- I spent a lot of time focusing on Connor Honey and Colin Jacobs last night. Let's start with Honey. Honey came out on fire in his first shift and threw a big hit that was called Interference by our Maestro of Ceremonies Jason Nissen. Looked an awful lot like a clean check to me with the puck sitting just two feet away... something that happens... oh I dunno... 30 times a game? In any event, his first shift ended with a penalty but I didn't mind the penalty at all. I loved the aggressive nature and the willingness to go out and throw your body around. He also wasn't afraid to shoot AND get the shot on net, which is something this team is sorely lacking right now. There was a stretch in the middle of the game where I didn't feel like he had very many shifts with all the penalties that were going on back and forth but overall I really liked what I saw. Seattle is starting to build a very interesting 1994 group with Troock, Hickman, Honey and Wardley.
- Jacobs. I liked what I saw from Jacobs but I think he would admit that he was a little rusty. It shouldn't be a problem at all and I imagine after a few games he will get his live game speed going again. He was up to his usual shenanigans trying to bait opponents into penalties and I thought he was very active circling on the breakouts, something that is needed from more players. Coach K had him on the point on one of the PP units and I think we'll see an increase in the PP production with Jacobs back.
- Overall thoughts. The first period was all about Seattle racing around and hitting people and it was a fantastic display of the physicality that this group can bring to a game. Unfortunately, they didn't score... and it seemed like most of the players gave up on the game plan because the hitting nearly disappeared entirely the rest of the game and the result was a big goose egg on the score-sheet. Players have to realize that the game plan isn't always going to work to perfection. The abandonment of the game plan only leads to more struggle and leads to players trying to do too much on their own with the puck. The 2nd and 3rd periods were a classic example of that. The Tbirds had only 4 shots in the 2nd and 11 in the 3rd (though many of the shots in the 3rd came at the end of the game when Seattle had pulled Calvin Pickard). Hit Hit Hit Hit. That should be the mentality of this team. Hard rushes through the neutral zone but if nothing is there, you chip it deep and make the defense pay the price. Fans hate this. I heard it for years while Sumner was here "all we do is chip and chase, dump and chase... etc." There is a very good reason why. It's because the biggest strength this team has is its size and the ability to use their checking and size to create turnovers on the fore-check.
- Shots. Shots were a big problem last night (just 24 overall and just 9 and 4 in the first two periods). The Tbirds were getting a ton of shots blocked. Players are trying too hard to either snipe a goal and often times missing the net or they are just blasting it without any real purpose and things are getting blocked. Seattle needs more shots on goal where players are just throwing pucks to the net and forcing opposing goaltenders to either catch and hold or steer shots to the corner. To simplify things... what they need is more shots towards the 5 hole of the goaltender. Chest, Glove, Blocker... these are all shots that are relatively easy for the goaltender to catch and hold or steer away. Shots on the ice? Somewhat easy to steer away with the stick. Shots in that middle zone, off the ice, below the gloves is where the goalie has to use his leg pads to make the save and those are the shots that create juicy rebounds. Those... are shots with purpose. They have to get more shots to the net.
- 3 fights last night and a lot of chippy play. Deagle had a nice fight and I love when players have fights where they are basically saying "I'm not taking anymore shit from you... let's go." Doty finally got a partner in Campbell Elynuik and after a rough start was able to land some pretty good shots towards the end. Last but not least we had Cason Machacek sticking up for Shea Theodore after getting hit from the blindside (and high) from Elynuik. I love Machacek sticking up for his teammate. Unfortunately, because we are saddled with this ridiculous Instigator penalty the Tbirds only enjoyed (and I use that term loosely) a 3 minute Power Play instead of 5 minutes. The WHL website is showing Elynuik's suspension as TBD at the moment.
- I'm so tired of complaining about officials. It seems like the officiating in the league is at a recent low and I can't figure out exactly why that's true. Too much turnover, too many new officials? I don't know. There were a bunch of things I thought were incorrectly called last night on both sides but the one I want to focus on was the last one. With a 1:12 left in the game the puck is dump/shot in to Cougar goaltender Drew Owsley. Owsley briefly covers the puck, takes his glove off of the puck and the whistle hadn't yet blown. Branden Troock races in to ensure that Seattle gets the whistle, setting up a faceoff in the Cougar zone and allowing Seattle to pull Pickard and get 6 attackers on the ice. He HAS to go hard to the net to ensure they get the whistle. Troock races in and stops abruptly in front of Owsley spraying snow in his face. He HAS to do this because obviously he can't just plow into Owsley at full speed. Referees Nissen and Spurgeon decide that it's worthy of an USC penalty putting Seattle shorthanded and effectively ending the game. What a wonderful idea... let's take the game out of the player's hands with over a minute to go in a 1 goal game by calling something that happens a handful of times per game. As a fellow goaltender, I'm all for protecting goalies, but believe me... this isn't protecting goaltenders. Throw the book at players who run over goaltenders and let "snow spraying" get policed by the defenders in front of the net. A horrible, ridiculous administering of the end of the game by those two officials. I hope someone educates them on how silly that was and they learn from it and become better for it. The WHL is a development league for both players AND officials and we must all keep that in mind. Keeping it in mind... it sure seems like things have been below par lately.
Honey and Jacobs
A few quick thoughts on the 1-0 loss last night to the Prince George Cougars.
Back at it tonight against the Victoria Royals who hung an 8 spot on Lethbridge last night before heading down to Seattle.