It was just the first game of 72, so you don't want to overdo the hyperbole of Seattle winning opening night down in Portland, but it is a good first step on this season long journey and definitely a building block for the foundation the coaches are laying down for this team.
Yes, the first period was a bit ugly. It seemed the T-birds didn't react well to a couple of early penalties and allowed the Portland power play to wrest control of the action. I was not as concerned at the quantity of shots the Winterhawks got in the first, but rather the quality. Maybe it was the affect of being called for the two early penalties but the 'Birds just weren't hitting, thus allowing Portland to skate inside the Seattle zone unimpeded.
Fortunately Brandon Glover was at the top of his game and came up with 30 saves to keep the game scoreless after one. I will say this though, the T-birds didn't allow much traffic in front of their goal in period and as a result there were few second chance shots off rebounds available.
Seattle became more physical and more aggressive with their fore-check in the second period. As much as they were outplayed in the first period, they were the better team in the second, most importantly because they did what the Winterhawks failed to do in the first period; finish their chances.
Speaking of finishing, the T-birds played a very smart third period. They didn't sit back on their lead, scoring an early third period goal, but with their multi-goal cushion they picked their spots on when to be aggressive and when to stay back and protect the defensive zone.
Player who surprised me? Jerret Smith. Not that I don't think he is going to be a good player for the T-birds but in the limited times I've seen him play what has stood out about this 17-year old blue liner is his offensive game. Last night he showed me he can be a rock solid defensive-minded defenseman as well.
The player who didn't surprise me? Brandon Glover. Look, making 55 saves in your T-birds debut is a "wow" event but Glover was the same as the goalie I saw in preseason. He was just so calm and under control, especially in that first period sea of madness all around him.
Portland is a very good team, emphasis on the very good. Seth Jones is as advertised and I'd be shocked if he spends more than one season in a 'Hawks jersey before the NHL beckons. He already has an NHL body. Ty Rattie is going to get his goals and their power play will probably be at or near the top of the league when all is said and done.
On at least this one night though, Seattle proved they can play with them, and even outplay them. But I've got a feeling it's not just a one night thing. Seattle is going to be competitive no matter who the opponent. Just a word of advice on the rest of the WHL: Don't sleep on the Seattle Thunderbirds.