By winning three of their last four, and six of their last ten, the T-Birds have closed to within three points of a playoff spot with six games left. Meaningful hockey games in March, ya gotta love it.
From the strange-but-true department: Two seasons ago in early March, the T-Birds lost a game to Portland by the score of 9-1. They came back the next game to beat Everett (10-0 behind Kyle Jarhaus!). This year, they lose to Portland 9-1 in early March but rebound the next game to beat Everett (Gallimore with the OT game winner!). Deja vu' all over again! With that victory the 'Birds finish the regular season 5-5 against the 'Tips, reaching the .500 mark against their U.S. Division rivals by winning the last three head-to-head meetings.
Also, was that not just the most fitting end to a game you've witnessed? Gallimore misses the game the night before in Portland because of the passing of his grandfather. He returns from his home in Edmonton in time for the game against the Silvertips and scores the winning power-play goal in the overtime period, and immediately looks to the heavens as if to say, "Thanks for the assist gramps!" You couldn't have written the script any better. Well done Burke. And kudos to Ryan Button for acknowledging his good friend Burke and the relationship Burke had with his grandfather in the post game interview down on the ice. Like Gallimore, Button is from Edmonton and the two have known each other for many years.
Meanwhile, is Button running for Mayor of Kent? Great salute to the crowd in his postgame comments as well.
I'm going to make this suggestion for the T-Birds when they are putting together next season's schedule at the league meetings this summer. When it gets to the point where league president Ron Robison says, "Okay now let's fill in the January dates." A T-Birds representative must stand up and say something to the affect of "Mr. President, if you don't have any objections, the Thunderbirds are gonna skip January. We'd prefer to call it December II or December Squared, anything but January." Why? Well, Seattle's record in the month of January over the last three seasons is just 9-24-4-2; 3-18-4-1 the past two seasons alone. They've recovered well enough through February and March during that time span to play close to .500 hockey (22-24-2-2), but January has become their Achilles heel. The only other option might be to invoke the Grinch Clause, cancel Christmas and keep the player in town for the holidays. I don't see that happening.
As we know, Seattle's other bane of existence the past three seasons has been road games in Kennewick. The 'Birds haven't won a regulation game there in three-plus seasons. But, if the T-Birds miss the playoffs this year by a point or two, they may look back to two first half home games against Tri-City in which they held late third period leads. In both cases Seattle failed to hold the leads (in one instance it was a two goal lead with 2:30 left) and lost in a shootout each time. Ironically the T-Birds playoff hopes could come down to the final regular season game this season...at home against, you guessed it, Tri-City.
With their playoff lives on the line, The T-Birds have risen to the occasion. Whether they finish in or out of the postseason, they are not going down without a fight. With the exception of the clunker down in Portland, the 'Birds have competed hard in every game lately and are 6-4 in their last ten, going from five points out of a playoff spot to just three out with six games remaining. Over the last 10 games they've earned more points (12) than any of the other bottom four teams in the Western Conference. They've captured wins in three of their last four overall and they've also won five of their last six games at home, a home winning percentage they must continue with four home games remaining, especially with a red hot Chilliwack team coming to the ShoWare Center Friday.
Here is the updated pace-to-the playoffs heading into this week's action. The number in parenthesis is the points earned on average each game. The number after that is games remaining:
1. XPortland is on pace for 101.5 pts (1.41) 6
2. XKelowna is on pace for 85.3 pts (1.18) 7
3. XSpokane is on pace for 99.7 pts (1.38) 7
4. XTri-City is on pace for 92.25 pts (1.28) 8
5. Vancouver is on pace for 78.64 pts (1.09) 7
6. Everett is on pace for 72 pts (1.00) 7
7. Chilliwack is on pace for 72 pts (1.00) 8
8. Prince George is on pace for 67.63 pts (0.94) 6
9. Kamloops is on pace for 66.62 pts (0.925) 5
10. Seattle is on pace for 64.36 pts (0.893) 6
X denotes that team has clinched a playoff spot. Kelowna, as the first place team in the B.C. Division, is in position to earn the #2 seed in the conference for the first round of the postseason.
Seattle still has work to do and needs help to make the playoffs. Prince George (home vs. Red Deer Tues.), Everett (at Spokane Tues.), Kamloops (home vs. Tri-City Tues.) and Chiliwack (at Vancouver Weds.) all play one game before Seattle takes the ice again this coming weekend. So until Friday the T-Birds are fans of the Rebels, Chiefs, Americans and Giants.