Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

From the Dub: ROI

Now that the 2018 WHL trade deadline is over, the question is whether all those blockbuster trades were worth it. Here in Portland, Dennis Cholowski is turning out to be a really sweet playmaker, which has earned him several Three Stars honors. But some local fans still aren't quite convinced it was worth the nine-player deal the Winterhawks made to get him and a goalie we'll probably never see. I don't see anything that indicates he wasn't worth it. Dennis has made a difference in almost every game he's played for the Winterhawks. This past week, we also got a chance to see whether the competition's trades were worth it. I can safely say they were. 

Truth in advertising: If you've never seen Team Canada World Junior hero Tyler Steenbergen in action, I can confirm that the hype is real. The Winterhawks held him pointless last Friday, but you could still see why he's making headlines around these parts. He's fast, creative and always ready to make a play or score a goal. His puck protection is a lot like Yoda in "The Empire Strikes Back" when R2D2 tries to retrieve Luke's lamp: "Mine, mine, mine!" Despite their noble efforts to contain Steenbergen, the Winterhawks ultimately fell to the Swift Current Broncos 5-3. It was the the Broncos' trade acquisitions that changed the game:   

Hurricane-force winds: The Lethbridge Hurricanes and the Broncos made one of the first big blockbuster deals of the deadline in an epic ten-player deal. The Broncos acquired Stuart Skinner, Lethbridge captain Giorgio Estephan and former Portland Winterhawk Tanner Nagel. On Friday, Estephan earned the second star of the night for one goal and one assist, Stuart Skinner stopped 34 out of 37 shots and Nagel scored the empty net insurance goal. 

Goaltending show: The Vancouver Giants were relatively quiet during the trade deadline, save for a medium-sized trade with the Edmonton Oil Kings. They didn't need to do a lot of wheeling and dealing; their roster was already solid. The Giants are currently third in the B.C. Division and fifth in the Western Conference. Five of their draft-eligible players are listed on NHL's Central Scouting Midterm Rankings (Milos Roman, James Malm, Alex Kannok Leipert, Dylan Plouffe and David Tendeck). Entering Saturday's game with the Winterhawks, they had not lost in regulation in nine games. The Winterhawks chose to go with backup goalie Shane Farkas to give Cole Kehler a break in between three back-to-back weekend games. The odds were in Vancouver's favor. That is, until both goaltenders put on a five-star performance. Farkas turned away all 31 shots for the 2-0 Winterhawks win, his first WHL career shutout. Goalie David Tendeck held the Giants' line, stopping 25 out of 26 shots (Portland's second goal was an empty-netter). It's no surprise that both netminders dominated the Three Stars. Farkas got the first star and Tendeck took the second.

Don't we know you?: Overager Evan Weinger, who I swear was just a rookie five minutes ago, was traded last fall to the Brandon Wheat Kings. It was an unpopular move with local fans, but it has done wonders for his career. Sunday proved to be quite the homecoming. The Kings dominated the first period with three goals. Evan scored the first two. The natural hat trick was not to be, but yes, yours truly and a few others cheered the other two. And we did it again when he earned the second star of the night. The big surprise of the evening wasn't the local love for Evan. It's the fact that the Winterhawks came back to win 4-3. The lion's share of the scoring came from lesser known players: Brendan De Jong, Lane Gilliss and Alex Overhardt. The Winterhawks depth -- or lack thereof -- has been a hot topic all season. Chief among the concerns is that without players like Cody Glass and Kieffer Bellows, the team isn't really that good as a whole. This weekend was proof that when they want to, other players do step up. Given that Dennis assisted on the game winning goal, I'd say that the Winterhawks are starting to see the return on their investment. All things considered, the Winterhawks' best may be yet to come. As for our opponents:

Keep the enemy closer: This weekend provided a serious look at the Eastern Conference. Always dominant, they are especially scary good this season. Just watching Brandon on Sunday, I might have thought they were an NHL team if I didn't know better. Their trades are also paying off, and at a slightly faster rate than Portland's. And let's not forget this year's Memorial Cup host the Regina Pats and Sam Steel. The Portland Winterhawks won't play an Eastern Conference team again in the regular season, but if all goes according to plan, they might face one again in the WHL Championship. Accordingly, I am still watching all the opponents to the east. They are always a force to be reckoned with and this year is no exception. 

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com

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