The holiday break doesn’t appear to have been kind to the Broncos. Outside of a three game winning streak at home there have been few bright spots since they came back from holidays. They’ve played some very good hockey and out-chanced some very good teams, but the results aren’t there. I know Coach Lamb told me today they’ve out-chanced teams in 6 of their last 10 games. Only one of those games was a win.
So what’s wrong? I put together some numbers for the club from the 20 games since they returned from Christmas.
Power Play: 11/83 (13.5%)
Penalty Kill: 61/78 (78.2%)
As you can see special teams have been a huge factor in the recent slump. The Broncos started the season with a power play that was in the top 5 early and at least top 10 for the first half of the year. Since that time they’ve dropped to 17th in the league and have missed some great chances at key times in close games.
The penalty kill was their calling card in the first half. At one point they sat on top of the league with an 86% efficiency. Lately they’ve been average at best. We know they’re capable of being better shorthanded and they have to be down the stretch.
Often you live and die by your special teams. I think the Broncos have been very solid 5 on 5 even during this skid. These numbers suggest the PK and PP have been a big part of their undoing.
There has been a lot of talk lately about goaltending as well. I took a look at Friesen’s stats since Christmas to see if there was a legitimate cause for concern there. It seems his game certainly has slipped some as he has a 3.77 goals against average and 0.887 save percentage over the last 20 games. Compare that to the terrific performance the Broncos were getting from him in the first half and you can see how that would impact their record.
Friesen was certainly the MVP of the first third of the Broncos season and continued playing very good hockey into the holiday. I don’t know if he hit a wall because of his work load or if this is simply an extended slump he has to work himself out of. Unfortunately the Broncos haven’t had consistency out of the back-up position from either guy they’ve had there so Friesen is going to have to get it going if they’ll make the playoffs.
I think the game against Edmonton was a good step in that direction and he always seems to play Brandon well. He’s 4-1 against them this year with a save percentage of 0.930 thus far.
It’s unfair to place so much on the shoulders of one guy and one can only imagine that is going to impact him. He’s had to carry the whole load and he’s faced a lot of rubber this year. You can’t blame him for wearing down some. I also know he is in very good shape and with the schedule the way it is down the stretch it shouldn’t stretch him too much. He needs to get back to how he played in the first half if this team has a shot of advancing.
How about the scoring? Here are some numbers for the top guns on the Broncos roster in the 20 games since Christmas:
- Dowling (7/14/21)
- Vause (7/12/19)
- Lowry (7/10/17)
- Hoban (5/8/13)
- Peddle (5/8/13)
- Scarlett (3/9/12)
- Cameron (4/4/8)
- Novotny (2/4/6)
Some positives and some negatives in there. Dowling delivers the same consistent production he always has even though he is now facing the toughest checkers every night. The Lowry/Vause/Hoban line has generally provided very solid secondary scoring. Vause and Lowry in particular have upped their game big time. It looks like production wise Vause is starting to live up to his potential this season while Lowry we know is going to be a force down the road.
I’ve talked a lot about what Jordan Peddle has done in 2011. He was a scoring machine in Midget AAA and had a strong rookie season in the WHL. After a so-so second year and a slow start this year, we are now seeing him take his game to the next level. It’ll be interesting to see if he can keep that up down the stretch.
Reece Scarlett has been money in 2011 as well. He has more points in the last 20 games than he had all of last season. The Broncos desperately need more production from the back-end and Scarlett is starting to provide it.
On the other end of the spectrum we see that Stepan Novotny has struggled to put the puck in the net since returning from injury. I know he wasn’t at 100% when he returned and that certainly has had an impact on him. Novotny has as much skill and as much talent as almost anyone in the league. He can also be a streaky scorer. It would make a huge difference to this roster if he can get on a role in the final 12 games. The Broncos need their 20 year olds to lead the way.
A player like Trevor Cameron got off to a really hot start when he joined the Broncos and his production has cooled off some lately. He hasn’t scored in over 10 games and they need a spark from guys like him and Christian Magnus. These guys are 18 year olds with the ability to put the puck in the net. They have to step up and get that job done when the other teams are putting their best guys out trying to shut down the top 6.
That’s just a small sampling of some numbers from the past 20 games. The key number of course is only 5 wins and a pace that would put the Broncos right at the bottom of the league if the played that way all season. When you take Eakin off of this roster is it really one of the worst in the league? I don’t believe it is… but the guys have to prove otherwise. Right now the numbers are clear. They’re 17-13 with Eakin the line-up and 7-17-1-2 without him. It’s up to the guys in that room to put that departure behind them and find a way to get it done with what they have. Otherwise they may let this season slip away.
They can start doing that in Brandon tomorrow. The Wheat Kings are red-hot lately, but the Broncos are 4-2 against them this season. They need 3 or 4 points this weekend and they need to get on a role. We’ve seen them play some very good hockey. Now it’s about putting 60 full minutes together and getting some results. Playing well won’t cut it when all that matters now if finding the points they desperately need.
Chance and I had the chance to catch up with Brad Hoban and Natasha from the Broncos office this morning on The Eagle 94.1 FM morning show. Here’s how that went:
The podcast is coming up later this afternoon.