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Erik Summers

VSN Weekly Review - S72 Week 5

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Welcome to the final edition of VSN’s S72 Weekly recap (Games 371-432).  We’ll cover a host of things in this recap each week including highlights of important VSN happenings, three stars of the week, power rankings, rookie profiles, and anything else of importance.
 
Speaking of other VSN content, make sure to check out the other great work from the greater VSN family! Here are a few handy links to check out, from our weekly podcasts to in-depth history articles, scouting reports, and more!

 

Ringless | Under 250 | VSN Australia | Talents Behind The Trophies


Recap

 

At last, we have reached the end of another season and there was a lot of excitement this week. Scoring seems to be returning to the league as hat-tricks once again outnumber shutouts and there is no greater evidence of this than the fact that we have a hundred-point player for the first time in four seasons. Congratulations to Condor Adrienne on that accomplishment. One thing that was very clear this week was the importance of having a strong goalie, even in these high-scoring matches. Goalers like Jacques Lafontaine, Raymond Bernard, Samuel Ross, and Michael Johnson all came in clutch when their teams needed it most this week. It will be interesting to see what effect spreading the talent around the league more has on the trend toward higher scores as we expand to sixteen teams next season. With so many teams already looking to retool in the coming season, it will be interesting to see which ones are forced into a multi-season rebuild as the talent pool becomes smaller. But this is a recap, not a prediction, so let’s get back to it.
 
There were several tight playoff races this week and several teams showed us that these playoffs could truly be anyone’s game. The Riga Reign and HC Davos Dynamo both entered the playoffs on a bit of a rough week, so their first-round matchup might be more exciting than your typical one-seed vs. four-seed competition. Meanwhile, teams like the Helsinki Titans and New York Americans entered the playoffs strong but both find themselves matched up against teams who boasted much higher goal differentials in the regular season. Even the Toronto Legion encouraged us to be on the lookout for upsets as they beat the best team in the league, the Calgary Wranglers, just to make it into the postseason; calling into question just how their first-round meeting would go. As we enter the playoffs, there is always a sense that anything can happen, but that feeling seems especially pronounced for some reason this season. Regardless, I am pumped to get to see some exciting games in the last instance of the eight-team playoff format.


3-Stars
 
First Star
Jet Jaguar (DAV) - 10 G, 10 A, 57.03 FO%
Second Star
Hulk Hogan (SEA) - 3 G, 12 A, 20 SB
Third Star
Samuel Ross (DAV) - .915 SV%, 2.64 GAA, 1 SO
 

Power Rankings
 

European Conference
 
The final power rankings of the season are here and the European Conference had an epic 3 team battle to the finish. The top of the conference was wrapped up with Riga taking the top spot, a spot which they held for a good portion of the season after their somewhat slow start. Helsinki climbed back up into 2nd place, winning their division and secured the critical home-ice advantage for their playoff series with Moscow. Now here’s where things get interesting. The last 2 playoff spots had 3 teams fighting it out, right up until the last games of the season. Moscow, who are in 3rd place almost solely thanks to the remarkable season of Raymond Bernard, seem to have risen from the dead and claimed their spot in the postseason. Holding the last spot, in somewhat of a surprise, we see HC Davos who started out the season extremely hot, but stumbled their way through the meat of the games and eventually found their game again as the season ended. The blockbuster acquisitions of Jet Jaguar and Hunter Hearst Helmsley seem to have taken time to adjust to the team, but who knows what could happen if both stars heat up come playoff time. Devastatingly, the Prague Phantoms will miss out on the playoffs this year, and the gap was just too much to overcome on the final day. They hold on to 5th spot in the rankings and will be looking ahead to next season where they will hope to improve on this one. Finally in the last spot are the Malmo Nighthawks. The game plan was to tank this season, and they did just that, ending the season with the worst record in the league and earning highest odds for the upcoming Season 73 Draft Lottery.
 
