Saturday, November 17, 2012

Home Cookin'

That's a nice way to come off an elongated road swing and begin a 5-game homestand. The T-birds and Medicine Hat played a very entertaining game before a very enthusiastic Pub Night crowd. As the game went on the sense was the last team to score would win and fortunately it was Seattle.

You might think that getting a chance to play for Team Russia in the Super Series vs. Team WHL earlier this week is the impetus for Alexander Delnov's big night against Medicine Hat. Actually though, Delnov caught fire in the last game of the recent 7-game road trip, the T-birds 6-2 win over Saskatoon, in which he scored a goal and was dangerous any time the puck was on his stick. Delnov seems to be getting more comfortable with the North American style of play and the smaller ice surface.

Both goalies were good last night but in a close game like that there comes a point when a goalie makes a save that is a difference maker. That happened late in the game when Seattle's Brandon Glover made a nice post-to-post move in the crease, sliding over to make a save while the Tigers were on the power play threatening to tie the game.

I thought Roberts Lipsbergs was fighting the puck most of the game but his game-winning goal was a beauty. He didn't hesitate after pouncing on a rebound. He just got it on his stick and without looking whipped it, with his back almost to the goal, inside the right post. He knew he had the goalie down and out of position and gave him no chance to recover. If he waits to get square to the goal, he probably doesn't score.

Shea Theodore ended up with just one point, assisting on the Thunderbirds second goal, but he was very strong on the puck most of the night, carrying the puck away from danger or starting a few odd man rushes.

He sees the ice very well and a few of his stretch passes came oh-so-close to springing his teammates on breakaways. Scouting services have him ranked as a potential first round pick for next spring's NHL Entry Draft and games like last night can only help his stock.

I thought Evan Wardley had one of his stronger games of the season. He was very physical, throwing the body around and finishing his checks without taking a penalty. He also kept it very simple when he had the puck on his stick, making the quick and right decision.

I didn't see much on that last penalty called against Jared Hauf. He was whistled for a slash and protested rather heatedly. Maybe it was justice then, that that was the only Medicine Hat power play the T-birds were able to kill off.

Since being shutout in Prince Albert, the T-birds have responded with ten goals in their next two games, both wins. The T-birds and Tigers are similar in a number of ways statistically and both are .500 teams. But where they differ is in how they produce offense. Medicine Hat relies on their top line of Shinkaruk, Pearce and Valk while Seattle spreads the wealth among three lines. While it's nice to have that high top line of reliable scorers, I like the Seattle model. If that Tigers top line gets shut down or has an off night, I didn't see a second line that could pick up the slack while Seattle was able to generate chances from all four of their lines last night.

Seattle put 37 shots on goal last night, which is exactly what they are averaging over their last six games. That may be their best six game stretch for shots on goal in a couple of seasons.

In memory of Bruce McDonald, 1971-2012

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