Thursday, 26 January 2012

Stats Don't Lie in Wheat Kings Slide

The Brandon Wheat Kings will continue their Central Division road trip Friday night when they pay a visit to the Edmonton Oil Kings (7:30 p.m., 880 CKLQ or www.cklq.com).

January has been a tough month for the Wheat Kings so far as the club has recorded just three wins in 12 games this month (3-8-0-1), a slump that has put Brandon in danger of falling out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Entering the weekend, the Wheat Kings are sitting four points ahead of ninth-place Red Deer with the Rebels having three games in hand.

There are plenty of issues for Brandon to work through, but some of the more notable come to light when you take a look at some telling statistics.

Brandon has scored 41 goals in 14 games since the Christmas break, with 11 of those coming in the club’s 11-3 win in Prince Albert on January 7th.

Take that game away, and Brandon is averaging 2.3 goals per game since the Christmas break, scoring three or fewer goals 11 times and two or less eight times.

One of the reasons for the lack of goals is the club’s power-play.

It has struggled to the tune of 9-for-57 (15.8%) in the last 14 games, while the penalty-kill has been an Achilles heal the entire season and is at 71.2% (37-for-52) in the last 14 contests.

An even more telling stat is that the Wheat Kings have won the specialty teams battle (scoring more on the power-play than their opponents) just once since the Christmas break, and that was their 3-2 overtime win over Regina in the first game after the break on December 28th.

Yes, I know Brandon’s goaltending has been hot-and-cold since Christmas but even the Wheat Kings’ best two goaltending performances didn’t result in victories.

Those, in my opinion, were Curtis Honey’s 46 save effort in the 4-3 shootout loss to Victoria on January 14th and Brandon Anderson’s 43 saves in a 3-2 loss in Saskatoon on January 20th.

It’s also interesting to note that Brandon’s combined team save percentage this year is .890, the same as the Portland Winterhawks and better than Calgary (.887), Spokane (.886) and Vancouver (.888) -- all teams with better records than the Wheat Kings.

Brandon’s slide in January is just a continuation of a free fall that began in late November.

The Wheat Kings scored a come-from-behind 7-6 overtime win in Moose Jaw on November 20th, a win that improved Brandon’s record to 16-7-1-1 through the first 25 games of the season.

In their last 25 games, Brandon is 8-16-0-1.

The Wheat Kings are already on pace to give up the most shots against in the last 15 years (34.8 per game for the season, 36.2 in last 25 games) and regularly surrender shot totals in the high 30’s or low 40’s.

Brandon has given up 30 or fewer shots just seven times in the last 25 games (they are 4-3-0-0 in those games) and have surrendered 40 or more shots 15 times this season including 11 times since November 20th.

By comparison, Brandon surrendered 40 or more shots just nine times all of last season.

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