Wednesday, 19 February 2014 12:44

Broncos’ selfish play is costing them on the scoreboard

Written by  Brad Brown, A Bard’s Eye View
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Monday, allegedly, was Family Day in Saskatchewan.

The Swift Current Broncos never got the memo.
If you had any doubt about what’s been ailing the Broncos for the last couple of months, it was on full display Monday at the Credit Union iplex as they once again played not like a family, but as a hodgepodge of individuals in a lifeless 3-1 loss to the Prince Albert Raiders.
Swift Current’s fourth line was its best almost from the get-go and the results that followed were predictable.
Instead of skating hard to set up a few scoring chances the Broncos managed four shots in the first period, only two of which 16-year-old Raiders goalie Nick McBride likely even felt.
Instead of paying attention to their surroundings, they killed two promising rushes in the first period alone with a pair of easily-avoidable offsides.
Instead of communicating with each other or making the simple play up the boards, they fired risky cross-ice passes in the defensive zone and no-look, behind-the-back feeds in the offensive zone that predictably went astray.
Most costly of all were the three Broncos who, with goalie Eetu Laurikainen down and out, stood around jabbing at the puck in their own crease instead of knocking Prince Albert’s Collin Valcourt into next week.
Valcourt scored and it was clear that the game, barely five minutes old, was basically over.
There were signs of life, fleeting as they were — big hits from Coda Gordon and Jay Merkley; a burst of speed from Colby Cave early in the game to get behind the P.A. defence; a picture-perfect pass from a pinching Brycen Martin, behind the net, to the rookie Glenn Gawdin in the slot, for the Broncos’ only real scoring chance of the first period.
For a few minutes they even looked like the Broncos you may have read about in the history books, peppering the Raiders with shots on their first power play and scoring on a top-shelf laser beam from Julius Honka on their third.
But forget a 60-minute effort, the Broncos’ coaching staff would have probably been happy with 60 straight seconds of effort on Monday.
Instead of taking a look, the errant passes continued.
Instead of getting their noses dirty or actually skating to keep their opponents in check, they resorted to cheap shots that went uncalled and two lazy penalties that were — taking a top forward off the ice twice in under four minutes.
For at least half the game, rookie defenceman Jordan Harris was maybe Swift Current’s most physical player. That was good news for Harris, who continues to grow, but bad news for the Broncos.
Fed up after the first period with breakouts that ended almost before they began, head coach Mark Lamb mercifully made sure Honka and Dillon Heatherington only saw the ice in the second with forwards who could handle their passes.
In the third he benched Tanner LeSann, Zac Mackay and Justin Spagrud outright, rolling three lines for the length of the game’s most competitive frame.
By game’s end the Broncos had at least won on the shot clock, holding as deceptive an edge (32-27) as you’ll ever see.
For much of the game, the entire offensive mindset seemed to be gain the offensive zone and fire a weak wrister from 50 feet instead of waiting for support or even looking for a teammate to pass to.
A lame and undeserved holding penalty assessed to Cave with four minutes to play rightfully brought out the boo-birds and led directly to the insurance goal that sealed the Raiders’ win, but wouldn’t crack a list of the Top 10 reasons Swift Current lost.
If the Broncos had played even 10 minutes with the intensity they did in the final 30 seconds, they’d likely have won.
Instead, Swift Current has now won 10 of its last 27 games, falling from first to sixth in the WHL’s Eastern Conference in the process.
The Broncos can still clinch a playoff berth with any combination of 10 regulation wins and Prince Albert regulation losses, but even that is a lot more of an “if” these days than a “when.”
On paper they’re still one of the best teams in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. In reality, they’re playing like one of the most selfish.
Would it be asking so much of any of them to just help a brother out?
On the bright side, at least the Broncos aren’t the Lethbridge Hurricanes, who were waxed 12-0 by Edmonton on Monday — the worst loss by a WHL team in nearly 18 years.
Follow Brad Brown on Twitter @saskawhat.

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