Quinton Byfield and Blake Murray are becoming quite the dynamic duo for the Sudbury Wolves, at even strength and on the powerplay.
The Wolves were a little shaky this game, allowing Sarnia to come back from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead. Then, Emmett Serensits scored his first goal of the season to tie the game and Byfield and Murray worked their magic to lead the Wolves to victory
Let’s talk about the key storylines from this game and how they fit the narrative of the Wolves season as they make a playoff push.
Story#1: Sudbury’s Powerplay looked excellent in this Game
The first powerplay unit was clicking this game for the Wolves. Whether it was David Levin deflecting pucks in front of the net, or Byfield shooting a 30-foot wrister from in between the faceoff dots. The players were quick and created space for themselves in the offensive zone and were fast in transition. All signs of a successful powerplay.
The Carolina Hurricanes took a chance on Blake Murray in the second round and it looks like it’s paying off. Murray has had a strong season since being drafted, and his offensive positioning and strong one-timers led to a couple of goals for him this game.
The Wolves were simply exposing Sarnia’s weak penalty kill, and all five players were a key part in driving play for Sudbury.
🚨 #92 Murray
— Sudbury Wolves (@Sudbury_Wolves) January 18, 2020
Sarnia will probably never give up a five-minute major to the Wolves again.
Story#2: The Wolves need to Play Better without the Puck
During the second period, the Wolves were defending a 2-1 lead and the following play happened. Co-Captain Macauley Carson skates up the left board into the offensive zone and fires a wrist shot wide. Defensemen Kalle Loponen notices the puck rolling towards the blue line, but Nolan Dillingham-Morelli (#25 on Sarnia) skates faster to receive the puck. After Morelli wins the battle with Loponen, he makes a backhand pass to Jacob Perreault. The Wolves only had one defenseman back and Perreault has all the time and space to use his amazing wrist shot to tie the game.
— Sarnia Sting (@StingHockey) January 18, 2020
The reality is, the OHL is a crazy league and it’s hard for coaches to create defensive structures for their players. The talent discrepancy is huge and many players can rely on their skill set to score goals and put up points.
Sudbury can get away with poor defensive play in the regular season, but the playoffs are a different story. Many players tighten up their play in the neutral zone and scoring opportunities become more limited.
The main point is Sudbury needs to be harder on the forecheck and hustle back into the defensive zone.
Story#3: Backup Goaltender Mitchell Weeks struggling in first OHL Season
Here are Mitchell Weeks stats so far this season.
Weeks: 7-8-1, 3.92 GAA, .876 SAV%
Weeks has had a lot of bad games this season and allowed a few questionable goals in this game. Many can point out that the Wolves haven’t been solid with their defensive play this season, but the goalie sometimes has to make the save.
This situation is exactly like Micheal Hutchinson with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs give up too many odd-man rushes and the line always is “how can Hutch save that?” The problem is that a goalie at this level shouldn’t be allowing 4+ goals a game consistently. The Wolves didn’t address this problem at the trade deadline and it could cause concern later on this season. If starter Christian Purboo gets injured or starts to underperform down the stretch, I don’t believe Weeks will be able to carry the load.
Question of the Game: Do you enjoy games that end with the score of 5-4 or 2-1 games more?