Monday, October 12, 2015

Winning Weekend for the Comeback Crew

While you don't want to make a habit of falling behind in every game, you're also not going to score the first goal every night either. You're not going to have the lead for 60 minutes every game. There will be times you'll be behind. Having the ability to erase a deficit, whether it's early in the first period or late in the game, is a sign of a confident, skilled and patient team. Five games into the season Seattle has displayed that confidence and come back ability in four contests. The best attribute is staying calm. Despite the early deficits they don't panic. The Thunderbirds have had the lead on the road for only 6:20 out of 182 minutes yet their road record is 1-1-1 and have earned three road points, all because they have shown the ability to come back from early deficits time and time again.

One reason the Thunderbirds are 3-1-1 so far this young season is they have owned the third period. To date the T-Birds have outscored the opposition in the final period, 6-0, and outshot them 62-27. To be fair, the other side of that coin would be the first period in which Seattle has been outscored 8-3 and outshot 54-38. While you want them to continue the dominating third period trend, you also want them to improve on their starts. Sunday down in Portland actually was an improvement. Shots were even at 9-9 and the Winterhawks goal came late on the power play, primarily the result of a very good individual effort by Dominic Turgeon.

This brings me back to Seattle's supposed question mark coming into the season; goaltending. Seattle got two very good back-to-back efforts this weekend from the tandem of Taz Burman and Logan Flodell. Burman continues to be put under duress by his defense early in games. He faced 10 shots before the first period 10 ten minutes old Saturday versus Prince Albert and I'd guess seven of them were quality scoring chances. If you face seven quality scoring chances in a 10-minute span and stop five of them, you're doing well to keep your team in the game. Burman then made the only save of the shootout and that sealed the win for the T-Birds.

Flodell was just as sharp Sunday in Portland. I think he'd like another crack at that first Portland goal, the one that just snuck under his right pad, but he made a nice stop of a puck rolling along the goal line late in the third period to preserve Seattle's lead. We're just five games into the season so the battle is still too close to say one has gained the upper hand over the other and as long as they both continue to play well, Burman and Flodell will continue to share the goaltending duties.

I thought Prince Albert goalie Rylan Parenteau was going to steal a win for his team Saturday night at the ShoWare Center. He was the only reason the Raiders were still in that game after surrendering their early two-goal cushion. From the midway point of the first period, after Prince Albert had scored twice, Seattle dominated play, outshooting PA from that point 31-10. In the standings it will say the Raiders earned a point from that game but in reality, it was Parenteau who earned that point.

The second period versus the Winterhawks was a mess, for both teams, with a combined eight penalties called that resulted in eight power plays. A lack of 5-on-5 hockey took away any flow the game may have had. Honestly though, I can't recollect a penalty that wasn't warranted as it was a bit of a sloppy effort by both sides. It just might have been the result of the first game between two long time rivals who play each other 12 times every season.

Matt Barzal has three points in two games since returning from the NHL training camp of the New York Islanders. Barzal played both games this weekend at less then 100 percent as he was feeling a bit under the weather. So we probably got 85-90 percent of Barzal this weekend and he was still probably the best player on the ice. His cross slot pass to set up Jarret Tyszka's game tying, second period, power-play goal Sunday was a thing of beauty.

Speaking of Tyszka, not a bad start for the 16-year-old rookie and 2014 first round draft pick. Sunday in Portland he registered the first multi-point game of his WHL career (1g, 1a) and was defensively responsible as well. Tyszka is already seeing a lot of time on the power play and as a result has two powerplay goals.

With Seattle taking as many penalties in the second period as they did Sunday against Portland, Sahvan Khaira got some time on the penalty kill and had a couple of solid shifts. He also was guilty of one of those infractions though. It was penalty by committee in that game so he wasn't alone in that boat. Overall I thought he put together two good efforts on the weekend. Consistency from shift-to-shift and game-to-game is what the coaches are looking for from the second year d-man and Saturday and Sunday were a step in the right direction.

With everyone back and healthy, Nic Holowko has been moved down to the fourth line. This is a player with 3rd or even 2nd line ability so that speaks to the depth of the forward group on this team. Of course Holowko can also be used as an affective penalty killer and even on the fourth line he is going to impact games. Sunday in Portland he made a strong rush down the left wing, nutmegged the Winterhawks defenseman and just missed scoring on a backhand attempt.

Once again, no midweek games for the Thunderbirds who are off before playing two home games this weekend, hosting Kamloops Friday before welcoming Victoria to town Saturday. Before that be sure to join me Thursday evening at 6 p.m. for the weekly Seattle Thunderbirds Coach's Show on 1090 The Fan.

My T-birds three stars of the weekend sweep:

3rd Star: Defenseman Jarret Tyszka. On a team with two 20-year-old d-men, an NHL drafted d-man and three defensemen who attended NHL camps this September, the young Tyszka still stood out. In particular with his two point effort in the win down in Portland on Sunday. It's going to be fun watching him develop over the course of this season and next.

2nd Star: Center Alexander True. With three goals so far this season, all scored on Sundays, maybe we should call him the preacher or, because of his deep baratone voice with the Danish accent, how about the Sermonator? Not only did he have the game winner Sunday versus the Winterhawks but both T-birds goal scorers in Saturday's win over Prince Albert (Barzal and Kolesar), credited True with helping set up their goals even though he didn't get an assist on either.

