Week in Review:
Blues Record: 0-2-0 (5-1 L @ STN, 4-2 L vs STN)
A pair of losses to the Steinbach Pistons have knocked the Winnipeg Blues out of the running for first place in the East Division.
On Friday, Winnipeg entered the third period down one goal, but gave up three goals in the opening 4:32 of the final frame to fall 5-1. Dawson Milliken scored twice for Steinbach while Jake Dale had Winnipeg’s lone goal. The Blues also lost Joe Kraus to injury in the second period.
The next night, a three-goal first propelled the Pistons to a 4-2 win. The Blues did outshoot the Pistons 10-4 in the third while trying to mount a furious comeback, but they couldn’t close the gap. Garett Zasitko and Ryan Ostermann scored for the Blues, while Quinton Pepper scored twice for Steinbach.
With the back-to-back losses, Winnipeg is now in third place in the East Division one point back of the Winkler Flyers. Winnipeg finishes February with a 4-3-1 record.
Winnipeg has two road games before returning home Saturday night.
On Wednesday, Winnipeg’s first game in March takes them west to Stride Place for a rematch with the Portage Terriers. Portage has won the last two meetings between these two squads, most recently in a 3-2 OT final on February 21. A rough weekend for Portage put them five points back of the final playoff spot in the East, so expect a desperate squad opposite the Blues Wednesday.
On Friday and Saturday, the Blues play a home-and-home set against the Winkler Flyers with huge implications on playoff seeding. With only one point separating the two teams, the way this weekend set swings could well determine home ice advantage in the playoff series these two teams will likely play against one another. The Blues have won four of the five games these teams have played against one another this year.
The Blues go to Portage on Wednesday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m. On Friday, March 4, Winnipeg goes to Winkler; on Saturday, March 5, Winkler comes to Winnipeg. Both matchups start at 7:30 p.m.
Three Keys for the Week:
1st: Finding Power Play Success
February passed without a single power play goal for the Blues. Winkler is one of the league’s best special teams squads and it often has been the difference maker for them, win or lose. The Blues PK has been steady, but teams before the Blues have seen promising seasons end early because of power play failure. This Blues team is too good to allow that to happen to them.
2nd: Getting the First Goal
The Blues have given up the opening goal in their last four games. The Blues didn’t get a regulation win in any of those games. This Blues team thrives on their confidence, and nothing builds that quite like the first goal. The Blues need to find a way to get themselves out front, because nobody controls a game quite like Winnipeg when they’re out front.
3rd: Defense First
The Blues have been working on their defensive structure over the past few weeks, tuning up details in anticipation of a playoff run. This becomes more important with Joe Kraus sidelined. Without one of them MJHL’s best shutdown blueliners, everyone else will need to be ready to take on extra responsibilities in their own end.