Sunday, January 20, 2013

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

Thank goodness that's over. That Tiger Budbill sure does like to draw out the national anthem...oh, and the T-birds put a halt this weekend to their 15 game winless skid with a 4-3 win over Portland Saturday. Then, for good measure, they won again Sunday, 6-5, in a shootout over Lethbridge.

One reason for Seattle's two game winning streak is their health. Going into the home game Saturday against the Winterhawks, Seattle finally had all their skaters healthy. Every teams likes to think they can get by when one or two players go down with injury, but those injuries affect your depth. For Seattle, injuries cost them their two leading scorers for a while. That's hard to overcome. It affects your continuity. It also cost them some depth. Now, with everyone healthy it means competition for ice time and that should make everyone sharper as they play to earn ice time.

The win over Portland was probably Seattle's best 60 minutes of hockey on the season, especially when you consider the circumstances (facing a possible 16 game losing streak) and the opponent (the top ranked team in the WHL). the T-birds really kept it simple; no wasted energy trying to make an extra pass or a highlight reel pass. They just put the puck on net. Friday in their loss up in Everett I saw too much of the former and not enough of the latter.

It was an emberrasment of riches in the shots on goal department for the 'Birds this weekend. In the three games Seattle totalled 143 shots on goal, highlighted by a season high 59 on Sunday. That's about 48 per game, on average. Do that and most nights you're gonna win games. Now the downside is the T-birds only scored 10 goals on thos 143 shots so they need to continue to work on their finishing. The encouraging sign is that with each subsequent game they scored more goals (1 @ Evt,4 vs. Port. and then 5 against Leth.), so they were trending in the right direction.

Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to the opposing goalie. Ty Rimmer is one goalie who has seemingly had Seattle's number in his WHL career. Whether with Brandon, Prince George, Tri-City or Lethbridge it seemed he was just unbeatable when the 'Birds played against him, so getting the win Sunday is pretty impressive.

I think the game Saturday was the first time this season where Seattle showed no fear playing against the Winterhawks. Maybe part of that is they had nothing to lose. Maybe part of it was they stopped worrying about the opponent and just focused on their own game. Whatever the reason, they outplayed Portland, if only for one night, and made the 'Hawks look like mere mortals for most of those 60 minutes. Whatever game you play you really have to live by the credo, respect your opponent, fear no one.

Seattle made no blockbuster deal at the trade deadline but the subtle moves they did make are working out well. In five games since the trades, the T-birds new acquistions Andrew Johnson and Adam Kambeitz have combined for 3g and 2a with one of the goals being a game winner.

One final note. Maybe it's short term memory on my part but I have to say the sold out building for Saturday's game versus Portland was the best crowd since Seattle moved into the ShoWare Center. Not just because it was big; there have been sold out games before. Not just because it was Teddy Bear Toss Night, though that too was part of it and it brought in a lot of first time fans. No, there just seemed to be an energy about that crowd and the players seemed to feed off of it.

That crowd just wouldn't let the team get down on themselves after a mistake or a Portland goal. They stayed behind the players the whole night. It says a lot about the people coming to the game, selling out the building for a team riding a 15 game losing streak. I think it's a sign of things to come as this team builds for the near future. So hats off to the 6,009 T-bird crazies.

In memory of Bruce McDonald, 1971-2012

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