preliminaries, and lost in the semi-final against the Knights, and it wasn't close.
  10. This year, it's the London Knights who had the long layoff, and the buzz was that they finally are healthy and their roster is deep, but they're not clicking, they look rusty.  The Blades last season looked like they possibly weren't up to snuff.  The Knights look like they're a strong team, but definitely are struggling with their timing, and it's starting to show, they're acting frustrated. 
  11. Time for some of these vaunted first-round NHL picks, the veterans, to buck up, to play hard and keep everyone focused.  That last goal was due to their forwards limping back to the bench and making a show of how frustrated they are, of missing nets and hitting posts.  If they'd been in the game, they'd have hustled to the bench, instead of loafing back while the other team was breaking out on an odd-man rush.
  12. The Knights score one late in the second, defenceman Alex Basso rips one from the faceoff circle that Oil King goalie Tristan Jarry mishandles, and dribbles in off his glove, up his arm and over his shoulder.  Nice setup from Chris Tierney.
  13. Mike McCarron, who has been banging and winning scrums along the boards in his few shifts, gets put on a super-line by coach Dale Hunter for a late-period shift.  He's on the wing with Bo Horvat and Max Domi.  
  14. This was the putative line that got us all excited last summer when Michael decided to forego his commitment to Western Michigan in the NCAA, and go to London instead.  This was what Dale Hunter promised us.  I'll ask again, why did we ever trust this putrid ex-Nordique?
  15. Mike McCarron gets another late-period shift, this time with Josh Anderson on a power forward line.  They bang around a bit and almost cause a goal for their team.  
  16. Score is 3-1 for the Oil Kings when the horn sounds, Edgars Kulda bags another goal by buzzing around the net and banging at the puck.  He's got two goals and an assist, and is eligible for the draft in June.
  17. In the third, the Oil Kings increase their lead to 4-1, then the Knights narrow the gap to 4-2, on a nice play from Max Domi who jumped on the ice as an extra skater on a delayed penalty call.  He skated all the way around the offensive zone with the puck, behind the net and out in front again, before getting a good shot off, and having a teammate cash in the rebound.
  18. Mike McCarron's icetime is still limited.  He had a PK shift, and one other with the Rupert twins, and they buzzed around the zone pretty well, Mike getting a shot on goal.
  19. Mads Eller isn't jumping out at you in the play either, although he had a hand in the the Oil Kings' fourth goal, protecting the puck on a Nikita Zadorov bodycheck, with his teammate picking it up and taking it in for an odd-man rush and goal.  He is buzzing around, skating and checking, lots of energy.
  20. Mike McCarron finishes up his night with a shift in the offensive zone, in which he tried to stand in front of the net and cause traffic, but his angles are a little wrong, he doesn't quite follow the puck and position accordingly.  He later on gets a good shot opportunity, but the goalie saves it.
  21. He ends that shift with a shove/punch at Mitchell Moroz during a post-whistle scrum that at first looks bad, the Oil King forward drops like a sack of potatoes.  Upon replay, we see that what looked like a straight left to the chin was actually more of a shove on the upper chest that grazes the chin, and the Edmonton player sells it to the ref.  It's an embellishment worthy of the Bruins.
  22. Still, it's poor impulse control and situational awareness by Michael, he puts his team on the penalty kill when they're trying to make up a two-goal deficit with four minutes to go.  Essentially it's game over.
  23. Mitchell Moroz is on for the subsequent powerplay.  Like, a minute after lying on the ice as if he'd had an anvil dropped on his head, like Wile E. Coyote.  
  24. I really wish leagues used video replay and suspended players for being dramatic.  Mr. Moroz looked like he was knocked out, and now he's raring to go?  If he knew he'd get suspended for acting, he wouldn't have done that move.  And all the diving would immediately disappear from the game.
  25. Edmonton seals it with a powerplay goal with a minute and a half to go.
  26. Overall, I'm not impressed with Michael McCarron's game, beyond what we discussed already.  He won some puck battles along the boards, but whether that transfers over to the NHL, when his size and strength advantage dissipates, is questionable. 
  27. His skating is not very good, as far as I can tell.  He's more of a cruiser, who skates around in big circles once he has a head of steam and looks for an opportunity to finish a check.  He's not on top of the puck or on top of the play.  He's definitely not a stop and start guy, which is what the game is in the NHL.  It might work for Thomas Vanek, but very few can get away with that.
  28. I'm sure Canadiens Strength and Conditioning Coach Pierre Allard is all over this already, but he really needs to work on his leg strength and explosiveness.  He take big long chugging strides, he needs to have more jump in his step, to increase his cadence.  So Mike needs to do lots of squats and leg presses, and sprints and plyometrics and to run lots and lots of stairs. 
  29. He may also consider working on some aspects of his game that would help him attain the NHL.  With his size, he can make it possibly as a specialist, if his all-round game doesn't progress much.  
  30. For example, I read that Connor Crisp works on screening the goalie and tipping pucks in front of the net, that's a skill he should work on too, he has the size to be effective in that role.
  31. His shot also needs work, to get a better release.  While he had a few scoring chances, his shots were more swats at the puck, he was batting it instead of shooting it.  If he could work on corralling bouncing pucks and quickly shooting them, instead of merely sliding them along the ice, that would help him out.  He has chances due to his size, if he could improve his wrist shot, his hand-eye coordination, his timing, it would increase his shooting percentage.
  32. So this isn't a rant or a condemnation of the Canadiens prospect, but more of a reality check.  He'll have a lot of work to do over the summer, next season in the OHL (I expect he'll get traded from the Knights to a contender), and then probably at least a couple of seasons in the AHL.   If we apply the Chicago model, and the patience they showed with Brian Bickell, we can cool down our expectations and support the kid as he works hard to make his way onto the Grand Club.

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