Hawks Hold Serve, Send Message…

Photo Credit - The Oregonian

If there was any doubt, the photo is pretty conclusive that Sven Bartschi may actually be Superman.

While Super Sven didn’t score on this play, he has been a huge reason while the Portland Winterhawks have gone 2-0 in their opening round playoff series against the Kelowna Rockets picking up five assists (he will have one added on the Hawks first goal from Saturday night later today) on the 10 goals the Hawks have scored in the series.

For those fans that watched games 1 & 2 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, they saw a Hawks team that not only has some incredible skill, but they have a fair share of grit as well.  The Rockets are a bigger team on paper, but the Hawks showed that they will not back down when pushed and they will not fall into the after the whistle silliness that has plagued this team in years past.

The Rockets, meanwhile, have tried to get into the Hawks heads with Adam Brown’s puck stealing after the Game 1 loss and the antics of Brett Bulmer in game 2 (more on that in a second).   In the end, the Hawks have been the more composed team and that has helped propel them to the two victories.

One of the things that Todd Vrooman and I have talked about all year is the Hawks depth and that has shown in the series so far.  There is no change to the Hawks game plan from line to line and everyone that has stepped on the ice has played with intensity and drive.   We have talked a lot on the broadcasts about the play of the line of Joey Baker, Taylor Peters and Taylor Leier, and they have effectively shut down the Rockets biggest offensive threats.

And that leads us to Bulmer, who should be the Rockets biggest offensive threat.  Last night it was evident from his opening shift that his focus was not necessarily on hockey when he got nailed for unsportsmanlike conduct for showering Mac Carruth with snow as Carruth covered the puck.  It only went downhill from there for Bulmer who finished the night with two unsportsmanlike minors, two kneeing minors, a kneeing major and a game misconduct.  I’m not sure if any player has received three kneeing penalties in one contest and each one got progressively more dangerous.

For me, you could see the circuits blowing for Bulmer after he was taken out on a tremendous hit from Tyler Wotherspoon in the second period and Bulmer went back to his bench and proceeded to slam his stick on the glass and slam the door once he got into the bench.  From that point on, he was gone mentally, in my opinion.

After the final straw for the hit on William Wrenn, it was important for Baker to step in and knock Bulmer on his can.  What I liked most about it is that Baker did not drop the gloves and start throwing punches, he just ran him over.

Now we wait to find out what additional sanctions, if any, are levied against Bulmer by the WHL.

Photo Credit - The Oregonian

Not to be lost in the shuffle of what happened in game 2 is the 20 save shutout performance of Mac Carruth.  Mac didn’t have to face a ton of shots as the Hawks did a nice job of limiting the Rockets opportunities (including only allowing four shots on five power play chances), but Mac was positionally solid and gave the Rockets nothing.

Maybe it was fitting that Carruth made 20 saves to pick up his 20th career playoff victory on the day before his 20th birthday.

The Rockets spent a lot of time trying to get into Carruth’s kitchen in games 1 and 2 and it had virtually no affect.  That will need to continue in the next two games in Kelowna.



I won’t be able to make the trip to Kelowna, but Todd Vrooman will bring you all the action on http://www.winterhawks.com.



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