The post-game talk after Game 1 centred around two things — Jeff Bosch and the officiating.
Dan Crowley and Ryan Thompson had everyone in the building shaking their heads at times and there’s no denying that the Warriors got the benefit of some early calls.
The Tyler Shattock charge was mystifying. Not only was it not a particularly long run, but Spencer Edwards saw him coming, braced himself and it ended up being just a glancing hit. It looked any of a few dozen hits in Game 1. On the ensuing power play, the fact that the Warriors appeared to have shot the puck over the glass and the officials decided to have the face off in the Calgary zone only added to their frustration. Calgary defenceman Michael Stone argued vigourously, but the Warriors won the draw and Antonin Honejsek scored the 2-0 goal on that possession.
The fans were already booing the officials and chanting “Crowley sucks” when Calgary defenceman Zak Stebner got clipped in the face with a high stick in front of his own net. The Warriors were on the power play and nothing was called. Put it this way — besides the too-many men call on the Warriors, that was their most obvious infraction of the night. No call. Seconds later Chad Suer puts the Warriors up 4-1.
The Warriors were then accessed six straight minors. Some looked like penalties, many others didn’t, but credit to the Warriors penalty kill who was fantastic all night. The Hitmen got no breaks early, but they had six chances to try to get back in the game and didn’t take them.
The Hitmen’s mascot — Farley the Fox — came out for the third period dressed up in a referee’s uniform carrying a cane. Until Brandon Kozun scored, he got the biggest cheer of the period.
* * * *
Bosch had a funny night. He looked sharp, but didn’t have a lot of great saves early. Then the Hitmen got their five-on-three and he made his mark. Even still, most of his great saves were a result of his quick lateral movement and ability to stop shots down low.
He robbed Joel Broda twice at the side of the net and made a nice leg save on Misha Fisenko. He made a nice glove save through traffic, but largely he was composed and kept his position well on a ton of goal-mouth scrambles. Both he and Warriors head coach Dave Hunchak credited the defence for letting him see pucks and downplayed the idea that he stole one.
Certainly over two periods, the shot total didn’t seem to be a fair indication of the game. In the third it was one-way traffic.
A member of the Calgary media asked me if it was the best game of Bosch’s life. I asked the man himself and he said he wasn’t sure and he’d had a few good games this season. For my money he was better (or more spectacular perhaps) in his 42-save shutout against Brandon in January.
* * * *
There were a lot of little plays that made a big difference on the Warriors goals. On the Jason Bast’s opener, Kevin Smith did a great job of blocking a clearing attempt and then finding Bast in stride with a hard pass to the high slot and the captain wired a shot high over Jones’ blocker through a partial screen of Stebner.
On the second goal Dylan Hood looked to be pinned along the boards, but he won two physical battles to walk off the wall to the net where he laid a great pass across the face of the goal to Antonin Honejsek who had some work to do on the finish and managed to beat Jones high.
Bast made a nice pass to Thomas Frazee across the offensive zone. Frazee decided to wind up a slap shot and it paid off as he blew it past Jones short-side. Of the four goals, that was probably the one Jones would most like to have back. Still credit to Frazee for getting all of it.
The fourth goal was just execution as the Warriors won the draw and ran their power play to a T as Suer went to the high slot and deflected Ryan Stanton’s point shot just like they draw it up in practice.
* * * *
There was a lot of physical contact and the Warriors did a very good job of being finishing their checks. The Hitmen seemed happy with the physical side of their game.
The Warriors didn’t back down at any point and that was exemplified by Dylan McIlrath answering Ian Schultz’ challenge in the first. The linesmen separated them before they could fight (Schultz had already dropped his gloves) and they went as soon as they stepped out of the box. I would have given Schultz a very slight decision after the fight, but after the game, the Hitmen’s big man was looking a little worse for wear compared to McIlrath.
Still Schultz has two years on McIlrath and is a tough customer — credit to McIlrath for not backing down.
* * * *
Both teams were shortening their benches from the outset in Game 1. The Warriors were using Danny Gayle and Nathan MacMaster with Bast and Frazee and they pretty much only used 10 forwards. Jakub Herman and Riley Reinbolt only got a couple of shifts. Same with Calgary who rotated Kris Foucault and Jimmy Bubnick on a line and only used 10 forwards. If they played Mackenzie Royer or Rigby Burgart I didn’t see it.
MacMaster played very well and had some early chances. Gayle was steady as well. Hood and Honejsek were on their game and while Rowinski wasn’t as dynamic offensively, he blocked a few shots and was good defensively.
Frazee and Bast both played with a burr in their saddles. Frazee was jawing and getting in a lot of altercations, but he rode the line well and didn’t take any penalties.
The Warriors third line was strong all game setting a physical tone and Smuk, Edwards and Paradis all did great work on the penalty kill. Edwards blocked two shots on the five-on-three and he and Paradis had a great first period kill where they spent most of the kill winning foot races and puck battles in the Calgary zone.
In addition to the goal Suer was arguably the Warriors best defenceman. He was steady and a handful of times was one-on-one with a Hitmen forward on a 2-on-2 rush and he blocked the pass and rode his man wide and took away any chance at creating danger. It wasn’t flashy, but given the skill of the Hitmen forwards it wasn’t easy either.
* * * *
The bottom line on Game 1 was that the Warriors took advantage of their chances, got good goaltending and won the special teams battle. That will be huge once again in Game 2, but if they are able to consistently get their forecheck going and if they can stay out of the penalty box, they may not need the special teams or the
The Warriors power play was 3-for-6, but it honestly didn’t look that good in stretches. Outlet passes were missed, they struggled to break out of their zone at times and yet once they got in the Calgary zone it looked pretty sharp. On the power play that led to Suer’s 4-1 goal they spent nearly 90 seconds trying to get the puck into Calgary’s end of the ice. It was flat out ugly and yet they still got a goal out of it.
* * * *
Calgary awoke to a fresh snowfall Friday. The Warriors skated for about an hour at the Max Bell Arena because the San Jose Sharks were having their morning skate. The Warriors changed at the Saddledome and rode the bus in their gear to the rink.
The Hitmen were able to get ice time at the Dome and looked pretty focused for their hour of ice time.
* * * *
You know you’re stuck at a long red light when a pan handler has set up in the middle of the street and goes window to window along the line long line of stopped cars.