Friday, April 4, 2014

Can Only Go Up From Here

A game if inches. Seattle was that close to tying the game at 3-3 midway through the second period when Sam McKechnie intercepted a pass at his own blue line and raced down ice on a breakaway. McKechnie didn't get the puck cleanly so it took a stride to get control as he bore down on Rockets goalie Jordan Cooke. With two Rockets players in pursuit McKechnie probably didn't feel he had the time or space to make a deke, so he picked a spot and shot and Cooke made the save.

That was as close as Seattle would get to making a closer game of it. Kelowna scored two late second period goals and another earlier in the third to pull away for the 6-2 win in Game 1 of this Western Conference Semifinal. Missed opportunities was a theme of the night for Seattle as twice in the first period they missed wide open nets after a couple of nice back door passes. You can't leave goals on the ice against good teams.

The Thunderbirds play a physical brand of hockey and that will lead to a few penalties along the way. It's part of the price they pay for laying the body. Giving up 3-4 power plays per game is acceptable, but not 6-7. It was the easily avoidable penalties Seattle committed, the slashing, high sticking and tripping, that made the difference and those penalties aren't the result of physical play. Seattle made it too easy for the officials to make those calls. Sometimes playing smarter is more important then playing harder. But whether you give the opponent four power plays or seven, if you're going to take penalties, you need to be good on the PK. In Game 1, the T-birds were not.

Goalie Taran Kozun fought the puck all night, or maybe it was the other way around. Either way it was uncharacteristic of Kozun's play since joining the T-birds back in January. I expect him to bounce back in Game 2. He usually is solid with his puck handling ability.

When half the team plays well and the other half doesn't, you get results like Seattle got in Game 1. If the T-birds are to get the split with a Game 2 win, they need everyone on the same page.

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