Seattle gave up a lead 4 different times last night and lost in the shootout 5-4 to the Tri-City Americans. It was a lost opportunity for Seattle who could have and probably should have won that game going away. Give the Americans credit for taking advantage of the defensive breakdowns by the Tbirds and earning the two points. Yesterday, I wrote about how Seattle had managed to eliminate a vast majority of the big mistakes this season and the results were starting to show on the scoreboard and in the standings. Of course as soon as I had published that, the mistake prone Tbirds from last season made an ugly appearance at the ShoWare Center last night. The mistakes were glaring and goaltender Calvin Pickard really didn't have a chance on any of the 4 American goals.
This team has a chance to be really good this season and the only thing holding them back is the elimination of this big mistakes.
Bullet points are fun and simple…
- How about the night for Marcel Noebels. One of the cool aspects of following and cheering for a Junior Hockey team is the reminder that they are still just kids. The Noebels family has been in town for the past several days, taking in the game down in Portland and the game last night. They watched the young German put together a "Gordie" getting a goal, 2 assists and a fight. His Mother covered her eyes as he dropped the gloves and came to the defense of Charles Wells who had taken a checking from behind penalty from Spencer Humphries. She tried to avert her eyes again as he raced towards Drew Owsley in the shootout… I believe she looked just in time to see him juke and score. Whether he meant to make that move or not… I have no idea. It looked to me like he lost the puck and was fortunate that it went in... But if he meant to do that? What a move and what a night for him and his family.
- Brenden Dillon has made so much progress from just a season ago. His 9 assists this season put him on pace for 64, just a hair below point per game pace. His rush and drop pass to Noebels for the 1st goal of the game was an excellent effort and he made several other athletic rushes over the course of the game. He is still making a few mental errors and coverage issues here and there (as evidenced by the -1 last night) but his speed and handle for a defensemen is as good as I have seen lately and you just can't teach the natural first step that he has with the puck. I've said it before and I will say it again… shore up those mistakes in your own end and Dillon has the makings of a real impact player.
- Burke Gallimore had a bit of an interesting night. He sniped a Power Play goal into the top corner to give Seattle the 4-3 lead midway through the 3rd period and he assisted one of the Power Play goals by Luke Lockhart. He was also on the ice for all 4 Americans goals and finished the night as a -3. His shootout attempt was the exact same shot that flew over the bar down in Portland on Friday, this attempt clanging off the crossbar instead. Hockey is a game of inches and I would bet the next attempt gets under the bar for a goal.
- Luke Lockhart has been working very hard on those one-timers in practice and it paid off in spades as he slammed home a beautiful threaded pass by Noebels through the American PK early in the 2nd period.
- I'm going to cringe typing this… but I think we saw a hockey game last night officiated by Pat Smith and um, I actually thought he did a pretty good job. Whoa. You could make an argument that Noebels didn't "deserve" an instigator penalty (which btw comes with an automatic 10 min. misconduct) and I thought the Too Many Men penalty on Seattle was a bit soft considering that all of the players in question were around the bench area… but for the most part I really didn't notice the officiating and that is a sign of a well called game.
- Loser points aren't really very fun and they aren't sexy but they are still very important. With the point, Seattle has 13 points in 10 games that puts them on pace for 93.6 points. They also haven't lost in regulation in 7 games, which consequently means that have earned points in 7 straight games. Missed opportunities are never easy to swallow but points are points.
Prince George comes into town Friday night and Seattle had better not take them lightly. The new look Cougars have a healthy Brett Connolly and have added several quality players in Sena Acolatse, Taylor Stefishen, Martin Marincin and Charles Inglis. The Cougs are 7-5-1 and are averaging 4.6 goals a game.
I travelled down to Portland Friday night to take in the Birds and Hawks at the Rose Garden. It's always nice watching a game at the Rose Garden, it makes things seem just a little bit more important and it helps that Winterhawk fans have been packing the arena for games against the Tbirds.
