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Wednesday, 20 March 2013 16:01

Broncos should not be taken lightly

Written by  Brad Brown, A Bard's Eye View
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Mad libs anyone?

Adam Lowry is the best all-around Swift Current Bronco since (insert legend here).
Is it Brad Larsen?
Rick Girard?
Joe Sakic?
Peter Kasowski?
The answer isn’t entirely certain but for many long-time fans, no Bronco in recent memory has had the ability to single-handedly carry a team in virtually all facets of the game the way Lowry has.
What is clear is that Lowry came into the season feeling he had something to prove. And oh brother has he ever done that.
He’s been a force on both special teams, in front of the net, along the boards, in his own zone, on the first line and on the fourth line.
Once they found their footing as a team around the halfway point of the season, the Broncos made a few other things clear as well — things that have led many observers to peg them as the dark horse contender of this year’s WHL playoffs.
So what exactly did we learn this year?
The Broncos can score at five-on-five
For a team that ranks dead last in the WHL in power play opportunities, even-strength scoring is critical.
In the first 36 games of the season, Swift Current scored just 57 per cent of its goals at even strength.
In the last 36, the Broncos scored 81 per cent of their goals at even strength while winning 22 games and still maintaining the fifth-best power play in the league.
Penalties tend to be few and far between during playoffs so this is a positive development for the club, and it would seem to be a matter of if, not when, the Broncos’ power play will snap out of its recent funk.
Also worth noting — only two of 10 WHL teams who scored less than 70 per cent of their goals at even strength this year won more games than they lost.
The Broncos can also win close games
Swift Current won five of 20 one-goal games in the first half of the season, and 11 of 14 in the second half.
Eetu is Finnish for “your pucks look like beach balls.”
Actually, it’s the rough Finnish translation for Edward, but anyone who saw more than 60 minutes of Broncos goalie Eetu Laurikainen in action could forgive the confusion.
Laurikainen has been a human highlight reel more nights than not, posting the third-best save percentage among WHL starters this year while routinely taking away sure scores.
Give credit too to the Broncos’ defence, which has limited quality scoring chances for most of the year and helped Swift Current post the second-best defensive record in the East.
The kids are more than alright
The past criticism that Lamb didn’t care to use his young players enough, fair or not, is old news.
This season he has put full support behind his 16 and 17-year-olds and the results have spoken for themselves.
Dillon Heatherington was has been a reliable top-pair blueliner all year and is projected as a third-round pick in this summer’s NHL draft.
Brycen Martin, a 16-year-old rookie, has been given top-four minutes and top-pairing power play minutes for much of the season.
Zac Mackay has been a regular and tough penalty killer, Tanner LeSann has seen quality third-line minutes, Jay Merkley – in spite of his admitted lack of conditioning – has been a regular on the second line and backup goalie Landon Bow made six of his 10 starts against playoff-bound teams.
While the team has relied heavily on Lowry and Laurikainen for most of the season, Lamb has consistently rolled four lines and six defencemen as much as can be expected and, generally, has made the team better for it.
OK, so they weren’t cut out to win the East Division this year. (Mea culpa.)
None of this is to say the Swift Current Broncos will win a playoff series for the first time since 2008 or even their first playoff game since March 27, 2009.
And none of it’s to say they won’t.
What it does say is that the Broncos should not be taken lightly.
And, after the last few years, that’s undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

Read 1353 times Last modified on Thursday, 21 March 2013 04:58