Underdogs have a shot

Chilliwack Bruins radio colour man Jacob Bestebroer writes a weekly column for the Chilliwack Progress during the Western Hockey League season.

The regular season is finally over the playoffs are set to start.

The home-town Chilliwack Bruins have drawn a very tough round-one matchup in the Spokane Chiefs. Bruins radio colour man Jacob Bestebroer breaks down the matchup in this week’s column.

 

There’s no question the Bruins head into their first round playoff series versus the Spokane Chiefs as underdogs.

Spokane finished 28 points above the Bruins; scored 83 more goals and allowed 62 fewer goals.

So yeah, underdogs.

Can the Bruins win this series? Yes, but it won’t be easy. Winning never is. If it was every team would do it.

I’m no coach so I am not going to pretend to know exactly what the Bruins need to do to win, but there are several things I plan on watching closely to see just exactly what the Bruins strategy is.

First and foremost, how will the Bruins try and contain Spokane forward Tyler Johnston.

He led the league with 53 goals this past season.

I say contain and not stop because stopping players like him and Bruins forward Ryan Howse from scoring goals is very difficult.

It will be interesting to see what the Bruins will do to keep him from dominating games. Will they try to match lines or will they try and make sure a certain defenceman or defensive pairing is matched up against him as much as possible?

We should know the answer to this early on as the Bruins get the last line change in games one and two on home ice.

Next, how will the Bruins deal with Chiefs defenceman Jared Cowen? He was real close to making the NHL’s Ottawa Senators this season and is one of the top defencemen in the league. He’s a big body that is equally good in all three zones. Will the Bruins try and dump it into his corner and get in quickly to make him hurry up his decisions? Maybe. Chilliwack has had some success doing that in the past.

Chiefs 19-yearold forward Darren Kramer led the league in fighting majors with 46.

That’s 22 more than the next highest player, Jake Doty of Seattle. Kramer’s toughness and willingness to mix it up is a very important part of the Chiefs game. He makes everyone else on that team bigger. Quite often players like him become less effective in the playoffs.

I think the Chiefs will attempt to make him a big part of this series, especially early on. How the Bruins deal with that will be interesting to see.

The last line of defence for the Chiefs is 20-year-old goaltender James Reid. His stats are impressive. He finished the season with a 2.57 goals against average, 35 wins and a save percentage of .902. Not to take anything away from him, as he is very very good, but those stats are also reflective of the team that plays in front of him. The Chiefs do not give up many good scoring chances so the Bruins are going to have to make the ones they get count. It’s tough to find a weakness with Reid but getting second and third chances on him is a must. It won’t be easy but if the Bruins are willing to pay the physical price, they can get to any rebounds he gives up.