Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Grizzlies Should Be The Unknown: A Weekend Recap

I am not a gambler, in fact I have never had much interest in such things.  Other than my $20 Playoff Hockey Pool and my Annual NCAA Final Four College Basketball Pool, I would say that I almost never lay a bet on anything for that matter.  When I was in Las Vegas a couple of years ago, I walked up to at a $5 Blackjack Table just for fun with a $20 bill in my wallet and walked away penniless in about the time I can hold my breath at the bottom of a swimming pool.  Get the picture?
I know nothing about gambling or odds or Vegas Bookies other than the fact that those guys sure know what they are doing and rarely lose money.  But one thing I do know is that the one fear for bookies is the concept of the unknown.  In sports, that’s the team who nobody can figure out, the golfer who suddenly gets hot  2 weeks before The Masters or the race car driver who suddenly catches lightning in a bottle at Daytona.
I always loved Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson in The Colour of Money as he described to Tom Cruise's girlfriend in the film the concept of “the unknown” in gambling and the power of it:
As Fast Eddie sat watching Cruise's character cleaning up the balls on the pool table he remarked: “He should be the unknown. I mean that would be nice, that would be beautiful.  You could play around with that, you could control that. You know what I mean?”  In the scene you could see his mind racing at the thought of leveraging for profit the phenom Cruise's ability in 9-Ball.
What a weekend the Grizzlies had last weekend, two big wins and both featuring a bucket full of goals and tons of offense. First to fall were the Alberni Valley Bulldogs who fell 8-4 to the Grizzlies. The first period started with by both clubs exchanging Power Play goals, the Grizzlies Thomas Gobeil scoring his 8th as a Grizzly in only 11 games played for Victoria.  Jay Mackie and Ayden MacDonald would make it 3-1 in favour of the Grizzlies by the end of two periods and the vibe in the Q Centre was "two points on the way".  But the 3rd Period was when the gasoline would really get poured on the fire offensively for the Grizzlies.  Brett Gruber would score a hat trick, his second of the year and Dane Gibson, Cole Pickup (Shorthanded) and Zach Dixon would also all score. The game would end 8-4 Grizzlies. The debacle of the previous weekend seemed a distant memory.
There would be more of the same the very next night with a 6-2 victory over the Prince George Spruce Kings and it would be thanks to many of the weekend's usual suspects in the scoring.  In the 1st Period, Cole Pickup would bat a puck out of mid air in the crease to open the scoring and the Ayden MacDonald would score 11 seconds into the 2nd Period, all of which would setup the Grizzlies for a routine victory on the night. Dane Gibson who would eventually be named BCHL Player of The Week would score two goals in the second half of the contest as would Brett Gruber and Zach Dixon, each picking up a goal themselves.
The Victoria Grizzlies are two weeks away from the playoffs and without question they are the BCHL’s absolute #1 “Unknown Team”.  They are without debate the most dangerous team heading into the playoffs.  If Eddie Felson was the “Stakehorse” of the Grizzlies right now, he would be very exited about the prospect of what he might be able to do concerning controlling the unknown.
Here is my Top 10 List as to why the Grizzlies are the most dangerous team in the league heading into the playoffs. 
1)      The Grizzlies Powerplay performance is tops at 26.85% efficiency, a full 2 percentage points against their nearest competitor, Alberni Valley.
2)      The team has scored no less than 58 Powerplay goals on the season and now sits at #2 in the league in that category.  Alberni Valley has scored 60, but with 25 more opportunities.  
3)      The Grizzlies have no less than five players at 20 goals and potentially could finish the year with ten players at 10+ goals scored before the playoffs commence.  On any given night any of the 20 skaters can score.
4)      The Grizzlies have scored 198 goals on the season and with 5 games to go, that number could easily eclipse the figures of previous seasons including those of the entire “Fitzgerald Era”.  
5)      The Grizzlies possess the scariest set of offensively gifted D-Men in the BCHL with no less than 34 goals scored by the defensemen so far.  No other team is close.  Even the BCHL goal scoring champion Nanaimo Clippers have only scored 29 goals by their D-Men. 
6)      The Penalty Killers are the league’s best as far as I am concerned.  Not only can these PK specialists shut down the opposition during the man advantage, but they can score as well.  The Grizzlies are tied with Coquitlam in Short-handed goals at 12. 
7)      The supporting cast features a large number of players all of whom can and do contribute to the offense on a nightly basis.  In short this team can flat out put the puck in the net and on some nights, they look like they can score for fun, all four lines.
8)      The Grizzlies lead the BCHL with no less than 361 assists, while the Nanaimo Clippers who have scored 24 more goals on the season have registered only 357 assists.  What does that mean?  It means that the Grizzlies can pass the puck better than any other team in the league.
9)      Opposition Shots on Goal (SOG) have fallen all year.  The team which was being outshot 46% of the time under the old coaching regime is now being outshot only 25% of the time, a drop of 20 full percentage points in less than three months.
10)   The Grizzlies goalies do not lead the league in very many categories, but the team goals against average has been slowly dropping all year in spite of several lop-sided shocker losses games from earlier in the season.  In short they are far better now than they were in October. Far better.
The analytics look good, yes, but best of all is the radar scope.  The Grizzlies, through no fault of their own have managed to very quietly amass this incredible record.  And nobody is watching.  Walk around your average BCHL rink on  Friday night, I do.  You know what I hear?  "Penticton, its over, the Vees, they have it.  Nanaimo will finish second, they're too good." 
The Grizzlies have done all this largely by virtue of the fact that they have lost a good number of close games and also suffered 10 Overtime losses this season.  The good news on that is that 4 on 4 and 3 on 3 OTs do not exist in the Playoffs.  In any playoff games in which the Grizzlies find themselves tied after 60 minutes, both teams will play OT with 5 skaters.  That will help the Grizzlies who have frankly not been great all year in 4-4 OT. 
But back to that original point, the Grizzlies might just be getting hot at right about the perfect time of the year.  If they keep this up, they will be like a heavily armed supersonic attack aircraft travelling at tree top level, well under enemy radars, all ready to pounce on any unsuspecting target along the way.  Most BCHL pundits can’t see that.  But I can and I don't even play pool.
All I know is that if Fast Eddie was here, I think he would know exactly what to do in this situation.  I mean that would be nice, that would be beautiful.

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