Week in Review:
Blues Record: 1-2-0 (2-1 OTW vs POR, 9-1 L vs POR, 4-1 L @ STN)
The Winnipeg Blues snapped their losing streak early in the week before dropping their final two games of the season.
Jack Kaiser scored early in the first at the Iceplex Tuesday night, but Slade Stanick kept the Portage Terriers playoff hopes alive by forcing overtime against Winnipeg. On an OT power play, Ryan Ostermann scored his second OT winner with the Blues this season and snapped their skid at four games with a 2-1 win.
On Thursday, a desperate Terriers team came back to the Iceplex and handed the Blues their worst defeat of the season. Mike Tanchak scored Winnipeg’s lone goal in a 9-1 thrashing. Dawson Green was pulled in the middle of the second giving River Leslie-Toogood his first taste of MJHL action. He stopped 13 of 17 shots he faced through the rest of the game.
The next night, Winnipeg finished off the campaign against the MJHL’s top team in the regular season. Garett Zasitko’s goal 52 seconds into the match would stand as the Blues last goal of the season. Steinbach’s three goal second gave them a 4-1 in the final game of the year for both squads.
Winnipeg finished March 2-6-0 with both of their wins coming in extra time. The Blues finish the regular season 29-22-1-2 – they sit third in the East Division and sixth in the MJHL.
Winnipeg only has one game this week – game one of their first round series with the Winkler Flyers.
On Friday, March 25, the playoffs begin with the Winnipeg Blues travelling to Centennial Arena for Game One with the Winkler Flyers.
The Blues and the Flyers split the regular season series with four wins apiece, but Winkler won the last three games. The Blues were shorthanded for those games, but Winnipeg will have to reverse that trend quickly.
The last time these two teams met in the playoffs was back in the 2014 survivor series. The Blues won that series 2-0 en route to a Turnbull Cup. Winnipeg is seeking their first championship since that year; Winkler is looking for a title for the first time since 1998.
Three Keys for the Playoffs:
1st: Get Scoring Again
Winnipeg hasn’t scored three goals in a game since February 15 – obviously, that’s not going to work in the playoffs. The impending return of Josiah Vanderhooft and potential return of Brayden Foreman will alleviate that a lot, but the Blues still need other guys to join the scoring fun. In recent games, Tanchak and Zasitko have both found ways to contribute at a consistent level for middle-six players – the Blues will need that to continue on Friday night.
2nd: Special Teams Excellence
Winkler is one of the best special teams’ squads in the league; the Blues have one of the strongest PK groups in Manitoba. Very often, special teams decide series in the Turnbull Cup Playoffs and Winnipeg is too good to go home because one of their units is struggling. Expect Winnipeg to work on their man advantage and kill skills a lot this week, especially with Vanderhooft and Foreman back on the ice.
3rd: Constant Discipline
One of Winkler’s biggest weaknesses is their lack of discipline. Multiple times this season, they let games get away from them by taking bad penalties at bad time. While the Blues can’t base their game plan on getting Winkler into the box, they need to stay smart when the Flyers are not. Like Napoleon Bonaparte said, “never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”