Monday, March 12, 2012

March Madness; The Final Four

What a roller coaster weekend! From the hugely disappointing performance in the lopsided loss Saturday to Portland to the bounce back effort and emotional, last second overtime win Sunday against Everett. The bottom line? After 68 games the T-birds playoffs hopes are still alive.

First though, let's congratulate Calvin Pickard. What an iron man he has been in goal for this franchise over the past four seasons and now he is the WHL record holder for most minutes played as well as for most career saves. To think he is eligible to play one more season at this level and put up more saves and minutes that would make both those marks tough for anyone to surpass! Of course, being a signed player, the odds of him returning next season are probably two; slim and none. So enjoy these last few games with him manning the crease for the Thunderbirds. If anyone on this roster deserves a trip to the postseason, Pickard surely is that player.

Where does this leave the team with four games remaining. Well, they are still on the outside looking in, three points out of the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Simple math says they have to win at least two of those final four games to get in and depending on what Victoria does in their final two games, it may take more. The one plus for the T-birds is they have twice as many games remaining as the Royals. Also, the Royals final two games are both against Portland and Portland is fighting for the top seed.

The easiest path for the Thunderbirds to follow (and "easy" is used here rather liberally in a season when nothing has come easy for Seattle) is to win their remaining two home games. The T-birds host Spokane Tuesday and then, after a game in Spokane Friday, return home to host Everett on Saturday. The problem is the 'Birds are 0-3 at home against the Chiefs this season and historically have not fared will when hosting Spokane at the ShoWare Center. If memory serves me right, I believe the Chiefs have lost only one, maybe two games at ShoWare since it opened in 2009.

I know the phrase "take them one game at a time" is a time worn coach's cliche but it really describes this situation. Seattle must play Tuesday night like it is the only game that matters. Everybody has to be on the same page; everyone has to give their best effort. Now, there is also the possibility that the T-birds could steal a point over in Spokane Friday. Seattle has actually played the Chiefs better on the road the last few years then they have played them at home but I believe for Seattle to have a realistic chance at the playoffs they must win Tuesday night.

Seattle has not posted back-to-back wins since late December when they won three in a row following the Christmas break. What a perfect time for their first winning streak of 2012.

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