Sunday, January 8, 2012

It's Gonna Be a Bumpy Ride

It's funny how a six game road trip to the Eastern Division doesn't wipe you out as much as going back-to-back nights within your own division with a road game in Kennewick followed by a home game. I was physically and mentally exhausted by the time I got home after the Spokane game Saturday night. But I think I have recovered enough of my energy to post a few thoughts.

Obviously the team continues to play inconsistently, almost maddeningly so. They start the post-holiday break with a three game win streak only to follow that up with four straight losses. But maybe that win streak was a bit misleading. Two of the wins came via shootout against the team with the worst record in the league, Everett, a team they have since lost to, 5-2. The third was a nice, gritty 2-0 victory at home over Moose Jaw behind stellar goaltending from Calvin Pickard. But if you look at Moose Jaw's road trip through the U.S. Division as a whole, the Warriors struggled to score goals against all but the Silvertips, were shutout twice on the trip, and managed just 10 goals in 6 games.

The T-birds continue to find scoring a difficult proposition. Since returning from the nine day layoff they have played seven games and scored just ll goals or 1.57 per game. But now they are starting to give up way too many. They have allowed 16 goals in the past three games and 18 in the four game losing streak. That's over four goals a game during the skid. Most of those goals can be attributed to issues that have plagued them all season long; poor defensive zone coverage and an inability to clear the puck out of their end of the ice.

Are there some positives out of this latest down turn? Yes. Head Coach Steve Konowalchuk continues to increase the minutes for younger players such as Connor Honey, Justin Hickman, Evan Wardley and Branden Troock. As a result they continue to develop their game in a positive manner. It may not be as tangible as an increase on the stat sheet but you can see how hard they work and that should bode well for the future.

Meanwhile a couple of the players in the 18 year old age group are also starting to step up. Colin Jacobs is rounding into form after missing half the season due to offseason surgery. While there is room for improvement he's been so much better in the defensive zone then he ever was a year ago. He's smart enough to know that to get to the next level that part of his game must become better.

Is it just me or is Jacob Doty starting to assert himself more? Not just the physical play but I'm seeing him get his stick on pucks more now and win a few puck battles along the boards. I know he works hard on improving his skating but that is still something that has to get better. Connor Sanvido sees limited ice time but he's made the most of if, earning a pair of assists recently.

Statistically it would seem a leap to say Daniel Cotton played very well the other night in goal. If all you looked at was the stat sheet and saw that he allowed seven goals to Tri-City you would look at me cockeyed if I said it was a very good performance. But in this case the stats are deceiving. The more he plays the better he'll be and I think he's already a pretty good one.

If you find yourself in Ellenburg on your travels, go out of your way to find the Ellensburg Pasta Company. This eatery looks fairly nondescript on the outside but, as they say, it is what's on the inside that counts and inside you'll find some great food.

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