Blaze On Fire With 4 Point Weekend – Performance Review

The Coventry Blaze welcomed the Glasgow Clan and The Sheffield Steelers to the Skydome on Saturday (29th) and Sunday (30th) in an exciting home ground double header, and walk away as the winners, taking a hard earned 4 points.

Following last weeks opinion orientated review piece on the game against MKL instead of a play by play analysis, receiving a good response – I thought I ought not to disappoint. So here is this weekend’s performance review, breaking down each section of the team, and giving my opinion on the performance.

Overall
A very positive performance both games. During the pressure in the Glasgow game, spending the first 34 minutes goalless, then a goal down till the 51st minute – it was clear to see that this Blaze squad has a much stronger mentality and dealt with the pressure well. They were taking shots and giving some stunning checks. Though, it seemed that the Steelers had done their homework and knew what the Blaze would do. It appeared in the first period of Sundays game that the team were either tired or complacent. In fact, they were playing the way I felt – hungover from Birthday celebrations. Though their heads clearly cleared quicker than mine as it picked up after the first 10. I am also particularly pleased that the Blaze Face Off performance is far better than it was last year!

So lets break it down into each section.

Netminder
Following Wiikman breaking his hand, and Hedley stepping in last week – Head Coach Danny Stewart has drafted in Czech Netminder Miroslav Kopriva last minute as a stand in. Not an easy task for the 34-year-old, 6 foot 4 giant, who reportedly had not expected anything to come his way this season, and so had not been keeping at 100% match fitness. Well, he did very well this weekend with 53 shots on his net, and 50 saves meaning he had a .943 weekend. Impressive for someone “not match fit”.

It was clear as soon as his arrival was announced and a video was found of him saving a shootout shot, that he was going to be a netty that wasn’t afraid to get stuck in.

On several occasions on both nights he left his net to play the puck and at one point on Sunday versus the Steelers, charged down a breakaway opportunity, which did not go well resulting in a penalty shot… which luckily (for the Blaze) was missed.

On more than one occasion he really got the crowd gasping with his daring exploits out on the ice. I wouldn’t throw Wiikman away just yet though, whilst Miro did a great job, this weekends games were not a huge challenge, but who knows, after a week of training with Danny Stewart and Keeno, he may be ready for the trip to Nottingham? If this was him not match fit….. well, we shall see.

Defense
The D line continue to impress me. I am really pleased to see, and particularly hear, Noble taking on his new Player Coach role. Both games you could hear him shouting instructions both on and off the ice really tying up that back line to stop the oncoming attacks. This was an excellent time to shine with their new interim netminder towering over them, it was doubly important to stop any potential shots on goal.

Haché (Ole ole!) and Joyaux continue to impress me with their speed and ability. I know I said it last week, but frankly could easily be mistaken for forwards! Both with either a goal (Haché) and assists this weekend, and very good ones at that!

I also realised this weekend that it appears Trey Lewis has taken the role of Vojtech Kloz on the ice – short shifts, stays right back and really favours the sweeping brush method. Though, and no slight on the Czech D man, Trey skates well and has a mean slapshot. I don’t think we are seeing the most of him at the moment. With more ice time, I think we will see him score.

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Photo: Adam Partoon

Though all was not perfect – there was more than one occasion that there were problems. For instance, in the Glasgow game, it appeared that in the first period that the D line was enjoying camping in the Clan zone so much that they forgot that they were defense! Plenty of shots on goal, playing the zone like a power play which opened them up to counter attacks.

It’s a good sign though, the defense are really aggressive, whilst not physical, they are taking chances and assisting goals.

Forwards
Whilst 4 points is 4 points isn’t it!? The forwards did their job. A total of 42 shots each night (talk about been consistent!?!), they kept the pressure up and kept the shots coming – that’s a shot on goal every 1.4 minutes. Impressive.

However, I can only think how many more goals there would have been if there weren’t so many shots waaaay off target? Not sure why so many shots went astray, but am certain it will be on Stewart’s To Do list this week.

My star performer this week has to be Ben Lake, with his incredible winning goal on Saturday;

What more could I ask for on my Birthday!!!

He seems to be totally relishing in all the ice time he has been given. He has had a mark-able improvement on what was a good season last year as well. I think we have a real star on the team here! Lets hope that Stewart can keep him for a few more seasons, as if he improves as much as he did from last season…. We are made!

I believe a Keeno move was spotted several times, where the 3 forwards would approach in a diagonal line, and pass backwards, almost in a rugby move. Sensational when it worked – looked really slick, really impressive.

My only concern with the forwards, is their reliance on finessing through the D-line to get to goal. The further into the season we go, the more teams will realise this and the more it will be stopped… what is needed is more of a Morris method – using the body weight and move the D men out of the way! Though saying that, Morris did seem to enjoy spending the majority of his time by the Steelers net dancing with Martinelli!

Off Ice
One last point – after getting a message through last week regarding the total lack of comment on Scorch – I made special consideration to make notes on his performance this week. I am not sure if it is a well known fact, but clearly Dragons second ability (over breathing fire) is the exceptional skill of lobbing Taylors Butchers Sausage rolls. Incredibly impressive. I can only wonder what Scorch thinks of Gritty?

So to round up. As I say, 4 points is 4 points. The squad worked incredibly hard Saturday to push to the finish and was very lucky to get the win before OT. They worked the Steelers hard, but certainly was more a game of determination rather than handling pressure against Clan. Here is looking to the next test, away to the Panthers next Saturday. To continue my engine analogy from last week, I think the gently idling engine from last week was certainly pushed this week, but I really do feel there is more to come. There is more to this team…. And I hope I am proved right.

Oh, and keep your eye on the puck at all times…….

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