North American Conference
 
A bit of a different story over in the North American conference, as all the playoff spots were pretty much accounted for heading into the final games of the season. Front runners all season long, the Calgary Wranglers finished hot and held an 8 point lead over Seattle as the season came to a close. They are the only team to break 100 points this year. Seattle came close to bursting through the 100 point marker, but fell just short and finished 2nd on 97 points. The race between these powerhouse teams was a joy to behold all season long, and Calgary slowly pulled away with their insane consistency. The gap between Seattle and New York is quite sizable, at 13 points, but the Americans have earned a playoff berth as well as a matchup against the Bears in what is sure to be a thrilling contest. Taking the last playoff spot, and in 4th place, we have the Toronto Legion, who really stumbled to the finish line. A 4-6-0 record in the last 10 games was barely enough to edge out the Vancouver Wolves who ended up finishing just 1 point out of the playoffs, even after trading away most of their star players. The Wolves accepted their fate as outsiders pretty early in the season, but they were nearly gifted a playoff spot in what turned out to be a somewhat weaker North American conference. The D.C. Dragons will be pretty upset with how the season went, not many people had them down as bottom feeders, but owning their own 1st round pick which is a lottery pick after this disastrous season, has to be seen as a success and they will be looking to pick up a piece to add to their core in the upcoming draft.


Notable Games

 
Game 411 - Malmo Nighthawks vs. HC Davos Dynamo
This week was a lot more of a nail-biter for the Dynamo than I’m sure they would have liked. First, they were passed by the Moscow Menace, then they quickly for the Phantoms right at their heels. However, HC Davos entered this game with the ability to nearly cement their place in the postseason. They stepped up to that challenge. The Rogue Davis to Jet Jaguar connection was strong as Davis assisted Jaguar on the first three Dynamo goals. In that span, they gave up one goal to the Nighthawks but that would be the only one. They went on to score two more before the final buzzer, but the last fifteen minutes of this game were mostly just keep-away. This was a game Davos was expected to win, and they did, but it was far more important than it seemed. With a loss in the match, the Dynamo would have put their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy. Instead, they got Riga in the first round, may God have mercy on their souls.
 
Game 425 - Riga Reign vs. Seattle Bears
For the Riga Reign, their road to the playoffs, though more secure, was a bit bumpier this week. Despite entering the week looking to have secured the first seed with a nine-point lead over the Helsinki Titans, by the time it was all said and done, that lead had dwindled to just four points. Despite Guy Sasakamoose having one of his best games of the season, and certainly his best period, the Seattle Bears matched them goal for goal, even taking a lead for eight seconds in the second period. As we neared the final minute of play, it looked like Riga might have finally secured the win, but with just sixty-two seconds left Seattle tied it again. Overtime was not enough to settle this one, so it was off to the shootout to find a winner. Ambrose Stark scored immediately for the Bears but that was matched in the second round by Codrick Past. It was Scott Greene in the third who would finally give the Bears another lead, one that would end the game.
 
Game 429 - Calgary Wranglers vs. Toronto Legion
Lastly, we have the story of another team just trying to hang on. After a shockingly strong start from the Toronto Legion, they slowly crept back down the standings as the season stretched on. At the other end of that spectrum, the Vancouver Wolves started slower than expected but stayed in close competition for a playoff spot throughout the early weeks. However, in a move that made very little sense before we all knew about the coming expansion, the Wolves management decided to liquidate many of the teams best assets and seemingly forgo all hope of a playoff run. But as the season wound down, these two teams found themselves closer and closer in the standings. That led the Legion to enter one of the toughest games of their season in a must-win position. It did not look good as the Calgary Wranglers scored first with a goal early in the first, but Toronto retained their composure. In the second period, they answered with two of their own and that would be it for the scoring. The Legion had won and with that, they would finally return to the postseason.


Events of the Week 


Fights
 
Game 379 - Lahtinen beats up Gutzwiler
I’m sure you are familiar with the saying, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Well, I can’t think of a better example of that than this smackdown. Certainly, Toronto came into this game with a plan to play a physical game and throw the Wranglers off their grove. That started just twenty-one seconds in the game and a fight broke out between Mikko Lahtinen and Gabriel Gutzwiler. However, just as Gabriel lost the fight convincingly, so too did the Legion come up short in this match.
Game 388 - McDagg vs. Laughton
There weren’t a lot of fights this week so I chose this opportunity to highlight a reformed man. Back when I was writing recaps of every single fight in the league, I wrote Blake Laughton’s name more than any other, and, while he certainly gets in a scrap now and again, I have noticed a drastic decline in his thuggish behaviour. Perhaps, he was a little out of practice, as Kristopher McDagg wiped the ice with him in this fight.
 
