Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Deuce

Round Two of the postseason begins Friday night at home for the Thunderbirds. Seattle goes head-to-head in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal against, their division as well as closest geographic rival, the Everett Silvertips. This will be just the second time since Everett joined the league back in 2003 that these two teams have met in postseason play, but the second time in the past three years.

This should be an exciting series. One of these two teams occupied the top spot in the U.S. Division just about every day this season. At the very least you are getting the two most consistent, if not the top two teams, in the division in this round of postseason play. These clubs seem to bring out the best in each other's competitive nature.

Two seasons ago the T-birds opened the 2014 playoffs by winning a first round best-of-seven series by beating the 'Tips in five games. Seattle won two of those games by a single goal, including a pivotal Game 3 in overtime. each team also registered a 5-goal win. So, the series was closer then the final outcome might indicate.

Only seven current T-birds who participated in that series remain on the roster of this year's Seattle team. Only six Silvertips on this year's version of Everett were on that team two springs ago. But each of those 13 players who participated in the series in 2014, will have a much bigger role to play this time around then they did back then. Two players who did have an impact on that series could do so again this year. Seattle's Scott Eansor and Everett's Patrick Bajkov both tallied three goals in that five game set. Oddly, both players wear #8.

Like this postseason, Seattle also had home ice advantage when these two teams met in the 2014 playoffs but there were no back-to-back home games for either team as the two organizations agreed on a 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 format. That won't be the case this time around as they will play a traditional 2-2-1-1-1 series.

Often when playoffs roll around we talk about throwing out the regular season but, I think, in this case both teams can get some confidence from what took place over the ten game, regular season series. Everett won six of the ten games while Seattle won the last three head-to-head.

As far as this series goes? I wouldn't expect anything different in style and effort from what we saw during the regular season. I would expect low scoring, grind-it-out battles typical not just of this rivalry but fairly typical of what you get as you go deeper into the playoffs. Both these teams do a good job of rolling four lines, of maximizing their rosters by getting the most out of every player on the bench. Is their a key to winning for either team? I'd say with scoring chances most likely at a premium, the one that capitalizes on those rare chances will prevail. I know that sounds like the understatement of the year but how often do you see a low scoring battle turn, not on the goals scored, but the chances missed?

Both teams are probably tired of practicing but not playing. Both Seattle and Everett closed out their first round series in four games. The T-birds, of course, took out the Prince George Cougars while Everett was sweeping the Portland Winterhawks. Both haven't played since last Wednesday meaning if will be well over a week between games, for both teams, when they finally set skate blade back on the ice Friday night at the ShoWare Center for Game 1. I would expect though, that both teams are prepared to go the distance with seven games scheduled over the course of 11 days.

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