Brier Bits #3 – Answers

Posted: March 12, 2011 in Curling, Sports
Tags: , , , , ,

After a break from the action on Wednesday in order to have a life, I returned to the Brier for the final two draws on Thursday to answer some of the questions that I was left with after Tuesday’s games.

These questions included who would be in the playoffs and the fates of Kevin Martin and Brad Gushue after their game on Monday night.  The first of these questions was half-answered on Thursday morning when Jeff Stoughton, Brad Gushue, and Glenn Howard all moved to 8-2.  This eliminated everyone except for Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs, who needed two wins and two losses for Martin on Thursday to even get a tiebreaker.

Now, before I get down to the business of breaking down Thursday’s action, I want to give some props for an amazing achievement that happened on Wednesday.  Earlier in the week I had raved about Richard Hart’s 99% game, but Jeff Stoughton topped even that by shooting a perfect 100%.  Stoughton became just the eighth skip to throw a perfect game in the history of the Brier on his way to a stomping of Kevin Martin in which his team as a whole curled 97%.

For a skip to throw a perfect game is about as likely as an 8-ender.  With all the rocks in play at the end of each end, the shots that skips are asked to make are extremely hard.  They come down to millimeters on the hits and one extra brush stroke on the draws.  So much can go wrong with some of these shots that faint-hearted skips may opt for an easier shot when faced with a double raise takeout to win the game.  It defies logic for a skip to throw a perfect game, but Stoughton did it on Wednesday to add his name to the list.

So, on to the playoff picture.

As I said, going into Thurdsay’s afternoon draw Brad Jacobs’ rink required two wins to make the playoffs as well as for Kevin Martin’s rink to drop both of their games against the Territories’ Jamie Koe and Ontario’s Glenn Howard.

To his credit, Jacobs played exceptionally well in his two games, winning them both convincingly against New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.  He showed glimpses of the kind of game that got him into the playoffs last year and left James Grattan and Steven Laycock trailing in his dust.

The real interesting part came on Martin’s side of the equation.  Given that his first game was against the Territories, one might reasonably expect him to rack up a quick 9-3 or 10-2 win and kick his feet up for the rest of the day.  That was not the case at all.

In the afternoon game against Koe, Martin did not play well at all.  A combination of bad decisions and missed shots – quite a few missed shots actually – kept Koe in the game.  Koe wasn’t playing badly either as most of Martin’s misses were under some kind of pressure from Koe.  The key moment in the game came in the eighth end when Koe had a shot at three points which would have put him ahead 7-5 going into the ninth end and would have effectively ended the game.  Instead Koe only got two, leaving Martin only down 6-5.  The ninth was blanked and the scene was set for what will likely be a curling highlight-reel staple for years to come: a double-raise takeout to score two and win the game.

Martin may have won the game, and in the process eliminated Brad Jacobs’ rink from playoff contention, but neither Martin nor the rest of the team played particularly well.  Martin shot 60% and the team shot a collective 74%.  However, as I predicted, they came out firing in the final draw against Glenn Howard’s rink, controlling the game for all but a couple ends.  It was a rapid turnaround from the display that we saw in the afternoon game.  Against Howard, Martin’s rink shot 86%.  Martin will have to be careful though as he heads to the playoffs as from here on out one bad game will mean the end of the tournament, unlike the round robin where Martin’s rink was able to bounce back from some below-par games.

With the playoff picture settled, I now would like to turn my attention to something that caught my eye in a negative manner on Thursday.

As I mentioned in my first post about the Brier, one of the great things about the tournament was the level to which the fans got involved, using the elderly Ontario fan who ran around with his flag as an example of such fan involvement.  When I went to the game on Thursday, I found that ‘Flagman’ was confined to his seat, or standing in a single place to wave the flag.  It also seemed that he was not waving his flag as often (although that could have been because Howard was getting dominated by Martin).

It is an absolute shame that the CCA and/or the Brier organizing committee has cracked down upon this kind of behaviour as it doesn’t hurt anyone and brings an added dimension to watching the sport.  As it was, Flagman picked his times so as to not distract the players and the players themselves embraced the fan interaction that was demonstrated by Flagman’s runs around the arena, with Glenn Howard making quite the scene by once running alongside him down at ice level.

When I go to watch curling live I want to see this kind of spontaneous action and this kind of fan involvement.  I don’t want to see a bunch of highly-trained robots slide up and down the ice.  I want to see curling played in good spirits, not played in the tight grips of stuffy organizers.  And I’m sure that the players, as much as the teams not getting as much fan support as others might feel left out, want to see the fans having a good time as well.

Anyways, CCA stuffiness aside, bring on the playoffs!!

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