Sunday, March 2, 2014

Marching On

Are you ready for a hockey-stavaganza? Beginning with tonight's game against Everett, Seattle plays eight games in 15 days. They play almost as many games in the first 16 days of March (9) as they did in the entire 28 days of February (11).

There are two schools of thought on that, both pro and con. If you get on a roll over that span, that good play can carry you right into the playoffs. On the other hand, playing that many games in such a short span could tire you out just as the postseason arrives. We'll see how it works out because just about every team in the league is dealing with the same situation.

The Thunderbirds started the month of March with a solid 4-1 win over Portland Saturday night before a sold out ShoWare Center. Is there a little of CenturyLink Field in the ShoWare Center? The ShoWare Center isn't the biggest arena in the league and Seattle has been on the road in front of crowds both bigger and of similar size to the 6,031 who were in the building last night. I'm just wondering if the design of the building or the materials used in its construction helps funnel the noise created by the fans right down on top of the ice, similar to the way the design of CenturyLink Field helps hold the noise on top of the field at Seahawks games. Six thousand fans at the ShoWare Center just seems louder then 6,000 in other barns.

Of course no matter the design of the building, there is no noise without the fans who had the Joint on James Street jumping last night. They were into it early but I thought Taran Kozun's save on Oliver Bjorkstrand's shorthanded breakaway goal in the first period was the turning point and really got the crowd out of their seats. Don't think the players appreciate that? Their center ice salute to the fans at games end tells you all you need to know. And that the majority of the fans stick around for that and the three star announcement makes it all the better. Seattle is 22-5-1-3 at the ShoWare Center this season and the home crowd is a big reason why. Show then good competitive hockey, and the fans at the ShoWare Center will show you their appreciation.

A good lot of that noise was created by the families of the players. It is Parent's Weekend and if you get a chance Sunday, thank the player's parent for letting their sons be part of this organization. Can't be easy for these parents to send their teenage sons so far from home to chase their hockey dreams.

Kozun was, once again, at the top of his game, improving his record with Seattle to 13-4-0-1 with a GAA of 1.80 and a save percentage of .944. I'm not in the least concerned with the shot total. So many of Portland's 42 shots were from the outside that they might as well have been shooting from the ShoWare Center parking lot. But when the Winterhawks did get into an optimal shooting position Kozun was seemingly always squared up to the shot. And again, I'll go back to something I've written about him previously, he plays the puck so well behind the net he disrupts a teams abilty to dump and chase, forcing teams to try to carry the puck in through the neutral zone.

The Thunderbirds may have had fewer shots then Portland last night with 35, but I'd fathom a guess that they had twice as many scoring chances. The good news is Seattle seems to be coming out of a bit of a scoring funk by getting more pucks to the net. Just a matter now of finishing more of those chances. They'll need that tonight against an Everett team that possesses a stifling defense and really clogs up the middle of the ice.

With their win last night, coupled with Spokane's loss, Seattle has whittled their magic number to clinch 4th place and home ice in the first round of the playoffs down to just eight points. As it stands right now, The T-birds can finish no lower then 6th place.

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