Let's play a multiple choice game regarding last night's 4-3 overtime win versus Spokane, shall we?
A. Seattle was very fortunate to earn even a point, let alone two. They were their own worst enemy last night with multiple defensive zone gaffes and ill-timed penalties.
B. Seattle actually deserved a better fate. They were dominate with their forecheck for good stretches of the game and a couple bounces of the puck here or there and they should have won in regulation.
C. A win is a win is a win. It may have not been their best sixty minutes of hockey, but when all is said and done they don't ask you how, just how many.
While A and B are good choices, I'm going with "C". This is a results based business. The bottom line is they won the game. It took a strong effort to come from behind three times, mainly because they had to overcome their own miscues, but over the course of nearly 64 minutes of hockey, the Thunderbirds were the better team. You hate to give up a point to a team you're battling in the standings for playoff position, but after their recent struggles to start the month the T-birds have now won three in a row and they are slowly getting players back from the list of walking wounded.
In 38 games against the rest of the league, the Spokane combination of Mitch Holmberg and Mike Aviani have combined for 137 points (70 g, 69a.)and are +49. In four games against Seattle they have combined for five points (3g, 2a)and are also a combined -8. Based on those numbers, is it any surprise that the T-birds are 4-0 against the Chiefs this season?
Everyone wants that blockbuster deal to bring in a superstar player at the trade deadline as their team sets up for the second half of the season and the playoff push. But, sometimes it is the under-the-radar move that makes the difference. I doubt most Seattle fans had heard about Russell Maxwell before Seattle GM Russ Farwell picked him up from Lethbridge on Thursday. While Maxwell didn't register a point in his Thunderbirds debut Saturday night, you couldn't help but be impressed with his effort. He was solid on face-offs, made crisp passes, was a pest on the forecheck and is a top line skater and puck handler.
The only question now is what line will he end up playing on? He's a plug and play type player, meaning he could skate with anybody. Last night he was out there mostly with Justin Hickman and Ryan Gropp but as the team slowly gets back to full health it will be interesting to see what line combinations head coach Steve Konowalchuk goes with. In the end, don't be surprised if Maxwell ends up on a line with his former Lethbridge teammates, Sam McKechnie and Jaimen Yakubowski. Yakubowski returned to the ice last night for the first time since early December. Having not practiced much, his ice time was limited but once he's back to full strength, that line combination's familiarity with each other makes sense.
Funny what a little rest and time off between games can do. Out of necessity (injuries to the back up) goalie Danny Mumaugh was overused on the T-birds recent 5-games-in-6-nights road trip and his GAA took a big hit as a result. But given time off and a chance to rest between his last two starts, he's played nearly 130 minute of hockey and allowed just four goals, compiling a 2-0-0-0 record with a 1.88 GAA and a save percentage of .926. Those are numbers pretty much in line with what he did most of December when the 'Birds were going 7-2-1-0.
In the absence of Branden Troock and Mathew Barzal, the Seattle combination of Roberts Lipsbergs and Alexander Delnov have picked up the offensive mantle during this current three game winning streak. Dating back to Tuesday's 9-7 win in Prince George the two players have combined for 16 points (7g, 9a) and are +3.
Who's next out of the hospital ward? With the return of Yakubowski to the lineup Saturday, Seattle still awaits the return of a healthy Troock, Barzal and Connor Honey. Not sure we'll see any of those three players Tuesday when the T-birds travel to Spokane for the rematch with the Chiefs, but I do expect to see the debut of new goaltender Taran Kozun.