Monday, February 14, 2011

Eight is Enough

Great way to end the eight game, home-ice losing streak, beating a team that has had far too much success on the ShoWare Center ice. Not sure but that may have been the T-Birds first regulation win against the Chiefs in Kent.

So much of Sunday's win over Spokane reminded me of the first half of the season, when the T-Birds were earning points and, in many cases, winning ugly. The make up of this team is such that it's not going to win a lot of games playing "pretty" hockey. They are going to have to grind out victories, get those greasy goals and have a very high compete level. And that's what it was Sunday as they beat Spokane...60 minutes of hockey wherein the T-Birds competed hard every shift, kept sticking their noses in to every battle and while they didn't win them all, they won enough for the 3-1 victory.

How about a few new nicknames? Like Ryan "Superfly" Button. Heck of a save; maybe a game saver, when he dove behind Calvin Pickard to deny Levko Koper a goal with the tip of his stick. Nice three assist effort as well. Then there's Dave "Boom Boom" Sutter. His first fight in the dub and it's a unanimous decision.

So how did the win help the T-Birds playoff cause? Well, they moved within three points of the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They still have some hard work to do to garner a postseason berth but hopefully this is a start in that direction. It should at least make this coming Sunday's game at home against Chilliwack meaningful, but first they have to travel up to Vancouver Friday to face the B.C. Division leading Giants.

Here is the updated "Pace to the Playoffs" standings. the number in parenthesis is the points earned, on average, per game. The number after that is the games remaining on the schedule for that team:

1. Portland is on pace for 99.79 pts (1.386) 15
2. Vancouver* is on pace for 83.57 pts (1.16) 16
3. Spokane is on pace for 95.14 pts (1.32) 16
4. Tri-City is on pace for 99.17 pts (1.377) 19
5. Kelowna is on pace for 82.47 pts (1.15) 17
6. Prince George is on pace for 74.53 pts (1.04) 15
7. Everett is on pace for 70.71 pts (0.982) 16
8. Chilliwack is on pace for 68.07 pts (0.945) 17
9. Kamloops is on pace for 63.31 pts (0.88) 14
10. Seattle is on pace for 61.90 pts (0.86) 15

As you can see, the T-Birds are still about six points behind the pace of Chilliwack, which currently occupies the 8th and final playoff position. Before these two teams meet at the ShoWare Center Sunday, Chilliwack faces both Tri-City and Portland on the road. Still, a nice winning streak and beating the Bruins twice is probably a must for Seattle at this point. Even with that in mind, they are most likely going to need help, perhaps from a team like Vancouver which still has four games remaining against Chilliwack.

The race for the top seed is still a three horse affair but Spokane has fallen a bit behind the pace being set by Portland and Tri-City. I still think Portland's remaining schedule puts them in the driver's seat. That and the knee injury to Tri-City goalie Drew Owsley. How serious is it and how long will he be out? The battle for the #2 seed between Vancouver and Kelowna remains tight.

* As the top team in the B.C. Division, Vancouver is automatically slotted into the #2 seed.

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