Sunday, March 10, 2013

Three is a Magic Number

Well, it's gonna be one heck of a final week of play in the Western Conference. Three teams fighting for two playoff spots, separated by five points. Seattle and Everett meanwhile have just three games left, Prince George which lost Sunday in Vancouver, has four. For the second straight season it looks like it will come down to the final day of the season.

Only Seattle doesn't play on the final day of the regular season. The Thunderbirds end their season at home next Saturday against Portland. If they don't have a playoff spot wrapped up by then, they will be sitting on pins and needles as Everett hosts the Tri-City Americans the next day. Hopefully, it doesn't come to that.

Last night was a close, tight game as expected. I just didn't think the T-birds generated enough offensive opportunities. Two of their goals, Lockhart's shorthanded goal that opened the scoring, and Theodore's unassisted even strength goal in the third period, were just great individual efforts. Even Honey's wrap around goal was a lot of individual determination. I think if you score just three goals and there is just one assist among them, you're not doing enough to create scoring chances.

Before the game head coach Steve Konowalchuk stressed getting traffic in front of Everett goalie Austin Lotz, putting lots of shots on net and getting to rebounds to score greasy goals. But the only greasy goals scored in the game were scored by Everett. The Silvertips last three goals were all from going hard to the net and getting to a rebound.

Now, there is some debate on whether they did that cleanly on the game winner. T-birds goalie Brandon Glover didn't think so. He felt he was knocked into by a 'Tips player and that created the goal. It's obvious he thought there should have been a goaltender interference call on the play. That just exacerbated the situation for Glover who also was upset when he was assessed a minor penalty earlier in the third period for playing the puck behind the goal line, outside the trapezoid. That penalty led to an Everett power play goal that gave Everett their first lead.

Did he do the crime? I don't know. I haven't seen video to confirm it. If he did, even by inches and the official was following the "letter of the law", then it's a penalty. But we saw the previous night versus Prince George, and most of the third period against Everett, that the officials were keeping the whistle in their pocket and "letting them play".

So, you're going to look the other way at a hold or a possible interference, hooking or tripping calls but call a penalty like that? As I recall it was a dump in by the Silvertips and they were making a line change. Glover came out of his crease off the left post, above the goal line, to stop the puck and was holding it for his defenseman. He may have casually stickhandled the puck past the goal line. He wasn't trying to gain any advantage. He wasn't under duress by the Silvertips forecheck. late in a 2-2 game with heavy playoff implications, is that call necessary?

If you're the referee making that call, and think it is necessary, then you better whistle every other infraction that violates the "letter of the law" in that game. Like, oh, I don't know, checking from behind?

In the end it is up to the Seattle players to keep their emotions in check. Instead, they let their emotions get the better of them and it could come back to bite them in this final week of play. I'm guessing Glover's actions at the end of the game are going to get him at least a one game suspension. It's not clear if he left the bench to join the melee. He was on his way to the bench for the extra attacker when the donnybrook began. This time of the season you need your number one goalie. Glover is no good to the team sitting in the stands watching the game in street clothes.

Time to move on from this one and put the focus on the next game against the Tri-City Americans who invade the ShoWare Center Tuesday. A win over the Ams and we'll be forgetting the loss to Everett.

With Prince George's loss Sunday in Vancouver the T-birds magic number for clinching at least a tie for 8th place is three. The easiest way to reach that is for the T-birds to win one of their final three games and Prince George lose one of their final four.

Heading into the final week of play here is the pace to the playoffs:

7. Seattle 55 pts. On pace for 57 pts with three game remaining (home vs. Tri-City, at Portland and home vs. Portland).

8. Everett 54 pts. On pace for 56 pts with three games remaining (at Victoria, home vs. Victoria, home vs. Tri-City).

9. Prince Geeorge 50 pts. On pace for 53 pts with four games remaining (at Spokane, at Kelowna, at Kamloops, home vs. Kamloops).

In memory of Bruce McDonald, 1971-2012

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