The Sea-to-Sky Boner Report: Jan 31st, 2014

 

The Vancouver Giants have hit a rough patch of late, dropping 5 of their last 10 games for their worst stretch since early October. Not coincidentally, injuries to Dalton Thrower and Jared Rathjen have left their mark as Vancouver has struggled to keep pucks out of their own net and control the puck at their traditionally strong rates. Read past the jump for a look at Vancouver’s recent struggles, and how the post-trade deadline WHL is shaping up.

As it has been all season, goaltending has been an issue of late for the Giants. Goalie Jared Rathjen took a puck off the mask in a 5-2 loss to the Portland Winterhawks and hasn’t played since thanks to a concussion. What made matters worse was that the puck that concussed Rathjen deflected into the net, which was his 3rd goal against on 10 shots. That performance, as well as a couple other shaky starts, has helped bring his season save percentage down to 0.895, good for 23rd in the WHL out of 31 qualified goalies.

Rathjen could return as soon as Wednesday against Kamloops. This is great news for the Giants, as their replacements have included Payton Lee, who’s 0.879 save percentage is 31st out of 31 goalies, 16 year-old Ryan Kubic, and a revolving door of emergency backups and call-ups. To his credit, Lee has put together his best month of the season so far, stopping 89.6% of the shots he’s faced. Granted, this is still well below average goaltending so Vancouver no doubt hopes that Rathjen gets back on top of his game in short order.

Captain Dalton Thrower has also been nursing an ankle injury and also a reported illness of late, leaving Vancouver’s 10-0 crushing of the Lethbridge Hurricanes early in the 3rd period, and missing the most recent game against the Victoria Royals. He’s also been missing practices of late for "maintenance days," and has just two assists in the past 5 games – a definite scoring slump for an overage, point-per-game defenseman.

The Giants’ possession game has seen a step back too, as they’ve fallen to 5th in the WHL in 2-period shot differential. Some of that comes from poor performances against Medicine Hat and Portland, but Portland has also become a possession beast since Mat Dumba was returned from the Minnesota Wild five games ago. They’ve controlled nearly 60% of shots in the first two periods and outscored their opposition by an average of 5.8 to 1.4. The scoring is sure to drop off a bit, but Portland is sure to be a monster of a team going forward.

As a result of this swoon, Vancouver has fallen to just 3 points ahead of 8th place Tri-City, and 2 points back of 6th place Everett. If the playoffs started today, the Giants would face the aforementioned Winterhawks in the 1st round, which is essentially the nightmare matchup in the West. The best chance Vancouver has to win a round comes against the current 4th place Seattle Thunderbirds or the 3rd place Victoria Royals, both of whom are playing well above their heads and are not as good as their records indicate. This means that Vancouver has to pick up the pace, as Everett is likely to catch fire eventually and .500 hockey won’t allow Vancouver to keep pace.

Season-to-date fancystats, courtesy of Josh Weissbock:

