It’s Monday, so it’s time for another What We Learned.
When Steelers Are Good, They’re Very Good…:
Sheffield came to Coventry on Saturday night and looked very good inseed, holding the Blaze to only 14 shots, including one in the third period, during a 3-0 win. Don’t forget, this is a very talented Blaze team that struggled manfully despite having a squad reportedly ravaged with flu, but the Steelers looked very polished indeed. If they can hit that level most nights, then I fear for the rest of the league.
Guts Equal Glory
That said, the Blaze did superbly well after a somewhat flat performance on Saturday (caused, reportedly, by a flu bug sweeping its way through the squad), by battling to a 1-0 win in Scotland the next day. Given that flu causes most people to decide to have a duvet day, there is serious praise involved for going up against a Caps side who are very tough at home and winning, especially as by all accounts the Caps played very well.
Winning With Style Is Nice, But Just Winning Is Fine Too
On Saturday night Sheffield came to the Skydome and played the kind of game that will not live long in the memory. Their goals weren’t that pretty, there were no real moments of individual skill and it was a match that left everyone a bit flat.
On Sunday night the Blaze went to Edinburgh and gutted out a narrow 1-0 victory which, by all accounts, wasn’t a classic. But it was two points that were sorely needed.
We saw another example of pragmatism as Cardiff beat Nottingham 2-1 in a low-scoring match in South Wales…another example of grit beating supposed flair and speed in what was by all accounts an excellent contest.
And that’s the key theme in this season’s Elite League. Points take precedence over pure entertainment as far as the standings go, and there are a lot of teams (Dundee, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Hull, Cardiff) who will not always be swashbuckling to watch but are set up purely in an attempt to win games.
This league seems to cycle between high- and low-scoring matches but the common theme is teams not caring how they win, as long as they do.
Angels And Demons
Tom Sestito is a polarising figure in the Elite League already. On Saturday night we saw the best of him in Coventry as he was a constant physical presence in front of the net, scored a textbook powerplay goal, and earned a deserved man of the match award. On Sunday, the Tom Sestito we knew from the NHL returned as he landed a hit on Hull’s Andy Ward which saw the Stingray stretchered off and Sestito thrown out of the game for a check to the head.
The Steelers are appealing the match ban that results, so it’ll be interesting to see what the EIHL disciplinary team do. News will come later this week.
Belfast represented the UK in the second round of the Continental Cup this week and did well, winning two games out of three, including an 11-1 thumping of Dutch side Geleen. Unfortunately, they sandwiched it with a 7-1 loss against a dominant Landshut Cannibals, which means that despite a brave effort, they don’t qualify for the next round.
Size Matters (Sometimes)
On the subject of the Sestito hit, a lot of Steelers fans are using the fact that Tom Sestito is 6’4 and Andy Ward is a lot less to defend him, saying that he can’t be penalised for his size.
This is interesting, given that size was apparently no defence for Brad Voth landing a high hit on Ashley Tait, nor Voth on Stefan Sjogren. In fact, Steelers got quite angry on the whole thing, saying that size was no defence and it was the responsibility of the checker to adjust.
If you’re considering using the size defence, just imagine how you’d react if the hit was…say, Benn Olson on Lee Esders, or Corey Neilson on Ben Davies*. If you’d react differently if your team’s player was the one on the receiving end, then you can’t use it as a defence. Ever.
It’s A Long Road Out Of Hull’s Hell
With all the furore over Sunday’s events, it’s easy to forget that the Stingrays pulled out a 4-3 win against Dundee on Saturday, in a vital game for their confidence. It seems that, while the Stingrays still have a problem or two, Sylvain Cloutier has found a way to at least start to fix them.
That’s your brief summary of events this weekend…check back tomorrow for more Chasing Dragons (which will appear as soon as I know what I’m writing about).
*(these players are picked purely due to size difference and not any comment on their play)