Wednesday, 27 November 2013 11:51

Take a Bow: Broncos’ back up showing he’s for real

Written by  Brad Brown, A Bard's Eye View
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’Round and ’round the goaltending wheel goes for the Swift Current Broncos. Where it stops, nobody knows.

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing for the team.
No. 1 ‘tender Eetu Laurikainen found himself on the bench early in Saturday’s game against the Moose Jaw Warriors after giving up three goals — including two power play markers on 16 shots in the first 16 minutes.
Landon Bow came on in relief and stopped 23 of 24 shots as the Broncos outscored the Warriors 5-1 the rest of the way for the come-from-behind win.
Last season, pulling Laurikainen was essentially a move to cool him down before his next start. This year it represents so much more, first and foremost a legitimate chance to win.
It wasn’t so long ago that the Broncos could barely find one goalie who could offer that chance night in and night out. Now they have two.
Now before you get any crazy ideas in your head and start jumping around all nimbly-bimbly from tree to tree, the starting job still belongs to Laurikainen and rightfully so.
Will that still be the case in a month or three? That’s not so certain.
Bow has already started 10 games this season, matching his total from all of 2012-13.
It’s still a small sample size but he’s handled the increased workload well, improving his save percentage from .897 last year to .917 this year. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s actually a hair better than Laurikainen’s .916 mark.
It still seems as unlikely now as it did when I first asked Broncos head coach and general manager Mark Lamb about the possibility during the offseason that Bow could play his way into the outright No. 1 job this year.
Even a faltering Laurikainen is better than half the goalies in the WHL and his experience, relative to Bow at least, will be invaluable as the season wears on.
What Bow’s play could do instead is force Lamb to abandon the two-parts-Laurikainen, one-part-Bow mix when it comes to assigning starts in favour of simply playing the hot hand.
And why not?
All signs point to Bow getting at least a chance to prove himself as the undisputed No. 1 goalie next year, with Laurikainen graduating after this season.
The more Bow plays this year the better that plan works.
It also adds up to Laurikainen playing roughly 1,000 fewer minutes than he did in 2012-13, when he was the fourth-most worked goalie in the league and appeared to be spent during the Broncos’ first round playoff loss to Calgary.
For what it’s worth, the goalies who ranked second through fifth in minutes played last year all belonged to Eastern Conference teams that were eliminated in the first round.
The starting goalies for the two teams that made it to the WHL final meanwhile ranked 14th and 19th with 2,854 and 2,275 minutes, respectively.
Laurikainen should still be No. 1 come playoff time, but in the meantime don’t be surprised if the Broncos make the most of their newfound gift in net and put a Bow on it.
This past week:
• Nov. 20 — SC 0 @ PA 1
Noteworthy: Minus the injured Coda Gordon, Tanner LeSann, Justin Spagrud and Dakota Odgers, the Broncos were shut out for the first time this season.
Landon Bow made 30 saves in his 10th start of the season to cap a week in which he was named the WHL’s goaltender of the week.
• Nov. 23 — SC 5 @ MJ 4
Noteworthy: Swift trailed 3-0 after the first period, marking the third time this year the Broncos have rallied from at least a two-goal deficit to win, the fifth game they’ve won after giving up the first goal and the seventh they’ve won after falling behind at any point in the game.
Graham Black had three assists, including one on Julius Honka’s overtime winner, and went all Tanner LeSann on Moose Jaw’s Brayden Point at the end of the first period for his second WHL fight.
Black hadn’t fought since taking part in a line brawl against Tri-City on  Nov. 25, 2011.
Record: 16-10-0-3 (1st division, 2nd conference)

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