Rank Name GP Wins Ewins Possession-Close Possession SH% SV% PDO PP% PK% STI
1 Edmonton Oil Kings 49 35 35 59.29% 58.71% 10.91% 90.33% 101.24% 19.30% 84.70% 104.00%
2 Medicine Hat Tigers 48 28 28 57.52% 56.27% 8.73% 90.56% 99.28% 18.70% 81.20% 99.90%
3 Everett Silvertips 50 25 25 56.53% 54.55% 9.20% 89.12% 98.32% 20.90% 76.40% 97.30%
4 Portland Winterhawks 50 33 33 55.42% 54.11% 11.71% 90.18% 101.89% 24.80% 82.50% 107.30%
5 Vancouver Giants 51 24 26 55.32% 53.86% 10.10% 88.33% 98.43% 22.10% 82.40% 104.50%
6 Kelowna Rockets 49 40 37 54.71% 55.56% 11.19% 91.96% 103.15% 20.70% 87.30% 108.00%
7 Regina Pats 51 25 22 51.59% 51.09% 9.69% 88.54% 98.23% 20.30% 71.90% 92.20%
8 Spokane Chiefs 48 29 28 51.55% 52.58% 10.53% 90.21% 100.74% 23.30% 79.90% 103.20%
9 Brandon Wheat Kings 49 26 25 50.76% 50.95% 11.06% 88.95% 100.02% 25.50% 74.10% 99.60%
10 Prince Albert Raiders 49 23 22 50.76% 50.84% 9.43% 89.33% 98.75% 22.80% 79.10% 101.90%
11 Swift Current Broncos 51 25 30 49.98% 49.68% 9.88% 91.70% 101.58% 22.20% 77.80% 100.00%
12 Kootenay Ice 49 25 25 49.39% 48.67% 9.97% 90.93% 100.90% 25.00% 79.00% 104.00%
13 Calgary Hitmen 49 31 32 49.18% 50.92% 11.27% 91.55% 102.82% 19.00% 83.30% 102.30%
14 Prince George Cougars 52 19 18 48.74% 48.86% 9.15% 88.18% 97.33% 16.70% 73.60% 90.30%
15 Seattle Thunderbirds 51 31 25 48.45% 48.97% 10.33% 89.87% 100.20% 21.30% 80.70% 102.00%
16 Moose Jaw Warriors 50 13 15 48.14% 49.66% 7.89% 88.28% 96.16% 19.70% 77.20% 96.90%
17 Victoria Royals 51 33 32 47.19% 47.91% 10.13% 92.82% 102.95% 20.50% 83.60% 104.10%
18 Tri-City Americans 50 24 24 46.10% 45.03% 9.14% 92.15% 101.30% 18.20% 83.30% 101.50%
19 Kamloops Blazers 49 11 14 44.74% 44.60% 8.73% 88.89% 97.62% 16.60% 73.70% 90.30%
20 Red Deer Rebels 49 26 26 44.51% 44.98% 10.28% 91.99% 102.27% 19.60% 83.00% 102.60%
21 Saskatoon Blades 51 14 17 42.56% 42.85% 9.39% 90.22% 99.61% 22.80% 74.00% 96.80%
22 Lethbridge Hurricanes 52 9 11 40.17% 41.41% 8.29% 88.51% 96.80% 19.70% 72.60% 92.30%

The Giants play Wednesday night against the struggling Kamloops Blazers. Jared Rathjen may make his return, and Tyler Benson will also suit up for his 3rd career WHL game. He has no points so far, but led his midget leagues in scoring, registering 63 points in 31 games against players a year older than him.

Around the B.C. Division

Kamloops Blazers: F Deven Sideroff, G Cole Kehler, and F Quinn Benjafield have been called up from their midget teams due to a rash of recent injuries. Benjafield will be making his WHL debut against Vancouver on Wednesday…Kamloops has just one win in their last 10 games; a 7-1 win over the brutal Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Kelowna Rockets: F Marek Tvrdon has just 3 points in 6 games since being returned to junior…7-3-0-0 in their past 10 games, to remain well clear of the 2nd place Portland Winterhawks…Named the CHL’s #1 ranked team for another week.

Other WHL News and Notes:

  • Recent suspensions have included EDM Reid Petryk (2 games), MJW Sam Fioretti (3 games), EVT Noah Juulsen (1 game), TC Riley Hillis (2 games), CGY Greg Chase (1 game), and EVT Josh Winquist (1 game).
  • Red Deer’s Patrik Bartosak has been named the CHL goalie of the week. Portland F Brendan Leipsic has been named the WHL player of the week.
  • Tri-City goalie and World Junior snub Eric Comrie has been playing out of his mind, posting a 0.965 save percentage in January. He leads all CHL starters with a 0.931 save percentage on the season.
  • Spokane F Mitch Holmberg leads the WHL in scoring, with 87 points in 49 games. Nic Petan is closing quickly though, with just 8 fewer points in 8 fewer games played. Saskatoon F Nikita Scherbak leads all rookies in goals, assists and points. Vancouver F Carter Popoff is 3rd in the WHL in assists.
  • WHL plays of the week are here!