FORT WAYNE – Sometimes it is pretty, like Colin Chaulk sliding across the ice on his stomach to block a shot from the point by Riley Weselowski, with the puck missing the head of the Komets’ captain by inches.
Other times, it’s not pretty. Like the knuckling shot from 50 feet out that no one saw coming but never got to the net because it hit defenseman Brent Henley, who had his back turned, in the butt.
No matter how it happens, blocking shots has been important for the Komets.
Fort Wayne has blocked about 23 shots in the last two games, and those blocks have helped the Komets take a 3-1 lead over Rapid City in the Turner Conference semifinals.
Come playoff time, every little play is magnified, Komets goaltender Nick Boucher said. Those small plays, knocking pucks down before they get to the net, especially with the traffic that Rapid City seems to get in front, they’re incredibly important.
If those shots get through, then who knows (what’ll happen)? The puck could be bouncing around and even if I save it, then I might not control the rebound properly because I’m seeing it late. Any pucks we can knock down are just huge.
The Komets can finish their series against the Rapid City Rush on Sunday night at Memorial Coliseum. The winner of the series plays Missouri in the conference finals.
Boucher has stopped 104 of 114 shots in the playoffs. The Rush, which averaged 3.42 goals in the regular season, is averaging 2.75 goals in the postseason.
Boucher has been terrific, but his teammates have helped him by keeping the puck away from the net. And a blocked shot can fire up the team as much as big check or a fight at times.
Our key is to try and force it to their point men and then our wingers get in shooting lanes and try and block shots, and then maybe get offense off those blocks, coach Al Sims said.
I think everybody on our team has been sacrificing in that regard.
Rapid City has averaged 28.8 shots on goal in the playoffs, down from 31.3 in the regular season.
The Komets allowed 30.6 shots per game in the regular season.
The Komets have used blocked shots to set up goals by quickly switching to offense. That’s what cemented Thursday’s 5-3 Game 4 victory.
The Komets blocked multiple shots in the final minute, then sent the puck down ice for Stephon Thorne to score into an empty net.
The other side of blocking shots, which is overlooked a little bit, is we have guys who are behind the (opposing) players, Boucher said. We can knock down those shots and then take that puck and get rushes because they have men caught up ice.
Notes: If the Komets leave the CHL for the ECHL, they won’t have a nearby rival to play in Chicago. The Express folded after one season.