That darn post! If not for clinking a shot late in the third period Saturday off the right post, Seattle winger Roberts Lipsbergs would not only have completed his hat trick, but it would have given the T-birds power play goals in 13 straight games. That's about the only negative I can find from their 7-0 pasting of Everett at the ShoWare Center.
The reality is Seattle didn't need their power play to win the game. They were strong 5-on-5 all night long. The night before though their power play bailed them out, going 3-for-5 in coming back three times to earn a 4-3 overtime win over Lethbridge. Two games, two different ways to win but the same result, a crucial two points earned.
Saturday's win over the Silvertips was clearly the better effort over 60 minutes and was reminiscent of the way they had been playing most of the second half of the season; with consistency. That had gotten away from them the past couple of weeks as their efforts were a bit up and down. Hopefully Saturday's win brought them back to where they need to be with 13 games left in the regular season.
Another great example of playing well and affecting the outcome without ending up on the scoresheet comes from that win over Everett. The line of Calvin Spencer-Donovan Neuls-Nolan Volcan made life miserable all night for Everett's leading scorer, NHL first round draft pick Nikita Sherbak. Not only was Sherbak held pointless, but he finished the game at -3.
Speaking of Volcan, did anyone extend an invite to his dad Marty to play in the Hockey Challenge Celebrity/Alumni All Star game? tThe rosters for that game were inundated with former T-bird players such as Brendan Witt, Reagan Mueller and Brett Duncan, to name a few. Marty Volcan is a former Seattle Breaker. Would have been nice to see him out skating in the charity game on Parent's Weekend!
Nice to see Yashar Farmanara back in the area to play in that game, although he'd like another crack at that shootout attempt! Farmanara played for the T-birds between 2003-06 before being dealt to Lethbridge and eventually finishing his WHL career with Medicine Hat. Seattle G.M. Russ Farwell has made some great trade deadline acquisitions over the years (see Cory Millette, Brooks Laich, Tomas Mojizs, Ian McKenzie), but I think even he'd agree he'd like a do over on that deal that sent Farmanara and Mitch Fadden to the Hurricanes for Kyle Pess and Robert Klinkhammer back in 2006. Pess decided to leave the T-birds at the start of the next season, days after Seattle had dealt Klinkhammer to Portland. Meanwhile Farmanara would compile 90 points (45g) over the next two seasons with the Hurricanes and Tigers while Fadden would record 277 points, including 118 goals, over the next three years between stints with the Hurricanes and Tri-City Americans.
The Thunderbirds power play had been mired in the bottom half of the league standings for most of the season. Falling as low as 18th in the 22 team WHL and spending most of the season around 13 or 14 overall. But since the return of Shea Theodore and Matt Barzal to the lineup and the acquisition of Cory Millete from Prince Albert, the Seattle power play has been a force recently, rising as high as 6th overall and currently sitting at #8 following the 0-for-3 Saturday. For a team that has been near the bottom in goals scored in the league this season, the improved power play is a much needed weapon for their arsenal.
With the win over Everett, Seattle is now 9-3-1-0 the past two months of the season against the top four records in the Western Conference (Kelowna, Everett, Portland and Victoria).
My T-birds Three Stars for the past weekend:
3rd Star: D Jerret Smith. Smith had a goal and an assist in Friday's overtime win versus Lethbridge and that goal was the game winner. No points Saturday in the win over Everett but a steady force on the back end that helped limit the Silvertips to just 15 shots in the 7-0 shutout. Continues to be Seattle's most consistent defenseman this season. His eight goals this year more then doubles his career best and he has become a key cog to the T-birds number one power play unit.
2nd Star: LW Cory Millette. Might be the most bang for the buck that any team is getting from a player acquired at the trade deadline. He only cost Seattle a 6th round draft pick yet has been good for nearly a point a game since his acquisition from Prince Albert. In 19 games with Seattle he has 18 points (9g, 9a) and is a plus seven. By contrast in 39 games the first half of the season with Saskatoon and PA, he had 18 points (8g, 10a) and was -17. Another reason why Seattle's power play is clicking, five of his nine goals with the T-birds have come with the man advantage. Finished the weekend with five points (2g, 3a) and +3.
1st Star: C Matt Barzal. Every time I ask the T-birds coaching staff about Barzal they say he is still not at the top of his game yet, coming off his knee injury. In other words, they believe he still has another level to his game and he's just now scratching the surface. Okay, so right now we have 90 percent of Barzal, which isn't too shabby considering he finished the weekend with seven assists. At one point he had assisted on five straight T-birds goals, and seven of 10, going back to their loss last Sunday to Victoria. Despite missing nearly three months of the season (28 games)has moved back up to number two on the team in scoring with 39 points (11g, 28a), only seven points behind Ryan Gropp for the team lead. Averaging 1.26 points per game. When extrapolated out over a 72 games season, he would be on pace for 91 points.