January is one of the longest months of the year and this year it seemed even longer than usual. The T-Birds will be glad to put it in their rear view mirror after going just 2-12-1-0 in 15 games. Bring on February!
It really seemed like the players were pressing in Sunday's 2-1 home loss to Everett. The term often used in hockey to describe that is "squeezing the sticks too tight".
I think some players subconsiously are trying to do too much on their own. They understand the team is stuggling and they want to be the one to score that goal or make the play that ends the funk; it's just a natural reaction to the situation. This is why the coaches tell them to keep it simple; play within yourself. In other words, take what is done during practice out on to the ice each game. When you try to take the burden of ending the streak on your shoulders alone, it can lead to penalties or missed scoring chances. Maintain the team concept.
Sometimes you don't recognize a player's worth until he's out of the lineup. Defenseman Travis Bobbee was injured in the second period of the T-Birds game January 9th in Chilliwack. Seattle lost that game in overtime. Since then, with Bobbee out of the lineup, the 'Birds are 1-9-0-0. Then defenseman Ryan Button goes down with a long term injury and Seattle is 0-5-0-0 since he's been out of the lineup. Combined the two veteran defenseman have played 541 games in the WHL. There's no subsitute for experience and that's a lot of experience on the sideline.
I try to curb my enthusiasm for young 15-year-old player who come up for a few games midseason but it was hard not to be impressed by Shea Theodore. The Aldergrove, B.C. native didn't look out of place playing in two games this past weekend. Looks like a solid, smooth, puck moving d-man in the making. I'm not comparing him to any previous player but I got the same good vibe watching him as I did watching the likes of Aaron Gagnon, Thomas Hickey, Colin Jacobs and Brandon Troock when they played a few games as 15-year-olds. I didn't see enough of Jared Hauf (he didn't see as much ice time) to come to the same conclusion yet but he looks as advertised; a big stay-at-home defenseman.
Here's the updated Western Conference race-to-the-playoffs pace for each team as of 1/31/11 with the points-earned-per-game average in parenthesis. I've added a new column after that, games remaining:
1. Portland is on pace for 98.3 pts (1.365) 20
2. *Kelowna is on pace for 85.2 pts (1.18) 23
3. Spokane is on pace for 97.92 pts (1.36) 22
4. Tri-City is on pace for 99.57 pts(1.38) 25
5. Vancouver is on pace for 80.47 pts (1.117) 21
6. Prince George is on pace for 73.44 pts (1.02) 22
7. Everett is on pace for 69.17 pts (0.961) 21
8. Kamloops is on pace for 63.849 pts (0.8867) 19
9. Chilliwack is on pace for 67.591 pts (0.9387) 23
10. Seattle is on pace for 63.529 pts (0.8823) 21
* Kelowna, as the first place team currently in the BC Division automatically gets the #2 seed.
As you can see, the T-Birds pace has fallen off with the losing streak but with 21 games and 42 points still available there is plenty of time to reverse that trend. And it won't take much. Everett was able to jump from 10th to within two points of
6th place on the basis of a 3-game winning streak and Kamloops moved into the 8th spot despite winning just 2 of their last 10 games.
Meanwhile Tri-City is still on pace to win the conference top seed. Having so many games in hand helps their pace but they still have to win those games. With seven more left on their schedule against Spokane, it will be interesting to see if they can keep up that pace.