Slightly below .500, 67's tread water ahead of date with the Steelheads
It was an honest question asked to the Ottawa 67’s (3-4-0-0) newcomer after his first night on the job in the Nation’s Capital, and the answer ended up being fitting for the goalie from Quebec.
“I don’t mind them, as long as they don’t go in,” said Philippe Trudeau, after his first game, a 4-2 loss, when asked if he minded facing 50 shots on the night.
In four starts and one relief stint in Kingston, Trudeau’s had to face 172 shots, turning aside 160 of them for a 2-2-0 record to start his time in the Nation’s Capital.
“I don't think this game shows how our team plays, there were a lot of penalties,” added Trudeau after his first loss against Plymouth. “We have a good group, we have what it takes to win games.”
Aside from the delay of game penalty that comes with playing the puck outside the trapezoid, a rule that burned Trudeau and that he called “a stupid penalty”, his transition into the OHL has been seamless.
Moving Clint Windsor out of town was supposed to open the door for Jacob Blair to take over the reins, but since the arrival of Trudeau, Blair hasn’t played a full game yet.
While it’s hard to blame him for getting shelled by the powerhouse Kingston Frontenacs, Blair was pulled in the team’s first road game of the year, allowing a goal 10 seconds into the game and letting six by him before getting yanked.
Trudeau came in to try and stop the bleeding. Ryan Van Stralen had a pair of goals, but Ottawa fell 7-4 to the Frontenacs.
Albeit in front of very small crowds, a 4-1 loss to the Soo Greyhounds bringing out the worst 67’s attendance since 1998, they’ve put on a show for the diehards that make the trek to Kanata.
Nearly every game has been decided in the third period or later, the 4-2 loss on two late goals against Plymouth, a 3-2 win on a late Joseph Blandisi goal over Niagara, and a shootout win over Peterborough.
While rookie Travis Konecny isn’t shining as much as he did on the first weekend, his bursts of speed still have the ability to break games open, and should a pair of breakaway shots off the post gone in, he could have singlehandedly changed the outcome of a couple of games.
Teams with the book out on Konecny put their top defensive pairing on him, opening up the rest of the team for scoring by committee.
The top line of Van Stralen, Blandisi and Taylor Fielding seems to be the main recipient.
Van Stralen had the two goals in Kingston, Blandisi has three tallies, two of them late game winners, and Fielding has added another four.
Again, the problem that will hurt Ottawa is a lack of physical defence.
Imports Adrian Sloboda and Alex Lintuniemi are a breath of fresh air for fans of the Barberpoles, a team so tortured in the past by the import draft, as they make up the top pairing this season.
They’ve been a lot more solid than anybody expected, but are still overworked by opposing teams’ top lines and top forecheckers. Despite the stellar goaltending that they’ve received this year, the defence is what may shoot Ottawa in the foot.
With Mike Vlajkov being shut down for upwards of three months, things could get a lot tougher on the Ottawa blueline.
Tuesday night should be a great marking spot for the 67’s.
With Sean Day in town, trying to prove the team that passed on him in the draft wrong, he comes with a Mississauga squad that, according to many, are expected to be a bottom-feeder this year.
It’s still early, and a last-place Ottawa team last year won games early against top squads, but one has to think that a matchup with the Steelheads is the early highlight game of the season.
If the Barberpoles can’t show up for this game, all signs will point to it being another long season.