Thursday, December 29, 2011

Winning Doesn't Have to be Pretty

After winning just one of their first 15 games after the Christmas break last season, and just 1 of 15 after the break the year before that, there should be no reason for the T-birds to make apologies for winning a couple games after the break this season in less then "beauty pageant" fashion. You win, you get two points and no style points are added or, for that matter, deducted if you don't play in the most scintillating fashion.

I thought the first period Wednesday night in Everett was played at a pretty good pace and there were some scoring chances created by the T-birds forecheck and aggressive penalty kill. After that it appeared playing for the second time in as many nights, after a nine day layoff, began to affect both teams and the play got a bit sloppy and as a result it lacked flow. Still, if you are writing the script for these two games and you have two rivals battling out in a home-and-home series you have to like the fact that the outcome wasn't determined until the final page was turned.

Cason Machacek has been playing some good hockey lately. I thought his last two games before the break were two of his best and the first two after the break have been good as well. I have a feeling if any of the players skated and worked out over the break he would be one.

With Dave Sutter away and Kyle Verdino out of the lineup with an injury, Seattle needed Machacek's veteran leadership on the back end and he gave them that. Chipping in with his first goal of the season was a bonus. Fairly calm off the ice, between the boards Machacek is an emotional player which sometimes gets him into penalty trouble. But lately he's kept his emotions in check and has been playing good, smart hockey.

I'm sure Luke Lockhart has heard the criticism about his lack of offensive production so far this season. I suppose some of that could be warranted considering he potted over 20 goals last year. But all you have to do is look at a tape of Wednesday's game in Everett to see his worth to this team.

I'm not talking about the two goals or the shootout winner either. Instead, watch how many shifts he takes. Watch how many key face offs he wins and look at his defensive zone coverage and how many times he took a puck off an Everett player's stick. I wouldn't be surprised if he logged 40 minutes in that game.

Good; the T-birds winning two games out of the break and earning the full 4 pts and climbing within a point of 6th place in the Western Conference. In fact the T-birds now have the 6th best winning percentage.

The bad; the power play seems to be regressing with each PP chance. Watch the T-birds power play in these two games and you understand the value of a Dave Sutter and, for that matter, a Brendan Rouse as well. But right now sticks are being squeezed too tight and too many mental errors are being made. Gotta clean that up.

The good; the 'Birds didn't allow Everett a power play goal in the two games. In close games like these, one power play goal by the 'Tips could have been the difference between winning and losing and the Thunderbirds coming out of these two games with no points.

The bad; the T-birds have had the lead entering the third period in their last three games only to cough it up, being outscored 7-0 in the process. Good teams own the third period. Good teams "go for the kill" in the third period. That is something the T-birds still need to learn.

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