This week on #InsideTheCru Tyler Yaremchuk chats with Brayden Hyland about his season with the Crusaders & his decision to join the Grant MacEwan Griffins!
This week on #InsideTheCru Tyler Yaremchuk chats with Andrew Peard, who’s in Brooks for the National Junior A Championship!
This week on #InsideTheCru Tyler Yaremchuk chats with Garrett Clegg about his season and future plans.
Which second-round matchup in the west has been most exciting for you?
IAN SHEPPARD: For me, we haven’t seen the same sort of excitement that came with the round one upsets but for me, the series I’m most interested in has been the Blues Stars series. With the series tied at 2-2, each game so far has been one or two goal games. Not to mention the exciting finish to Game 3 with Patrick Maroon scoring late to win it, and Dallas bouncing back in Game 4 to tie the series.
This Series has been the closest with a total of 24 goals through four games. This series will almost definitely go to seven games with the back and forth action we’ve seen so far.
WYATT ZIEGER: In the West, it has to be the Av’s and Sharks.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I’ll break the tie here and go with the Blues and Stars series. There’s been thrilling finishes, games with lots of goals, games with great goaltending. It’s had a bit of everything. I also think the winner of this series will go to the Stanley Cup Finals so I’m really keeping a close eye on this one.
Which second-round matchup in the east has been most exciting for you?
IAN SHEPPARD: This one is a pretty easy one. The Islanders/Canes series has been really one-sided so far with the 3-0 series lead for Carolina, so I’ll have to go with Columbus and Boston. No one expected the Jackets to make it past Tampa, let alone sweep them. I for one didn’t think they’d have a chance to make it out of the second round after the first round upset.
They have found themselves in prime position to compete with Boston and potentially make a splash into the ECF and I’ll be tuning in all series long to see if they can do it! Excluding all of that, two games so far have gone into OT with three games being decided by one goal, and each team exchanging wins resulting in a 2-2 series tie. Talk about an exciting series.
WYATT ZIEGER: The East is an easy answer, Bruins/Jackets. Carolina has runaway on the Islanders but the other East matchup has been tighter than the lid on a pickle jar. Columbus has approximately 6 more wins than most would of thought to date and the Bruins who remain the most “obvious” cup pick haven’t pulled away at all.
This has all the makings of a seven-game series in what has been a sub-par 2nd round. I’m still excited to see how Carolina and New York plays out but I wouldn’t hold my breath Islanders fans.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: It’s definitely Boston and Columbus. It’s fast and it’s hard hitting. Both of these teams have goaltending capable of stealing a game yet they’re both capable of giving up five or six goals on any given night. I love that element of unpredictability. Like the Dallas/St. Louis series, I believe the winner of this one is going to the Cup Final, so I got my eyes glued to this series.
Who’s been the MVP of the playoffs thus far?
IAN SHEPPARD: It’s tough to argue with what Logan Couture has done so far in helping his team make it past the first round and into a 2-2 series tie with Colorado while leading the playoffs with 9 goals. But for me, it’s Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon leads the playoffs in points with 13 and has been a one-man wrecking crew all playoffs.
His six goals are second in the postseason only behind Couture’s nine, but he almost singlehandedly took down the Calgary Flames in round one and has so far scored three goals in each round. He continues to be a playmaker and a leader for his team, one that much like Columbus has over excelled the expectations that were laid upon them.
WYATT ZIEGER: There are a few deserving players as of today; MacKinnon, Bobrovsky, Couture, but it has been Jacob Slavin who has impressed me most.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I really like the way Logan Couture has stepped up with Joe Pavelski out of the lineup. He’s been the heartbeat of that Sharks team and that video of him yelling “that’s one” at the Sharks bench during their comeback against Vegas will be iconic in San Jose if they go all the way this year. He leads the playoffs in goals with nine like Ian mentioned so not only has he brought energy and leadership, he’s brought the offense to back it up.
On today’s edition of #InsideTheCru Tyler Yaremchuk talks to Brandon Wallis on his time with the Crusaders and his decision to commit to the Concordia Thunder.
This week on #InsideTheCru Tyler Yaremchuk chats with Spencer Love about the teams highly successful season & looks at three high-end recruits.
This week on #InsideTheCru Tyler Yaremchuk is joined by Crusaders GM Kyle Chase to talk about the teams season & their next round of recruits.
