I am not going to get into my usual style of recap today. I want instead to talk about the game winning goal and some of the positives and the negatives from the Stars perspective.
Let’s start with Emrik Guilemette’s goal that decided the game. A couple things to note. First of all Woody Klassen did not get caught on the play and that’s not what led to the goal. Woody Klassen jumped in the play and drove the center lane. Something the Stars coaching staff wanted to see more of from their team. The high forward on the play, and I apologize for not knowing who it was, turned the wrong way and took a bad line to get back to help out as the Broncos rushed the puck into the Stars zone. That was what led to the 2 on1. The Broncos also got a slice of luck on the play as Andrew Johnston fanned on his pass on the 2 on 1 and somehow the puck slid right underneath Brody Luhning who was sprawling to break up the play. I saw the replay several times and still have no idea how the puck got through. But give Johnston credit because he capitalized on the break, made a great move around a back checking Stars forward and his pass to Guilemette was perfect. The breaks in a game usually go both ways it’s just a matter of which team takes advantage of them and credit goes to the Broncos on the goal.
On that play Klassen was knocked down in front of the Broncos net and wanted a penalty on the play. Just so we are clear at no point in my broadcast did I say it should have been a penalty. I said it might have been a penalty and that Klassen wanted a call on the play. But that does not mean it was a penalty. The ref had a great view of the whole play and nothing was called. And as we know players and refs sometimes disagree about the application of the rules. There was a lot that went into that goal, as there usually is, and Klassen jumping into the play and getting knocked down was just a small part of the overall play.
The D pairs all looked good last night. Of the two “new” pairs I really liked the way Sheeran and Berg played together and the pair of Sparrow and Kachur was also very good. Of course you know what you are going to get from Klassen and Luhning. But last night was the first night where I really understood what Stars Coach and GM Kevin Hasselberg saw when he brought Sheeran into the fold. You can see that he is getting more and more comfortable in the system and in the league. And he had a very strong game. Mitch Berg was excellent as well. He finished a few very good checks throughout the game and controlled the play well in his own zone. That was very encouraging for the Stars as their D was excellent allowing just 18 shots against and most of them from the outside. Connor Creech was solid and wasn’t called into action frequently but when he was he was on top of his game.
So that’s the positives from last night’s game. And to be honest from where I stood I saw a fast paced game with lots of hits and two teams playing well. But the coaches have a different view and are looking at different aspects of the game. While I am looking at the bigger picture and looking for emotion and flow to the game the coaches are looking at the minutia of the game. Every small little detail that goes into a win or a loss. I certainly noticed a lack of net presence at times from the Stars and that was certainly something the coaching staff was asking for the Stars to do more of throughout the game and they weren’t happy with the effort in that regard. There were also some issues with backchecking that were making the coaches angry. As a play by play guy one of the toughest things to do is notice things like backchecks because it’s my job to follow the puck most of the time. So I thought on the whole the Stars played a pretty good game and just didn’t quite do enough to disrupt Matt Hrynkiw. The Stars coaches feelings on the game were a whole lot stronger.
There was definitely a playoff style atmosphere in the building last night in Humboldt and I thought the crowd was excellent. They were right into the game and helped to create a great feeling inside the building and I think that translated into my broadcast so I am very thankful for that. I also want to thank Coach Brockman and his staff. This was the last time this season the Stars will play the Broncos, unless they meet in the postseason, and the Broncos staff have been very accommodating in every dealing I have had with them. They were also very complimentary towards the North Stars last night. I think the sense from everyone in the EPA last night including players, fans, staff and broadcasters was that seven games of what we saw last night would be flat out amazing.
I get the sense that both Blair Atcheynum and Kevin Hasselberg think they have the players here now to really make a run at a championship. Of course their place in the standings suggests they have a potentially elite team. The moves made at the deadline were a clear sign from the Stars front office that they were loading up for a title this season. There are other things that make it obvious what this team is capable of accomplishing. But it’s not going to come easy for them. They are going to have to go out and earn it and get back to what made them successful. When they were winning all those games in a row earlier in the season the comments I was hearing over and over from players and coaches of opposing teams was the Stars willingness to do the little things to win. To bypass the easy play for the smart play. The Stars need to get back to that as soon as possible. By no means should anyone hit the panic button over this team as they know what needs to be done and if there is one thing I know about this group of kids it is that they WANT to do the right things. Now it’s just a matter of going out and doing them.
I have a feeling this team is on the verge of something good but it’s just a feeling and La Ronge is a very strong team so it’s not going to be easy tomorrow night at the Civic Center.