Merry Christmas. I know that is not PC to say in some circles but I prefer it over Happy Holidays.
A two-game winning streak is definitely a nice way to go into the the break. The resiliency of this team is quite remarkable. They did lose 6 of their last 10 games but it could have been worse as twice they snapped 3-game losing streaks by winning 2 in a row. Just when you think you're out, they pull you right back in again!
I know some will say beating Portland loses some of the shine because three big offensive cogs were missing from the Winterhawks lineup but what would they be saying had the T-Birds lost? Certainly the 'Birds 3-0-0-1 record so far this season against Portland has been accomplished against a Portland team not quite at full strength in most of those games (although Portland had pretty much a full compliment of players in the two games that went to a shootout down at the Rose Garden), but Seattle doesn't have any say in who is in or who is out of the Winterhawks lineup. Besides, the T-Birds have not been at full strength in any of the games they've played against Portland either. Simple fact is those are seven crucial points earned by Seattle. Tell me another team in the league that has to play 12 games head-to-head against arguably the league's best team? Remember, there are still seven games left in the series. No need for the T-Birds to apologize for earning those points.
The record going into the Christmas break is better this season then last but the situation is eerily the same. A year ago, despite a sub par first half of the season, the 'Birds were still in the hunt for a playoff spot. They were only a few points out of the 8th and final playoff position in the Western Conference. Games right after the break were crucial. As you know though, Seattle didn't answer the bell and fell out of contention.
This season the T-Birds are again in a tight battle for a playoff spot at the break. Once again they have crucial games coming out of the layoff. Will they answer the bell this time around?
Here are some things to look forward to after the break when the season resumes: 1) the potential return to the lineup of Brendan Troock. Can the 16 year-old have an impact in the second half of the season? Can he stay healthy and in the lineup? 2)The January 10th trade deadline; will GM Russ Farwell stand pat, make a minor move or try for a big splash? 3)Home games; the T-Brds ended a six-ame home ice losing streak when they beat Portland the last game before the break, can they keep the winning mojo going on home ice with 22 home games left? A playoff spot may hang in the balance. 4)Games against their U.S. Division foes. 25 of their remaining 39 games will be against either Portland, Spokane, Tri-City or Everett. Again, the difference between making or missing the postseason may hinge on their effort against those four teams. So far Seattle is 6-6-0-3 against their division rivals. Will .500 against the U.S. Division be enough to garner a playoff spot? Fortunately they only have four games left with Tri-City. The T-Brds have yet to beat the Americans in five tries this season (0-3-0-2). 5) The 'Birds have 13 games remaining against the B.C. Division and nine of them will be at the ShoWare Center. So far the T-Brds are 4-2 against B.C. Division teams. These are teams Seattle will battle for a playoff spot down the stretch so these games will be just as crucial as games within the U.S. Division.
Enjoy the rest of the Christmas break and see you at the ShowWare Center on the 28th against Spokane!