Thursday, May 22, 2008

Not that it mattered, but...

What’s with the Kitchener Rangers and blowing 3-0 leads
? Twice so far in this Memorial Cup tournament has Kitchener allowed a team back from that deficit and it blew a 3-0 games lead in the OHL final. Last night, however, it finally bit ‘em in the butt. For the first time, the Rangers weren’t able to rebound, allowing Belleville to capture a 4-3 OT win to close out the round-robin of the M-Cup.

Not that it much matters. All the win accomplishes is to give Belleville last change Friday when the two teams go at one last time this year. The winner of their now best-of-nine series gets a well-rested Spokane in the final Sunday (The Chiefs are off touring the Hockey Hall of Fame today and catching a Blue Jays game while Kitchener and Belleville are preparing to kill each other Friday). There is a reason eight of the last 10 teams that have earned the bye to the final have gone on to win.

There are a lot of theories about how to improve this tournament. Certainly, any championship event that forces two teams to play a virtual meaningless game two days before they play each other for real is flawed. It’s unlikely that the CHL is going to give up its license to print money by having a host team involved, so any changes will have to come in the form of tweaking, rather than a complete overhaul. One thing that might help that hasn’t been mentioned is this: scrap the semi-final. It’s silly to play a full round-robin to only eliminate one team and if you got rid of the semi you could give the two teams that advance a similar amount of rest to better assure a competitive championship game.

Regardless, there will be a semi this year and it should be a compelling game. Both Belleville and Kitchener must feel that they have yet to play a perfect game in the tournament. Belleville has come out sluggish in two of its three games and has taken far more penalties than it typically does (The Bulls were, by far, the least penalized team in the OHL this year). As for Kitchener, the Rangers just haven’t looked themselves all tournament long. That said, don’t count them out. It wouldn’t be shocking if they rebounded to win two straight and take the Cup.


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