Sunday, September 30, 2012

Frkwatch Game One: A Rivalry Renewed

This is a semi-frequent piece that I will run as much as I can attend Detroit Red Wings' prospect Martin Frk's QMJHL games. The views and opinions are those of myself and ONLY myself. I can't claim objectivity; my sole purpose is to report what I see myself.

Warmup skate, Sept. 29th 2012. Photo courtesy of PG Marsh.

The Halifax Mooseheads have been touted as one of the country's most interesting teams to watch this season. With Nathan MacKinnon leading the charge on offense, not to mention his status as the potential first overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Moose could be the Q's President Cup Champions come spring and may just challenge for the Memorial Cup. If you have an itch to dive into the mind of MacKinnon, here's his Twitter. For that matter, you can follow Martin Frk on Twitter right here.

Thus far, the Mooseheads have started strong, posting a 3-1 record in 4 games and registering fifth among CHL teams in the BMO CHL Mastercard Top 10 Rankings. On the downside, the Moose were spanked 6-1 in front of 9,223 fans Friday night at the Metro Center by the Gatineau Olympiques. It was quite a crowd killer for the home opener. Thankfully, the Moose were forced to go right back to work the following night against the provincial rival Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, my hometown team, and a relatively easy opponent to beat up on after a bitter pill swallowing the night before. It should have been an "easier" game, but it wasn't. Red Wings' prospect Martin Frk was in the lineup, and thankfully there were no shenanigans on the same level as the exhibition game that took place in September.

Despite the efforts of Halifax's potent offense, goaltender Phillipe Trudeau of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles kept the game close. He registered 36 saves, good for the first star of the game, but the Mooseheads prevailed 3-2 in a shootout. Zachary Fucale had 20 saves for Halifax, with Luca Ciampini and Brent Andrews scoring. Bronson Beaton and Michael Clark scored for Cape Breton. All goals were scored in the first period.

Martin Frk's stat line for the night is not quite indicative of his performance or his impact on the ice. Frk assisted on Ciampini's goal, the opening goal of the game, was even in +/- for the night, had three shots, and picked up two penalty minutes for an elbowing minor in the second period. Unfortunately, my seats for this game were in Section 32 (which is as far away as the number suggests), so any photos I captured are not quality images. The long term plan is to snap some pictures with a high quality digital camera. Apologies in advance for the image quality.

Frk...playing in his own end? Photo courtesy of PG Marsh

In terms of his play in the offensive zone, I compare Frk to a shark. This guy has a keen sense of where to be in the offensive zone, and can turn a simple offensive zone rush into a dynamic opportunity. When he smells blood in the water, so to speak, he consistently finding in the right places for a scoring chance, and can make some tape to tape passes when he runs out of space himself. There was only one shot on goal on the evening that seriously threatened Trudeau in the Cape Breton net. Overall, he was a playmaker for his line on Saturday night, which should be good to hear for Red Wings' fans and management because it's already well known that he has a good shot.

Defensively speaking...Frk has a long way to go before he will be compared to two-way Red Wings like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. In most of the shifts I witnessed, Frk was the last Moosehead player to leave the offensive zone and he rarely placed himself in the thick of a defensive effort. That isn't surprising given that his primary function is to be a potent shooter on offense, but the above photo was one of the few times Frk drifted away from the blueline toward his own net.

To be fair to Frk, and many people will argue this, the best defense is a good offense. He did pick off a couple of passes or attempts to clear centre ice by the Eagles, which was impressive. The Moosehead attack threw their weight at Trudeau all game long, but couldn't solve him after the first period.

The Moose on the attack. Photo courtesy of PG Marsh.

Unfortunately, the game wasn't all about Frk's offensive rushes and attempted playmaking. Once again I found myself scratching my head over his choices when he attempted contact with opposing players. There were two non-related hits that were not penalty worthy, but were either from behind or the side and one while the player was on their knees attempting to get back up. His penalty was a blatant elbow to the face of an Eagles. The elbowing penalty (at 7:39 of the second period) didn't result in a power play goal for the Eagles, but it wasn't a particularly disciplined play. In a way, he made up for it when fresh out of the penalty box he helped to initiate a play in the offensive zone.

The Moosehead were able to squeeze a win out of Cape Breton in front of 8,580 fans after a reality check the previous night. Marty Frk had as good a game as any other Moosehead forward, and is slowly gaining momentum lost after a disappointing exhibition game and three mediocre regular season contests. It's no secret that Frk had surgery just before the preseason began on one of his legs. His relatively slow exits from the offensive zone, including a peculiar tendency to stride twice with the same leg before gaining speed, are likely the reason for his zero goals and two assists in four games so far. Full credit to the guy, he's definitely a playmaker on the ice and when he can play without concern of injury, he will be alongside Nathan MacKinnon in the Moosehead offense.

Bonus picture from the nosebleed section. Photo courtesy of PG Marsh.

That concludes the second of many forthcoming Frkwatch entries. I'd love to read some feedback so please feel free to comment here on the blog or follow me on Twitter at @wizofozblog. Thanks for reading and as a Canadian icon used to say, keep your stick on the ice.

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