Frequent visitors to my blog(s) know I don’t name-drop, so I am truly making an exception tonight.
A couple weeks ago NHL defenseman-turned-broadcaster Larry Murphy was in Los Angeles for the Kings-Red Wings game. I caught up with him afterward and started talking about the 2006 playoffs, specifically how the Red Wings got bounced in the first round by the Edmonton Oilers. Detroit was stacked that year — Yzerman, Shanahan and Chelios were nearing the end, but still effective; Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Samuelsson were entering their prime; Nick Lidstrom was Nick Lidstrom.
Murphy was making the point that, after the Wings lost in six games, people tended to over-analyze the loss. The reason they lost was simple — the goalie, Manny Legace, didn’t have a good series. Especially in the playoffs, that’s often all that matters.
Jase Weslosky isn’t Dwayne Roloson, but his 35-save performance was the difference in the Reign’s win on Saturday.
“We got better goaltending today, let’s call it what it is,” Karl Taylor said. “The guy
played really well. When we weren’t good, he gave us a chance to get our
legs under us. We’ve been missing that the last couple games. That’s no
shot at Mike (Zacharias). Mike will tell you the same thing. We struggled the last
two games, and Jase was able to come in and do a good job for us.”
Goaltending hasn’t been the problem from Day 1 (Martin Jones was the winning goaltender on Day 1), but it’s been a bigger issue in Ontario this season than it was during the first two. Weslosky might not be able to guide the Reign into the promised land — he’s not Moses, either — but at least the Reign have the rest of the season to give him a look with an eye toward next year. At most, he’ll make a playoff berth possible.
By the way, Victoria lost to Alaska, allowing the Reign to climb within seven points of seventh place with nine games left on the schedule. The Salmon Kings have lost five straight. The Reign have played one fewer game than Victoria, which won’t make up the extra game for another two weeks.
Catch all your game details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin. A few more notes:
• Weslosky arrived in Ontario at 3 a.m. local time, slept for about four hours, took a physical, skated a bit, took a nap, and then got his first start in 17 days. Imagine what he can do under normal circumstances. “It’s something you have to battle through,” he said. “It’s part of the business. When stuff like that happens, it’s a character builder more or less.”
• When he found out about the trade Friday, Weslosky said he was surprised even though he never played a game after being traded to the Everblades. “(Head coach Greg Poss) just let me know, ‘we want to get you somewhere you can play.’ Ontario was willing to give me a chance and I definitely appreciate it.”
• Listed at 6-foot-2, Weslosky takes up a lot of net, and he seems content to stand up to block the occasional shot more than a prototypical butterfly goalie. “I didn’t have much goaltending instruction growing up. It was kind of just putting the pieces together, more or less. Hopefully I found something that works. If not, you’ve got to change it up,” he said. Don’t be fooled by his humility; Weslosky is a former fourth-round draft pick of the New York Islanders and was a two-year starter at St. Cloud State, where he set the single-season record for goals-against average and save percentage. I’ll have more on him in Tuesday’s notebook.
• All but the final two playoff berths in the Western Conference have been clinched. Utah, Victoria and Ontario are in the running for the final two spots. Utah only needs to win one game, or lose twice in overtime or the shootout, to clinch its berth.
• Chaz Johnson’s empty-net goal was the 98th of his professional career, and his assist was the 96th.
• The Reign won’t be home again until March 30 after playing six straight on the road.