Friday, 12 February 2016

Win 3 & Let The Others Be

Before I start this week's blog, I would like to take a moment and commemorate the life of Al Gillies, the Victoria Grizzlies long time Equipment and Stick/Skate repairman Extraordinaire.  I just learned only moments after posting this blog of Al's passing and I have added this piece just now.  Last Friday on the team's trip up to Port Alberni, as we passed Al's house near Spencer Road at exactly this very hour, our Bus Driver honked twice to say hello to Big Al and I know I said a quite prayer for Al along with those on the bus.  Al was a kind, smart and savy equipment man and he was an even better human being and friend to all of us here in the Victoria Grizzlies.  We love you Al and you will be missed.  God Bless you and your family in these difficult times, our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

 Win 3 & Let The Others Be

I always love a good race.  Whether its the Kentucky Derby, the Daytona 500 or yes, even this year's US Presidential Primary Elections, I just love watching a good race.  This year's Island Division playoff run is no exception.  With that said, this year's race is becoming less clear every day.  I will admit though that it is by far more interesting than anything going on in the other two divisions, so maybe we should count ourselves lucky.  What's weird though, at least for the moment, is that just about everybody in this race is losing.  And I do mean everybody.

In a post New Hampshire presser on Tuesday, Trump reacts badly to news of the Grizzlies 4-1 loss to the Kings
Unless your team is the Powell River Kings or the Nanaimo Clippers, you just aren't winning very many games in the run up to the BCHL playoffs in the Island Division.  Conveniently the Grizzlies have managed to have timed their current 5 game losing streak just as the very two teams with whom they are in contact are also suddenly losing.  In the span of the past week, the Grizzlies (0-2) along with the Cowichan Valley Capitals (0-2) and Alberni Valley Bulldogs (0-2) have combined for exactly 0 points between all three clubs.  And that's good news to Grizzlies fans.

Strong goaltending and D will be huge keys to the Grizzlies playoff chances
You have to start asking yourself, does anybody want to win this thing or what?  The fact is that the Grizzlies believe it or not, once again control their own destiny.

With a game in hand now and 2 more wins than Alberni on the season, the math ever so slightly favours the Grizzlies.  Victoria's 4-1 loss at a packed Hap Parker Arena on BC Family Day on Monday was but the latest installment in the longest skid since the start of the season.  The good news is that the team played pretty well after a long day on the road.  It was a brutal day of travel, 17 hours in total and a road trip which even featured a car accident in the Courtney White Spot parking lot to boot.  Apparently an elderly female driver who thankfully escaped without injuries was hoping to create a Drive Thru Window at the Courtney restaurant with her green SUV as the Grizzlies awaited their pre-game breakfast.  What else is new when you travel to "The Rock"?

Its just not a trip to "The Hap" without some sort of drama
Brett Stirling was back in the lineup, along with rookie phenom Tyler Welsh.  Both men were likely not yet 100%, but were able to make up for that with a lot of skill and determination. The goaltending was also pretty solid.  The Grizzlies did connect on the PP in the First Period with PJ Conlon collecting his 20th of the year.  The bad news is that the Grizzlies were once again outshot, this time by a count of 36-30.  It marked the 7th straight game in which the Grizzlies were outshot.  It is a trend the club really needs to break and soon.

The newly designed "Drive Thru" window at the Courtney White Spot
If anybody asked me (and nobody does BTW) I would map out the road to the playoffs for the Grizzlies by suggesting the following simple strategy.  With 8 games to play, call up some APs to rest up anybody who needs a break and not risk further injuries.  But at the same time pick 3 specific matchups which you think you can really win and do everything in your power to win those games.  In other words, play those three target games like they were playoff matchups and win them all.  As for the other 5 matchups, consider them all bonus games.  I call the strategy: "Win 3 & Let The Others Be".

If the Grizzlies can manage to win just 3 of their remaining 8 games, it will force the AV Bulldogs to win 4 of their last 7 games and also demand that the Bulldogs collect an extra point from an OT game in there somehow.  Basically that math would ask the Bulldogs to earn points in 5 of their final 7 games, essentially 9 points in total out of those remaining 7 games.  In spite of a softer February schedule, that could be a very hard task for a Bulldogs team who finish the year with two games at home vs Powell River.

Can #22 Gelsinger with the best snap shot on the club stay hot down the stretch?
This approach will allow the team to get healthy just in time for the playoffs while still remaining competitive.   It will also realistically manage expectations in the face of some pretty daunting opposition down the stretch including two remaining games vs Chilliwack and road games in Wenatchee, Penticton, Langley and Cowichan still on the ledger.

It all starts this weekend for the Grizzlies who will host Merritt on Saturday night and Chilliwack on Sunday in their ultra cool retro 1990's Victoria Salsa jerseys.  Hopefully, Merritt could prove to be Win #1 out of the three victories which I believe the club needs in order to ensure a playoff spot. Alberni will host Salmon Arm on Saturday and Merritt on Sunday.  There will be scoreboard watching a plenty in Victoria over the weekend, that is for sure.  No matter what happens, I can promise you one thing, its going to be entertaining.  See you all this weekend at The Q. - CC

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