It really doesn't feel like the T-birds are on their first "losing" streak of the season. I put that in parenthesis because the two losses have come after regulation; a 3-2 loss in overtime to Calgary and a 2-1 loss to Portland in a shootout. So it hardly feels like a defeat when the 'Birds earned a combined two points in those games and have gone six games in a row without a regulation loss.
What also makes it feel more like a win than a loss is the way the team is playing. The T-Birds are giving themselves the opportunity to win every night. There hasn't been one game in the nine played so far this season when the team hasn't been in a position to pick up a win going into the final ten minutes of the contest. I said in an earlier post that this team would compete every game and so far that has been the case.
I felt Dave Sutter played his best game of the season in that SO loss in Portland. At least it was his most physical effort. I think he's really adjusting well to the smaller ice surface and the more physical play of the North American game. Sutter is a very intelligent young man (anyone who can speak seven languages should be) and his learning curve should be pretty high.
Speaking of smart players, Brendan Rouse qualifies as well. On a team of big bodies he's not one of them but he continues to impress me with his ability to fore-check and win puck battles along the walls. He did take one offensive zone penalty Friday but I doubt the coaches will complain too loudly because he was being aggressive, trying to finish off his shift in a strong fashion.
Beat highly regarded Portland once and you might consider it a fluke but beat them twice and earn 5 of a possible 6 points in three games, including 3 of 4 points on the road, and that's no fluke. The last two games at the Rose Garden have been very intense battles. This is going to be a very entertaining 12-game season series between these two long time rivals.
I watched the replay of the Colin Jacobs hooking penalty that occurred in the third period of the Portland game Friday night. They showed it on the Rose Garden video screens moments after it was called. Maybe it was the angle of the camera but it sure appeared all that Jacobs did was tap Taylor Jordan on the back of his jersey. Maybe the penalty occurred further up ice but I also noticed the ref watching the replay. Maybe he was checking to see if he got the call right. I don't mind that. If the officials are consciously attempting to learn from their mistakes so it doesn't happen a second time, that's good for the league. My eyes aren't so good so I'm going to watch the game again on the WHL's Web TV just to make sure.
I know a lot of us in the sports media are guilty of overusing certain phrases. Of course that is why they are called clichés. But man, is Calvin Pickard ever "in a zone" right now. I don't want to call him robotic but it seemed as if he was programmed before that game against the Winterhawks and every one of his movements was preordained. He was never out of position, he was always squared to the shooter, he was able to steer the puck where he wanted to on a save and knew when to freeze it for a faceoff. You can't put your finger on any one thing he's doing better but when you see him play, your first thought is "Ah, he's just taken his game to another level".
You'll see the Portland shot totals from that game (43) and think it was a lopsided affair but the vast majority of those shots were from long range (even the few second chances off rebounds) and defensively Seattle kept the crease and slot fairly clear. There were a couple of occasions where Portland players tried to bump Pickard but that's not going to bother him.
Ryan Aasman's tenure as a Thunderbird was brief. Aasman was traded last week to the Swift Current Broncos for a conditional 5th round draft choice. He came to Seattle last January from Prince Albert at the trade deadline. My first thought was, "Too bad, nice young man, always positive and always had a smile on". Then when I asked Rob about the trade his first comments were to the same affect. I wish Ryan the best with the Broncos.
Big test Tuesday night at the ShoWare Center as Seattle welcomes the Tri-City Americans and their high powered offense to town.