Seattle came off seven straight games on the road, winning five of them, and promptly lost the first two games of a three game home stand. While they found two different ways to lose those games, there was one common thread between them; missed opportunities.
Going into the last two games, the T-birds were actually averaging 3.3 goals per game. Considering the amount of fire power they lost from last season's team, that had to be a better then expected goal production number this early in the season. Unfortunately they could only muster two goals on the weekend in suffering a pair of losses.
It certainly wasn't for lack of chances. In the two games on the weekend, the T-birds generated a combined 69 shots on goal, or an average of 35 shots per game. This is in keeping with a trend that started 10 games ago when Seattle's average shots per game jumped up from 25 per game over the first ten games of the season to an average of 33 since.
And we're not talking about a lot of shots and no scoring opportunities. It wasn't just a case of Seattle throwing pucks on goal from anywhere on the ice. A good percentage of these shots were high percentage chances. Just in their Friday night 4-0 loss to Tri-City, the T-birds coaches graded out 24 of their 43 shots as "Grade A" scoring opportunities. That means over 50 percent of their shots put them in a position to score. While the shots were fewer in Saturday's 4-2 loss to Kamloops, the ten bell scoring chances were still there, even after they lost leading goal scorer Sami Moilanen to injury early in that game.
Sometimes a shot that's not a shot on goal is also a scoring chance missed. There were numerous times over the weekend where Seattle missed the net with a shot or, even more frustrating, hit the post or cross bar. But the biggest culprit was failing to get sticks on loose pucks in and around the crease, the shot never taken. Credit the opposition for winning those battles and clearing the danger. In some instances it's a case of bad puck luck for Seattle. They're in position for a rebound but the bounce goes the other way. But at some point the T-birds have to start winning there fair share of those second chance opportunities.
When you are in the midst of a mini-scoring drought, it might be that one ugly goal, that crazy carom or redirection that gets the offense humming again. You create that with hard work and that is something this team does have going for it. Hard work is what gets you 24 scoring chances in a game against one of the top teams in the league. So far in 18 games, there has not been an instance of this young team taking a night off.
There were a lot of reasons given, I thought of them more as excuses, as to why Seattle had a goal waved off Saturday versus Kamloops. I watched the play unfold right in front of me and never saw the Blazer goalie try to cover the puck outside the crease. He just muffed it as he tried to scoop it and play it to his defenseman. He flubbed the scoop and ended up flicking it into his crease and then it was knocked in to his goal When a goalie makes an error like that, he shouldn't get bailed out by the officials. That "quick whistle" (never heard a whistle) cost Seattle not just a goal, but a point in the standings.
My T-birds Three Stars for the Weekend:
Third Star: W Ian Briscoe. Healthy and playing with more confidence, he is earning the trust of the coaching staff. As a result he's even getting special teams ice time. He filled in for Moilanen on the power play Saturday and earned an assist, his first point of the season. A gifted offensive players at lower levels of hockey, he's learning to play at both ends of the ice with effectiveness.
Second Star: W Dillon Hamaliuk. It's hard to believe he came out of the weekend with nary a point. No one creates more offensive chances for himself and his linemates the way Hammer does. He is a bit snake bitten right now but you get the feeling once he scores his next goal, the flood gates will open. While the focus is on the present, one can't help but salivate at the potential he has for the future.
First Star: W Blake Bargar. I know we're only 18 games into the season and there is lots of hockey still to play but the 19 year old Torrance, California native has already exceeded expectations after Seattle obtained him in the offseason from Victoria. A year ago he compiled ten points in 61 games with the Royals. This season he already has six points in 18 games, including four goals, just two off his total from last season. It's his well rounded game that makes him a team leader. He plays in all situations and is becoming one of the team's top penalty killers.