1st Star: Center Matt Barzal. Whether it was the flu or a nasty cold, he was not at 100 percent health this weekend but still managed three points (1g, 2a) and a shootout goal. If this is how Barzal plays when he is under the weather, I can't wait to see him play when he's over the weather.


  1. On Saturday night, the T-Birds and Burman got lucky, really. Besides the two goals early, four others got behind Burman (I was sitting just south of the goal line at that end. On a couple, Burman was able to cover the puck and on the other two, the puck was cleared by defensemen.Still, Burman kept them in the game with some big saves, while the rest of the team found their game, just before Barzal's goal.

    I agree with your assessment of Tyszka, the kid is mature beyond his years. This early in the season and his career, I would dare say he is ahead of where Theo was, at the same age.

    Another person who could have been a third star Saturday night, was Scottie Eansor. Although he didn't score, he came close on several occasions and was a thorn in the side of The Raiders. That whole line was, really. The speed they have are going to be a problem for the other team's top line and they in turn will be scoring threats. All three are darn good and are capable of at least 20 goals. Eansor had 16 last year and Watson came close to scoring 30, on a bad team. Volcan certainly has the talent to notch 20 or more.

    As a matter of fact, the top 9 could do that this year, that kind of talent is there. I'm not saying it will happen, but it could be a strong possibility. There is some talented players on the 4th line and a couple not playing every game.

    Once Barzal gets better and Gropp gets a couple more under his belt (this is basically his training camp), the sky is the limit there. Kolesar is due for a huge year and I still would love to see him on a line with True and Olhaver. That line would be big and the one pre-season game I saw them together, they seemed to have chemistry. Of course if he stays with Barzal, that wouldn't be bad either.

    In the game against Prince George, Holowko battled in back of the net and along the half boards and came out with the puck. He made a beautiful pass over to Tyszka, who had the smarts to break in on the wide open Left wing and he one timed it into the net. Big time play by both of them.

    I'm happy to see Barzal looking to shoot a bit more this year. It's been frustrating in the past, to see him pass up a great scoring opportunity, to make that perfect pass. Now if he would just be a little stronger on the's the only weakness I see in his game.

    The one thing I would like to see a bit more, is someone screening the goalie. Too many times, the goalie sees the puck all the way to him. Kolesar can do it and Olhaver has the size and hands to be very effective doing it. Unlike a lot of Europeans, he's got a bit of an edge to his game and doesn't seem to be intimidated, by the more physical North American game. Eansor, for as small as he is, isn't afraid to be around the net either.

    If there is a weakness in Gropp's game, it's that he needs to play with more of an edge and crash the net a bit more. He's got the skating ability, speed and shot, he just needs to play a bit more physical.

    John June

    1. I have to agree with pretty much all your points here:

      1) I'd like to see Kolesar stick with the Barzal and Gropp line because they are clicking, but once Barzal and Gropp are gone for the World Juniors, I think we may get a few games with Kolesar playing with Olhaver and True (granted at the rate he is playing there is a chance Kolesar might get picked for the WJ's as well, (and I guess there is a chance that both Ohlaver and True with also both be gone playing for their respective countries as well) but we will just have to wait and see).

      2) In regards to your comments about Tyszka, I'm inclined to agree with you, but it's tough to say for sure. Tyszka is playing on a MUCH better team than Theodore EVER played for during his time here in Seattle. In terms of offensive prowess, I think Theodore was a little more advanced (he had 35 pts in 69 games during his 16 year old season, and if Tyszka plays 69 games he's on pace for 29.5 pts), but in regards to defensive maturity, I think Tyszka is WAY beyond where Theo was at the same age (and considering he is a defenseman, I'd take that all day long). Remember, it wasn't until Theo's 18 year old season where he finally started to play more sound defense (he was -60 through his first 2 seasons with Seattle). Tyszka on the other hand is playing at least as well defensively as an 18 year old Theo (in my opinion), and I can't wait to see him skate as an 18 year old himself.

      3) Finally, in regards to the goaltender situation, I'd like to see Flodell get more of a chance to win 1st goalie honors. From what I've seen so far, I think Flodell is a better overall goaltender. In fairness to Taz, a few of the games he has started, there hasn't been much (or any) team defense in front of him, but I still see some definite flaws. The biggest one (and most important to me) is his lack of ability to move side to side. I think Flodell moves post to post very will for an 18 year old and he's already made a couple of spectacular saves this way in the early parts of the season. Burman on the other hand struggles to move post to post and it became very obvious to me during the PA game. Not only did a number of pucks get behind him (as you pointed out), but PA also had a number of wide open nets to shoot at after cross ice passes due to Burman's inability to move across the crease. One we got lucky on because the PA player hit the outside of the net, and another one we got lucky because Smith got his stick on the puck at the last second (otherwise the puck would have easily made it's way to the back of the net and given PA a 3 - 2 lead late in the 3rd). Good teams know the best way to score is to get the goalie moving side to side (especially on the PP) and so far Burman hasn't shown me the ability to do that consistently (at least compared to Flodell).