I thought the T-birds played some good hockey last night against Spokane. But sometimes you can play good hockey without looking good while doing it. In other words, they played well enough to lose.
Here's chiefly (no pun intended) what I didn't like about their effort against Spokane; very little presence in front of the Spokane net. Chiefs goalie Eric Williams played well. He was probably the biggest difference maker in the game, but he wasn't perfect and left a few pucks in that prime scoring area in front of the goal. I didn't think Seattle payed the price to get into that part of the ice between the top of the crease and just below the hash marks in order to get second chance opportunities.
The last six times Seattle has outshot their opponent, their record is just 3-3 and I think the biggest reason for that is they are not scoring those greasy goals. They are not going hard to the net, at least not consistently. You just aren't going to score every goal on the initial shot. You have to win the battle for rebounds. The T-birds are now averaging 3.04 goals per game, which is down from 3.4 earlier in the season and getting dangerously close to falling below that three goals per game average I think they need to finish above .500.
Seattle entered the weekend ranked number one in the WHL on the power play then promptly went 1-8 in the two games with the man advantage. When you are the top dog at anything, it puts a bullseye on your back so you have to work harder or adjust to retain your lofty status. Seattle looked very dangerous on the first PP against the Chiefs but were anything but dangerous on the next three chances. They finished the game 0-for-4 on the power play when just one goal would have probably earned them at least a point.
Look, every team's power play goes through peaks and valleys but when you are struggling to score 5-on-5, one power play goal can be the difference between winning and losing. It was last night. Spokane took the penalties but the 'Birds didn't make them pay for their transgressions.
You want your best players to be the best players on the ice. Win or lose, on most night's this season I notice the effort of Brendan Rouse and Luke Lockhart. No matter the score, they play hard through every shift. Last night I didn't notice either player too much. Just one of the games through the course of a 72 game schedule where maybe both were just a little off their game.
Sometimes you can see a light bulb go off over a player's head and you think, I believe he's figuring it out. I hope it's the case with defenseman Evan Wardley who I think played two very solid games back-to-back. I talked to Wardley before the game last night and he essentially admitted he's got to play the game smarter, keep it simple and cut down on mistakes. His decision making over the past two games was much better then it has been. As Yogi Berra once said, "baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical." The same is true of hockey and the sooner you figure that out the better player you will be.
In memory of Bruce McDonald, 1971-2012