Hat-Tricks
 
Game 379 - Kris Rice
Kris Rice opened the scoring, scored in the middle of the game, and closed the scoring to complete his hat-trick. With assists from Charlie Paddywagon, who also had a three-point game, on each of his first two, Rice quickly put the game out of the Legion’s grasp. With his final kill-shot in the first half of the third period, Kris finished his first hat-trick of the week.
Game 396 - Kris Rice
That’s right, I said, “of the week.” Just a couple games later, Kris Rice was back at it again. This time it was the Helsinki Titans that felt his wrath, but the Calgary Wranglers spread the points around with four separate players racking up three tallies on the point sheet. Rice and the Wranglers had an explosive first period where he scored two of their four goals. They went silent for the second before scoring again just seconds into the third. Just a short while later, Kris completed his second hat-trick with the final goal of the game.
Game 400 - Jerry Garcia
In the middle of what looked to be a crazy comeback story in the making, Jerry Garcia found himself on the unfortunate end of a losing hat-trick. Despite scoring the first three goals of the game, with Jet Jaguar contributing primary assists on all of them, the Phantoms clawed their way back to eventually take the day. For a brief moment, it looked like they might be able to knock the Dynamo out of that final playoff spot.
Game 411 - Jet Jaguar
After their loss to the Phantoms, HC Davos had to work hard to hold onto the final playoff spot in the European Conference. The veteran Jet Jaguar took that to heart. Scoring the Dynamo’s first three goals of the game, all on assists from Roque Davis, it was just his second that ended up being the game-winner. But late in the third, Jaguar made a statement, finishing his first hat-trick of the season.
Game 413 - Mat Tocco
The Vancouver Wolves were another team in the hunt for a playoff spot this week, and Mat Tocco brought us a little bit of that old magic for which he is known. Ending the night with four points, he netted two of his own in the second period and completed the hat-trick in the middle of the third. Although I am sure he would have liked a shot at the postseason, this has to be a satisfying way to close out the season.
 
Shutouts
 
Game 401 - Vancouver vs. Toronto
There were just two shutouts this week and this one had a lot of significance in the final standings. Toronto finished just one point ahead of the Vancouver Wolves, so they ought to be crediting Jaxx Hextall and his amazing performance in this game with saving their season. Hextall stopped all thirty shots he faced to hold on to just a 2-0 victory and send the Legion to the postseason. 
Game 432 - New York vs. HC Davos
In the very last game of the season, HC Davos entered knowing they had fended off the Phantoms at their heels, but that didn’t mean they had nothing to prove. All season, I have heard about how great a contender the Dynamo could be if they made a play for a goalie. Samuel Ross wants to put that thinking to bed. There is nothing better than entering the postseason with a goalie on a hot streak and a twenty-eight save shutout is a great way for Ross to start one.


Rookie Spotlight
Joakim Bruden
Joakim_Bruden_goalie.png
A huge thanks to @Zetterberg for this great graphic.
 
Joakim Bruden played 3 seasons in the minors, all for the Ottawa Lynx. He enjoyed a stellar career there, managing to win an amazing 121 of 152 total regular-season games. On top of that, an incredible 2.53 GAA in the minors over those 3 seasons is quite the achievement as well. He made the playoffs in each season and improved every time as well. It took them 3 tries, but they eventually won the big prize in Season 71, only losing twice throughout the entire playoffs on the back of some wonderful performances by Bruden. 
 
This season, he made the jump to the big leagues and showed to the world that he is a young goalie to keep an eye on. There were only a handful of rookie goalies this season, but Joakim stood out from the rest by leading most of the stat categories. In 15 games, he had a remarkable .914 save percentage and 2.70 goals-against average, both of which put him in first place among rookies. He picked up 5 wins, to 7 losses, which is a very respectable record for a rookie and he will be looking to build on this very successful rookie campaign.
 
I think it’s only a matter of time before Joakim will take over as the #1 in Davos. He has shown he has the fight, passion, and most of all, skill to compete in this league. His mechanics are solid and he has a great foundation to build upon. Going forward, he will likely need to work on the more physical aspect of his game, like size and agility before he can break into that group of elite goaltenders. As long as Joakim keeps improving at this rapid pace, we have quite the prospect on our hands here and I am quite excited to see how his career develops.

 

 

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