Wednesday, 29 January 2014 15:35

Eetu deserves much-needed help up front

Written by  Brad Brown, A Bard’s Eye View
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Speed, hard work and a potent power play have been hallmarks of the Swift Current Broncos for the past couple seasons.


Lately though it seems the team’s only Hallmarks are more likely sympathy cards aimed at Eetu Laurikainen, who has been forced into starring in a one-man show.
In nine starts since Christmas, Laurikainen has posted an otherworldly .940 save percentage — easily his best month as a Bronco.
His reward: Four wins and five losses as the Broncos slingshotted from second to seventh in the WHL’s Eastern Conference and back again, with a generous assist to the wonders of hockey’s loser point.
If you exclude the shootout and only count games that were decided by actual hockey, the Broncos won 14of 24 games in the first third of the season.
They won nine of 24 in the second and have been even worse since the Jan. 10 trade deadline, winning just two of seven in regulation or overtime.
The team’s pre-Christmas woes were quite easily explained by the absences of Coda Gordon and Julius Honka.
Their struggles since are far more concerning.
In the span of barely a month, the Swift Current Broncos have gone from looking like a very special team to almost no special teams at all.
To be fair the penalty kill has actually been decent, but not decent enough to make up for the fact it’s been eight games since Swift Current last scored a power play goal.
Add in some undisciplined play and you have the recipe for disaster.
The Broncos have had 18 power plays in the seven games since the trade deadline.
Not only have they not scored on those chances, they have had to kill 30 opposition power plays in that same time.
That would create a mammoth disparity in scoring chances even with a 100 per cent penalty kill rate.
It would be easy to blame crooked officiating for the gap if it weren’t for the fact that 15 of those Swift Current penalties have been for tripping, slashing, hooking or holding — the laziest kind of penalties and the easiest ones to call.
Making things even worse, the Broncos’ two most penalized players over the last seven games have been Gordon and Colby Cave, with a combined 18 minutes in the sin bin.
It’s one thing to spend twice as much time as your opponents playing from behind.
It’s another entirely to have that compounded by having your two best forwards in the penalty box for a combined five shifts a game they would have normally spent on the ice.
Add in a pair of rare unsportsmanlike calls and you have a team that has by and large, come unhinged.
The result is a team that, despite leading the East Division, has the worst winning percentage of any playoff team besides Vancouver and Tri-City — teams that happen to play in a far superior conference.
Laurikainen deserves better and the Broncos are capable of so much more.
Right now though, it seems more like a question of “if” and not “when.”

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