I know it can be frustrating for fans to watch their team play so well, control a game and not get rewarded for the effort such as happened Saturday night for the T-birds against Vancouver and has happened at least three or four other times already this season. Fans don't want to be told to be patient when their team is missing out on valuable points. It's like finding a twenty dollar bill in the parking lot outside the grocery store only to lose it by shoving it in the pant pocket with the hole in it. Then you don't discover that hole in your pocket until you get to the cash register and try to pay for that extra item you want to purchase and that twenty dollar bill is nowhere to be found.
Let's use another analogy, since I'm forced to watch a lot of DIY and HGTV at home. The Thunderbirds are doing a terrific job of laying down a foundation for a successful season. They've even put up some sturdy walls, finished the plumbing and electrical and added a few appliances. The house is just about move in ready, but they have to finish. They need to close that house up by adding a new roof. Without it, their project is getting rained on.
Before that can be done though, there will be a few setbacks, changes to the blueprints or the need for some touch up paint. Afterall, the construction just started a little over a month ago and to be honest, I think they're a little ahead of schedule, considering they're using so many apprentice workers and one of their best carpenters hasn't been on the job site yet. You just have to have faith that when the house is completed, it will be one of the most valuable properties on the block.
Thursday against Edmonton they finished the kitchen. They did a terrific job of taking the game to the Oil Kings. They set the tone with an aggressive, in-your-face style against the defending champs. They pushed the pace for 60 minutes with a relentless forecheck that kept Edmonton on their heels most of the game. It was a high energy effort from start to finish that allowed Seattle to roll four lines consistently and pile up a season high five goals.
Saturday against Vancouver was more of the same as the T-birds once again set the tone and tempo for the game. The problem against the Giants was that some of the nails got bent or missed the studs. There were probably the same, if not more, scoring chances Saturday but the T-birds struggled to finish. Certainly you have to give credit to the Giants goalie, Cody Porter, who was credited with 38 saves in earning the shutout. But I didn't think Seattle made the most of their chances. They left too many scoring chances on the doorstep, flailed away at a few pucks lying around the Vancouver crease in front of an open net, or were beaten to loose pucks by Giants players.
Let's remember, most teams are, on average, 15-17 games into the season and as of Saturday, only four points separate third place from 10th place in the Western Conference. There is still a lot of hockey to be played.
I'm a little concerned about the power play. I still see the T-birds trying to be too perfect, looking for the that one great chance rather then throwing pucks on goal and crashing the net for rebounds. As a result, Seattle is 0-for-11 since scoring twice with the man advantage against Spokane three games ago. One issue is not making a good tape-to-tape pass. that means the shooter has to settle the puck instead of getting off a one-timer and that allows the penalty killers to get in front of the shooter and block the shot.
Also, since coming off his three game absence due to injury, Ethan Bear has been off target with his usually reliable shot. At least four times in the past two games his shot has been high and or wide. It's just a matter of time before he gets that dialed back in. That and the return of Shea Theodore should help improve the power play.
Speaking of Theodore, Anaheim assigned him to their AHL affiliate Norfolk for a two-week conditioning stint. He's played in a couple of games for the Admirals and picked up two assists so it is clear the elbow is healed. But under the rules, he can't stay there. Once his conditioning assignment is over he has to go back up to the NHL or be returned to Seattle. Also, any games he plays for Norfolk count toward his free agency time line. Theodore signed his standard three year NHL entry contract shortly after being drafted. So, he could play seven more games with Norfolk/Anaheim before the clock starts ticking (it kicks in once you've played 10 pro games) and he would need to be sent back to the T-birds.
Finally the Thunderbirds announced that goalie Logan Flodell has been assigned to the Nipawin Hawks of the SJHL. That leaves Seattle with two goalies, Taran Kozun and Danny Mumaugh, and also reduces their roster from 11 down to ten rookies. The 17 year old Flodell appeared in just one game, getting the start and playing well in a 3-1 loss to Prince George. This by no means is a slight on Flodell's abilities. Rather it speaks more to the depth Seattle has in the goalie position.
My T-birds Three Stars for the past week:
Third Star: Goalie Taran Kozun. While he only faced a combined 44 shots in two games, there were a number of high quality scoring chances against as the T-birds had a penchant for turning the puck over right in front of their own goal. Kozun stood tall, allowing just three goals. The two in the Edmonton game came well after the outcome had been decided and both were scored off deflections. He made the early saves necessary when the game was still scoreless. And you certainly can't fault him for the Vancouver power play goal that won it for the Giants Saturday. Vancouver's Alec Baer was allowed to just skate the puck out of the corner uncontested, right to the front of the T-birds goal. That missed assignment can't be laid at Kozun's feet. Meanwhile Kozun continues to be like a third defenseman out on the ice the way he handles the puck behind his own net.
Second Star: Scott Eansor. I think we can stop using the term "underrated" now when describing Eansor. I think the other teams in the Western Conference are well aware of what he can do. Whatever his offseason workout program is, it should be copied by all his teammates because he's physically ready to go 200 feet for 60 minutes each night. Along with his stamina, he has tremendous power in his legs that make him one of the league's quickest skaters. He plays to the whistle and beyond. His four game point streak was snapped Saturday but certainly not for lack of effort. His biggest asset may be that he makes those he plays with more effective as he and his linemates are all plus players.
First Star: Matt Barzal. If not for the post Saturday night against Vancouver, Barzal would have probably had the Goal of the Week in the WHL. He completely undressed the Giants big Russian defenseman on that shorthanded, backhand chance. Penalty killing is a new role for him this season but he has taken to it like a dog to a bone. He set up his teammates with a couple of real good opportunities in that game as well. You wonder how many points he'd have right now if the T-birds were better finishers. He still had a three point night Thursday and was, without question, the most dynamic player on the ice both nights. I'd still like him to shoot more but he has such great vision he usually finds the open player with the puck. He plays the game so calmly which to me means he processes it faster them most players. He's barely into his second season in the WHL and he's just now scratching the surface of what he can do.