It's a shame, a real shame. It's a shame the home crowd Saturday didn't get to see the team I saw on the road for three games last week. That team that played those three road games (granted they went 1-2) was a better, more competitive team then we saw at the ShoWare Center in the 7-2 loss to Portland. Look, part of it is the team the T-birds were playing. Portland probably has the most talented roster in the league. Are they the best team? I don't know, but they are certainly poised to make another deep playoff run.
Another issue is the schedule. I realize it is what it is and that's what you get at this level of hockey but three straight on the road, with a full day's bus travel in between the first two, then a mad dash back from Spokane late Friday night for a Saturday battle with arguably one of the league's best teams is a tough row to hoe.
I believe the Portland game(probably should say "games" since Seattle is 1-7 against the Winterhawks and are being outscored by an average of 5-2) are the exception and not the rule. Hey, there are no brownie points for coming close....unless you get to OT, I guess that is a brownie point. But outside two lopsided losses to that explosive Portland team, the T-birds have been in just about every game the last two months. The outcome of most aren't decided until late. The problem is Seattle is on the wrong end of too many of those close games.
The Thunderbirds are beginning to find some offense now. They scored 11 goals in the past four games and created enough chances to possibly score twice that. The real issue has been and continues to be team defense. The 'Birds have surrendered far too many goals recently; 19 in the last four games and that's even with a shutout thrown in.
Don't just automatically blame the defensemen. Look at what Cason Machacek has done the second half of the season. He's rarely on the ice when the opposition scores. He's doing his job. In the past two games the T-birds surrendered 12 goals and Cason's +/- rating was zero. He's been solid. He's been consistent. The rest of his team though has not. Players aren't putting together the same effort night after night. Too often a player is rock solid Wednesday then falls off the rails Friday.
I am liking what Colin Jacobs has done lately. I think him missing half the season led to some inconsistency in his game but recently he's shown better. Over the last four games he's picked up 4 pts (2g, 2a) with a +/- rating of zero. I still think he needs to get stronger but offseason shoulder surgery set back his offseason training program so this summer he needs to put a big focus on that.
Do I think the T-birds can make the playoffs? Sure I do. They control their own destiny. Like I stated they are playing better lately then they showed Saturday against Portland. It won't be easy. The schedule ahead is still a rocky road. Ten of their remaining 17 games are against Portland, Tri-City and Spokane. Four of those are road games.
First though, the T-birds have to start winning some of the close games. Too many potential points left on the ice in these one goal losses. Secondly, they need to win at home. There are nine home games left and anything less then 6-3 at the ShoWare Center could quash those postseason hopes. Finally, they need to win some of the so called "winnable" games; game versus those teams with similar records that they are battling for a playoff spot. Finally, it has to start right now, as in Tuesday against Kelowna.