1 – Which underdog do you think will advance past round one?
IAN SHEPPARD: The New York Islanders. The Isles have the higher seed so I guess it wouldn’t technically be an upset but with Pittsburgh’s playoff and cup experience, I see this as an upset. Before Game 1 I believed the Isle would find a way to upset the Penguins. Everything about their season so far has made me believe they are capable of more than a first-round exit.
The Penguins have always been that team that finds a way to make a run but to me, if any team has a shot to upset them in the first round it’s New York. The Isles won Game 1 in OT and were outshot 44-33 so I think it will be a long series but I see New York coming out on top.
WYATT ZIEGER: Everyone loves a first-round upset. I suppose the underdog list contains; NYI, CAR, COL, TML, DAL and CBJ.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: Is Vegas considered an upset since they are the lower seed? I would like to say them, or Pittsburgh for that matter, but those don’t feel like true upsets to me given those two teams recent history of playoff success.
My answer will be the Maple Leafs. Speed and skill are the way the new NHL is played and in game one, you saw that on full display. When things shift back to Toronto, Mike Babcock can just roll Mitch Marner out against Zdeno Chara and watch his young winger fly around the ageing d-man. Game one allowed them to grab home-ice advantage, and I expect the Leafs to take advantage of that.
2 – Who was the most effective trade deadline pickup?
IAN SHEPPARD: It’s tough to say this early into the playoffs. That’s where I really measure which moves worked best. You could the flurry of trades made by Columbus were the best, with them sneaking into the playoffs and winning Game 1 against Tampa. But I’ll go with a bit of a dark horse and say Jake Muzzin.
That’s right Jake Muzzin! Why you ask? Well in Game 1 for Toronto he played just over 20 minutes and notched one assist, two hits and one block. So in an early playoff so far I’ll go with Muzzin, but I assume my answer will change the deeper the postseason goes.
WYATT ZIEGER: With his team ahead 1-0 over the Bruins, things are looking pretty okay for Toronto’s Jake Muzzin. He’s been as advertised for the Leafs and even picked up an assist in the W. Muzzin was severely underrated on the Kings and now being in the centre of the universe, on the biggest stage, the casual fan is starting to realize how good he really is.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: It’s Mark Stone! He notched a pair in the Golden Knight’s playoff opener but if you put that aside, I still think he’s been the best deadline pickup. Vegas got themselves a true top line winger and can afford to put him on their newly formed second line. He’s either going to get easier matchups if the other team focuses on Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith or he’ll create easier matchups for the teams’ top line. The impact he’ll have on their powerplay is massive as well.
3 – Which team benefited most from the draft lottery? (Chicago from 12 to 3, New York from 4 to 2, or New Jersey from 3 to 1)
IAN SHEPPARD: The obvious answer is the Blackhawks moving up from number 12 to three. But I’m going to say the Rangers. They moved up four spots just like the Devils but they’ll land Kaapo Kakko assuming the Devils select Jack Hughes. Chicago will still end up with a high-quality player at three, but the Rangers landing a player like Kakko when they could have been selecting 6th overall is a huge steal.
WYATT ZIEGER: This is a tough question but I’m going to look down the road and go with the Chicago Blackhawks.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: You could obviously make a case for all three of these teams because winning the lottery is sweet no matter what. But I will also say the Chicago Blackhawks. I think Bowen Byram is going to be a true top-pairing defenseman in the mould of Morgan Reilly, a fellow WHL product. He’s dynamic with the puck, has a smooth stride, and can control the game from the backend. Moving up from 12 to grab a player like Byram is massive.
This week on #InsideTheCru Tyler Yaremchuk breaks down the Crusaders loss in the AJHL’s North Final & looks back on their record-setting season:
With the AJHL’s North Division final tied at two games apiece, the series shifted back to Sherwood Park for game five.
To some extent, the Spruce Grove Saints had their backs against the wall in games three and four. If they would have lost one of those games, they would have been playing for their lives tonight. Instead, they have some wiggle room.
For the Crusaders, they should have some desperation in their game. While a loss wouldn’t end their season, they will have to go into Grant Fuhr Arena on Sunday for a must-win game six. That’s far from ideal.
