Monday, 2 March 2015

Numbers Never Lie: The Victoria Grizzlies Heading Into The 2015 BCHL Playoffs

I always liked math, there was some sort of honesty thing there for me I seemed to find.  Numbers are funny.  You can always count on them.  They may not always mean everything, but they almost always mean something.  On the eve of the playoffs, there are a lot of things going through my mind but most of all its the simple adage that numbers never lie.
I noticed a recent trend with the Grizzlies and it might not be what you think.  Everyone is of course very pleased with the team’s recent 7 game win streak. Its the longest of the year for the team and the longest current win streak in the BCHL.  When I crunched the math, I noticed that since the coaching change on 30 Nov, the Grizzlies have only lost 8 games in the “Outright Loss” column.  That is 8 losses in 32 games under Coach Didmon or exactly 25% of the time.  Under the old coaching regime, the Grizzlies were losing games via the outright loss stat at 38.46% of the time.     
Thus prior to December, there was almost a 40% chance that a Grizzlies game would end in a loss and not even get to OT.  Since that time, that figure has been cut almost in half.  And most of all, for large chunks of that time, the Grizzlies have been doing it without the services of Thomas Gobeil, Garrett Forster or Matt Kennedy.  Frankly, I find that astonishing. 
Here is a fun and  great trivia question for you: Who was the last player in BCHL history to record back to back Double OT game winning goals?  The answer is of course Kevin Massy of the Victoria Grizzlies.  Yes, "K Mass" as I like to call him is a lot of things: The Undisputed Captain of The Bus, a dominant power forward and crushing D Man, but he is now the answer to a great BCHL trivia question which I will assume could stand for a long time.  A long time.  Numbers, especially crazy numbers do that sometimes, they linger.
So the Grizzlies enter the 2015 BCHL Playoffs in less than 24 hours and we know who they will face, the Powell River Kings.  The Kings are team the Grizzlies haven't fared well against all year, let's be honest.  But I don't think any of that matters right now to anyone who will be wearing black on the ice tomorrow night at the Q Centre.  Nope, not with the week they've just had.  Not with these numbers.
The Grizzlies did have quite a week.  On Wednesday it was up to The Island Savings Centre where they dispatched the Cowichan Valley Capitals in a relatively routine performance and they even trailed 1-0 early. Chris Harpur showed flashes of his not yet fully tapped future pro talent again with a goal and a helper while Dane Gibson scored a pair and so did the resurgent Ayden MacDonald.  Most significant and sadly for Caps fans however was the signature moment of the game.  That of course was Thomas Gobeil, their former star stamping out any hope with an Empty Net goal to close out the night.  It was a seminal moment where you could actually see two hockey organizations going in two completely different directions.  But that's hockey, that's math.
Then on Friday night in Nanaimo, with about a minute left in the game, Gibson would set up Meirs Moore with a clutch game tying goal and keep that "8 losses in 32 games" stat safe for the time being.  Then in Double OT, Kevin Massy would remind everyone why he should shoot more, booming a one time slap shot from Team Captain Sean McBride past one of the top goalies in the entire league. The goal brought the magic number from half a game to zero for the Grizzlies to earn home ice advantage in Round 1. That was a reality which seemed impossible when Didmon took over in December.  Yes in November the math looked impossible, at least it did for me.
One night later, with 3 AP players in the lineup, Massy would do it again, score in Double OT, setting a BCHL record in so doing.  But not before the lightly heralded supporting cast around the club brought a packed Q Centre to its feet on numerous occasions. At times it was the quick hands of Nick Guiney stealing pucks and feeding Penalty Kill Specialist P.J. Conlon.  At other times it was Spencer Hunter doubling his season goals tally in a single game, scoring two goals, one in the North End of the rink and then a second goal in the South End.  It was the proverbial coming out party of the year for Hunter, his confidence brimming, the 14 and 15 year old girls in attendance all swooning each time the handsome winger tapped the glass in elation after his goals.  Those numbers, the  swooning numbers, they actually mean something.
Back to Kevin Massy.  His Double OT winner was huge and for a somewhat and perhaps unimportant but nevertheless significant footnote on the season.  It marked the Grizzlies 219th goal on the Regular Season placing the team alone in 2nd Place in the league in goals scored.  Only Nanaimo had more goals scored at 235.  Had the season gone on another week or two, the Clippers would likely have fallen behind the Grizzlies in that category as well.  And in assists, the team finished the season with a league best 392 "apples", more than even the Clippers at 378.  Maybe its not just another number.
Meanwhile in net Michael Stiliadis was excellent on his two nights of work as was Sean Cleary on Saturday in a game which on paper didn't mean much in terms of points, but in terms of maintaining playoff momentum, it might have meant the world. 
So off we go into the bright blue yonder of the Playoffs tomorrow night at the Q Centre.  There won't be a Matt Kennedy in the lineup, although every day that goes by however, his shoulder gets stronger.  In the meantime, the team is peaking at exactly the right time.  Not even in the 2000/2001 Fred Page Cup Championship Season did a Grizzlies/Salsa/Warriors franchise go into the post season this hot.  I haven't seen this once since 1991 when I first started watching the Warriors out at The JDF.
And that brings me to my final stat of the night, before I sign off and put the 2014/15 Regular Season officially in the books with the most important number of them all. That is the number zero.
There are literally now twenty two players all pulling on the same rope, night in and night out of this Grizzlies hockey club.  There are zero passengers on this hockey club.  Zero.  Everybody matters, everyone, even the 4th line players have a voice in this team and each player will have a verse or two to write in this post season.  Each know they will have a chance at "their moment" when the time comes.
And that in the end I think is the number Coach Didmon has been seeking all year, the number zero.  If he could get that "passenger number" to zero and get everyone to buy in to his way of playing and his system, the team could maybe pull off one of the most remarkable comeback seasons in league history.  That is of course if its true what they say about numbers.
You know?  How numbers never lie.

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