Crystal ball needs repairs
By Rob Vanstone, The Leader-Post
April 16, 2012
- We begin today by contritely revisiting a prediction that appeared in the previous Robservations. In this space, it was written that the Medicine Hat Tigers would need six games to eliminate the Moose Jaw Warriors in a best-of-seven WHL Eastern Conference semifinal. Well, it didn't quite turn out that way. Moose Jaw swept the series.
- And that's not all! Emerson Etem, who was supposedly destined to lead the Tigers to victory, missed most of the first game after receiving kneeing major and a game misconduct and all of the second game due to a one-game suspension. He did not register a goal in the two full games he did play against Moose Jaw.
- And that's not all! Tyler Bunz would assuredly give the Tigers a goaltending advantage over the Warriors, who countered with Luke Siemens. Although Bunz was the far busier goaltender during the four-game series, Siemens sparkled when called upon. Siemens' save percentage (.921) was superior to that of Bunz (.912), and the Moose Jaw goaltender's toe save off Etem in overtime of Game 4 was an absolute gem.
- The Regina Pats' Pat Conacher has received plenty of commendation (and deservedly so) for his work during the 2011-12 season, but some praise should be reserved for another first-year WHL bench boss - namely Moose Jaw's Mike Stothers. He guided the Warriors to a franchise-record 47 regularseason victories and has now won eight of nine postseason contests with Moose Jaw, which is preparing to face the Edmonton Oil Kings in the conference final.
- That is enough eating of crow for now. Needs more gravy, by the way.
- Kudos to Regina-born Edmonton Oilers star Jordan Eberle for lending his good name to the inaugural Eberle & Friends Golf Classic, to be held July 11 and 12 at the Wascana Country Club.
It is a laudable, but not surprising, gesture from Eberle - who remains down to earth and accessible despite being one of the NHL's finest young players.
- The NHL's disciplinary system was exposed as toothless - during National Dental Hygienists Week, as it turned out. Brendan Shanahan, the league's chief disciplinarian, did not see fit to suspend Nashville Predators defenceman Shea Weber for shoving Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg face-first into the Plexiglas. Weber, who makes $7.5 million per annum, escaped with a mere $2,500 fine. Evidently, a tiered system is at work. Premier players are immune to suspension, even if the hit is a flagrant one.
- Shanahan should emulate SJHL president Bill Chow, who suspended the league's leading scorer - Regina-born Jesse Ross of the Weyburn Red Wings - for what turned out to be the final game of the season. With Ross out of the lineup on Friday due to the consequences of a slashing major and game misconduct, the Red Wings bowed 6-0 to the Humboldt Broncos, who clinched the league title that evening at Crescent Point Place. The Red Wings and their fans may take issue with the suspension, but nobody can accuse Chow of giving the stars of the league preferential treatment.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins' porous Marc-Andre Fleury has redefined "matador goalkeeping'' during a soon-to-be-concluded firstround series against the Philadelphia Flyers. Pittsburgh's cause has not been aided by an uncharacteristic lack of discipline, with superstar Sidney Crosby being one of the leading culprits.
- Multiple readers have pointed out what they perceive to be an omission in Saturday's column, in which I opined that Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant regressed in 2011. It was not mentioned in the column that the Riders' receiving corps was depleted by the absences of slotback Andy Fantuz and wideout Rob Bagg. The readers make a fair point, so it is cited here.
- It should be remembered, though, that Durant and the Roughriders withstood a late-season injury to gamebreaking slotback Weston Dressler en route to finishing first in the West Division and advancing to the Grey Cup in 2009. Also keep in mind that the Riders' receiving corps in the 2009 Grey Cup game included Gerran Walker and Adam Nicolson. Back then, the Roughriders were resourceful and resilient.
- The suspicion here is that Durant will demonstrate those traits in 2012 while living up to his monicker: Bounce Back.
- Roughriders fans can only hope that the prediction about Durant is more accurate than "Tigers in six.''
- Nice people who deserve a plug: Jordan Eberle, Hayley Wickenheiser, Doug Brown, Todd Strueby, Randy Starkman, Peg Biggart, Terry and Maura McEvoy, Ron Lancaster Jr., Willy Cole and Costa Maragos.
- Oh, and one more thing: Oil Kings in six.
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