One thing working in the Crusaders favour tonight: the home team has won every single game in this series. They were looking to keep that trend going in front of a near capacity crowd at the Sherwood Park Arena. Here’s how things went down:
The Crusaders came out flying in front of their home crowd and were no doubt the better team through the first nine minutes, holding a 5-1 advantage on the shot clock. Momentum changed when Arjun Atwal was called on a ticky-tack hooking infraction. That was especially frustrating for the home side considering the officials missed a too many men on the ice call on the Saints just minutes earlier.
The Saints capitalized on the powerplay with Nick Leyer jamming a rebound just over the goal line.
The Crusaders kept pushing, but that first goal also woke up the Saints a little. The two teams grinded out the rest of the first period without too many great chances. The Cru missed on a powerplay opportunity as well.
The Saints held onto their 1-0 lead for the rest of the period, but things were pretty tight. The Crusaders generated ten shots on goal, as did the Saints, but Sherwood Park didn’t have too many looks that made me hold my breath. A solid first 20, but it was far from a perfect opening period for the Cru.
The Saints came out and took over the game. They were pouring on chances early and managed to jump out to a 2-0 lead thanks to Cole Basnett. Up 2-0, the Saints registered eight of the period first nine shots on goal.
The Crusaders started to turn things around when Carter Savoie was hauled down on a partial breakaway and got the Crusaders their first powerplay of the game. They actually started generating some dangerous looks but they were either blocked or stopped by Matt Davis, who looked busy but actually only had to stop six shots in the period.
I mentioned this week on Inside The Cru that when things started going bad in games three and four, Sherwood Park never had anyone step up with a real momentum changing shift. Tonight, I thought Arjun Atwal did his absolute best to change his team’s fortunes. In the second period, he ripped down the wing, generated a scoring chance, and then immediately drew a penalty.
It looked like that moment was going to change the game, but the Cru came up very flat on the powerplay. It was straight up unacceptable to bungle another great opportunity like that.
The home side generated a few good looks late in the period but trailed 2-0 heading into the room.
With a massive third period looming, the Saints come out and struck first with a powerplay goal just over three minutes into the period. All of the sudden things were looking very bleak for the Crusaders.
They got a chance on the powerplay with 12 minutes to go, but once again they were only able to generate one good look with the man advantage. That’s not good enough in a big playoff game. Their powerplay finished the game 0-for-4. They had a handful of chances to get back into this game and their powerplay let them down.
Nick Leyer would bat another one home with nine minutes to go, making it 4-0 Saints. That was the final nail in the coffin. The teams would exchange goals late in the period, Brandon Wallis fired home a shorthanded goal with just seconds remaining in the game, and the horn would sound. 5-1 the final.
These two teams played out the final few minutes and the game ended with the Saints holding onto their lead. They’ll have a chance to advance to yet another AJHL Final on Sunday when they host game six of this series. For the Cru, they need to find another gear. They look like the weaker team right now. It’s not over, and they need to recognize that. They have beaten the Saints a few times this year and twice in a row earlier in this series. They need to lean on that to give them the confidence to come from behind and take this series.
- Michael Benning has just been tremendous this series. I thought he was the best player in game three and tonight he was one of the most impactful players. He’s so patient in his own end and knows when to just get rid of the puck and when to hold onto it and jump into the rush. Rare qualities for a young defenseman. He had some rough moments, but I liked his game.
- Michael Bentz was solid as well. He was blocking shots and making smart pinches all night. A very good night from a player who the team needed to step up with the absence of Reid Irwin. Brennan McDonnell was very solid as well, I liked the way he played considering his elevated role.
- A big thumbs up to Robert Clark, the Oilers anthem singer, handling tonights “Oh Canada”. That really set the mood for a big playoff game. The crowd was great tonight, just a shame the Crusaders couldn’t give them more to cheer for.
- They needed to turn more of their shots into scoring chances if that makes any sense. They put pucks on net, but Matt Davis doesn’t get beat by just good chances, you need true “Grade A” looks to beat the Saints goaltender and I thought the Crusaders didn’t get enough dangerous looks at him.
- Their powerplay got a few good looks, but it blew some great chances throughout the game. That could have cut their deficit to one and changed the entire game in the second period. Not scoring is one thing, but they rarely got any good looks.
The Sherwood Park Crusaders will put their season on the line Sunday night in Spruce Grove. Puck drop goes just after 7 pm. They haven’t won in three games and given how strong the Saints look, they might need to play their best game of the season if they want to force a seventh game.