Seattle was not at their best in this game but played well enough to earn a road point against what looks like the best team in the U.S. Division right now and that kind of effort should be commended. Calvin Pickard was on his game stopping 42 of 43 shots but I want to make a comment about the type of shots that he was facing. Last season, Seattle gave up a lot of shots but more importantly they gave up far too many quality shots and quality chances. Friday in Portland I saw a Seattle team that gave up 43 shots but many were kept to the outside and the mistakes that we saw the Tbirds make last season just aren't happening as often this season. Fewer breakways, fewer odd man rushes and fewer guys being left wide open on the doorstep. The difference between the two is slight but the results are showing in the win column and in Pickard's GAA.
In my mind the difference in the game was decided by the special teams, as Portland was far more dangerous on the Power Play and finally cashed in on a ridiculously good shot from Ty Rattie from a near impossible angle. On that note, I'm very impressed with Ty Rattie. In addition to his impressive goal in regulation, he cashed in his shootout opportunity with a really nice backhand over a sprawling Pickard. With the goal Friday, Rattie now has 9 goals and 23 points to go with a +12 rating in just 13 games… oh and as a 17 year old. Very impressive.
I continue to be impressed by the play of this team. They have played Portland very tough and the Winterhawks have run over just about everyone else in the league up to this point. Right now this team is trending much closer to the 4th-6th range in the Western Conference than the team that I thought might struggle to make the playoffs.
Ramsay is out again with status unknown.
Hickman has been skating and I imagine that his first game action will happen pretty soon and by that I mean in the next couple of weeks.
Troock is still not even with the team… which I have to imagine is a very bad sign for whatever injury he is battling.
Tomorrow night is a 2 for Tuesday game. Which means $2 beers… which means long concession lines.
The writing has been on the wall for Aasman since the start of the season as he played up front against Everett in the season opener. Now that Scott Ramsay is back and healthy, he just didn't have a spot.
Update: Ramsay actually played Friday in Vancouver but didn't play Saturday at home against Calgary. So I'm not as certain of his status as I thought he was.
In the meantime, Seattle has a change to start the season 6-2 tonight. The Tbirds didn't pick up their 6th win last season until November 13th against Kamloops.
Some of you have noticed that I have been absent for about two weeks while the Tbirds have won three straight (maybe I should just stop writing about this team and we'll win the Cup).
I had to travel to Atlanta for a wedding and spent 10 days there with some extended family. Interesting yes… blog worthy? No.
I did however get to attend the Atlanta Thrashers – Washington Capitals season opener at Phillips Arena, which was awesome with the exception of the very scary incident involving Thrashers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. Being in the building when it happened was very scary and fortunately it looks like Pavelec will be just fine.
In the meantime, the Tbirds rattled off 3 straight wins. 2 of those 3 wins coming via the shootout. It's amazing how different things can feel when you win those shootouts as opposed to losing them. Last season, Seattle would have likely lost those two shootouts and the result would have been a team that had lost 3 out of 4. Instead, the Tbirds are riding a 3 game winning streak and the difference was only a few shootout attempts. That extra point is pretty huge both in the standings and mentally.
You'd have to be pretty happy with the club after 6 games. Tbirds are 4-2 so far with 4 of those games coming on the road and 1 of those games being lost in the final minute of the contest. Their 20 goals and 16 against projects them for a 240-192 total over the course of the 72 game season and that should certainly be good enough to have them in the playoffs.
Scoring has been very spread out with Gallimore and Jacobs leading the way with 5 points apiece and 10 other players with at least 2 points. Better yet are the plus/minus totals. Sutter leads the team with a +6, which is a tremendous sign as I still think he will continue to improve a ton over the course of the season. Wells and Dillon are +4 and Noebels and Lund are both +3.
Nice to see Mitch Elliot off to a nice start with 2 goals and 4 points… if you had told me at the start of the season that Eilliot might score 20 goals and 50 points I would have been thrilled. Very nice start by this team.