Monday, May 9, 2016

Down, Definitely Not Out

Two close games, two overtime games, two winnable games, two punch-to-the-gut type losses. That's playoff hockey. A bounce here, a missed chance there. The difference between winning or losing at this time of the postseason is razor thin.

Despite those tough-to-take losses, this is still a series. It could easily be Seattle up 2-0, or the series could just as easily be tied at 1-1, but it's not. Seattle is in a 2-0 hole but it is not a hole they can't climb out of, especially with the next three games slated for the ShoWare Center. If Seattle can do what they've done on home ice all season, 35-6-2-0 when you combine regular and postseason play, they can get back in this series.

What will it take? First, Seattle has to throw more pucks on net, get more traffic in front of the Brandon goal and then finish their chances. You can lament how "flukey" or "lucky" some of the Wheat Kings goals have been in the first two games but the bottom line is this; those pucks went in because they put those pucks toward the Seattle goal then went hard to the net. Luck? Maybe. Flukey? Maybe. Earned? Yes. In a series where the difference between these two teams is so minimal, that one extra shot that creates that bounce could turn the game your way. It did for Brandon twice.

Secondly, Seattle needs to start getting some of those breaks. They need one of those good bounces or odd caroms to end up in the back of the Brandon net instead of theirs. But this circles back to the first point. You create that sort of luck by creating more scoring opportunities. What's the adage? Good luck is the residue of hard work. This is a low scoring, defensive series so far with both goalies at the top of their game. There have been just ten goals scored between the two teams in over 132 minutes of hockey. The T-birds have just four and that's not been enough. Finish, finish, finish.

What a great atmosphere for the first two games at Westman Place in Brandon. This is a city of about 46,000 and 56,000 people in the metro area. This is their team, it's the only game in town, and they support them tremendously well. But we've seen this season how the home crowd at the ShoWare Center energizes the T-birds. Time for the Seattle crowd to match the intensity we saw in Games 1 and 2.

Most of the media covering the first two games had not seen Seattle play up close and personal. Seattle didn't make it to Brandon during the regular season and the U.S. based WHL clubs just don't get that much press north of the border. So many, seeing them play for the first time, expressed how impressed they were with the team's structure. It's always nice to hear that from objective third parties. In case you didn't know it, Steve Konowalchuk and his staff are doing a terrific job preparing this team.

In that same vein, if you are attending the games at the ShoWare Center this week you're going to see some top end Major Junior talent on the other side. This is a very good Wheat Kings roster. If not for his late birthdate, Nolan Patrick would be a sure fire first round NHL draft pick in June. He certainly will be in 2017 when he finally becomes eligible for the draft and could be one of the top players picked.

He only has one assist in the first two games but I've liked the game of Alexander True. I think he has been Seattle's most consistent face-off guy, has been a strong penalty killer and he is creating some offensive chances. Again, it comes down to needing to finish. Scott Eansor continues to play with his high motor and Landon Bow, well he just continues to be Landon Bow.

Just before the WHL Championship Series began the league held it's annual Bantam draft in Calgary last Thursday. Seattle made eight selections, led by first round pick Jake Lee, a defenseman from Sherwood Park, Alberta. T-Birds Director of Player Personnel Cal Filson described Lee as a good two-way d-man with good size. Seattle also selected three players from the Winnipeg area and I understand a couple of them came down to Brandon on their own to cheer on the T-birds.

1 comment:

  1. Funny, I was just saying to someone the other day that just a couple years ago, being down by 1 in the first period I'd pretty much count this team out. Never mind being down two games in a series. But there's just something about this team this year - I have all the faith that they'll get back in it and make it a series.

    No matter how it ends, this team has been amazing to watch this season and they've surpassed all of my expectations of the post-season. They should be so proud of what they've accomplished this year!