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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Where do we go from here?

Time to (finally) wrap up the season.  Obviously, everyone was a tad disappointed that the Tbirds weren't able to make the playoffs and didn't manage to play better over the 2nd half of the season.  That being said, I believe there are a handful of reasons to be cautiously optimistic for the next few seasons. Here is where I think the team goes from this point forward:

First, the good news... by missing the playoffs, the Tbirds put themselves in a position to win the Bantam Draft Lottery. The smart money is on Mathew Barzal being selected by Seattle but there are a few other names that I imagine would have an outside shot at being taken by Seattle. Barzal is a natural scorer who should be able to develop into a high point producer by the time he is 17 or 18. I watched some scouting film on him and was impressed by his skating and scoring ability. He is a tad on the smaller side at 5'9" and 152 lbs but smaller skaters don't really bother me too much when you have this much skill.  Chances are good he will probably grow as well.

There are some other names to keep your eye on and some players that Seattle will most definitely target with the #20 and #25 selections in the draft... but Barzal is almost a lock for the top pick.  For all Bantam Prospect news, you should really visit the Western Elite Hockey Prospects blog.

Getting a kid like Barzal is exciting but he won't be a factor until the 2013-14 season at the least. Let's take a look at what we might see out of Seattle in 2012-13.

We have to consider the situation with the 20 year old players.  Calvin Pickard will not be back. Dave Sutter will not be back as a "two-spotter" and I don't expect Braeden Laroque to be in the mix either. That leaves 4 players for 3 spots and I wouldn't be surprised to see all 4 come to camp and battle it out.  Brad Deagle is pretty much a lock in my mind. Seattle will need some veteran presence on defense next season and Deagle logged some very good minutes for the Tbirds this season.  Luke Lockhart is the captain and despite the lack of offensive production, I wouldn’t be very surprised if returned as captain next season. I know that some fans lament 20 year old captains that don't score a lot (see: Nielsen, Lindsay) but if you take a look around the WHL, you dont necessarily see a lot of 20 year old players leading the league in scoring. Yes, yes, I'm aware that Shinnimin lead the league in scoring and he was 20 years old, but following him was Stone (19), Rattie (18), Hughesman (20), Weal (19), Holland (19), Etem (19), St. Croix (18), Ferland (19) and Bartschi (19).  Having a 20 year old who scores a ton is clearly beneficial, but often times if your 20 year old is that good, he’s playing in the AHL (see: Pickard, Calvin). I wouldn't say that Lockhart is a lock for the roster, but I would be very surprised if he didn’t make it back.  That leaves Brendan Rouse and Chance Lund battling it out for the 3rd and final spot on the roster. Earlier in the year I thought Chance Lund was making a very good case for being the guy for that final spot but as the season wore on, Lund seemed to wear down and his point production slowed as well. He tallied 17 points in the first 24 games of the season and then only 15 points in the final 43 games. Rouse, who can kill penalties and is a responsible two way player and would project out to nearly the same point total as Lund over a 72 two game season. My best guess: Deagle for sure, Lockhart likely, Rouse tentatively, and Lund needing a big camp to prove he belongs on the team over Rouse.

Import Draft: The QMJHL will select first in the Import Draft followed by the WHL and OHL subsequently.  Seattle will pick 3rd in the WHL rotation which will be 8th overall in the draft and 8th in the 2nd round as well.  Last season, Gatineau selected RW Tomas Hyka 8th overall and he posted 64 points in 50 games with Gatineau. Keep in mind that the QMJHL is generally a higher scoring league than the WHL. So Seattle should be able to pick up one pretty useful top 6 forward with their 8th overall selection. Very few teams select in the 2nd round of the draft, but one of the teams that did last season was Tri-City who selected Malte Stromwall. Stromwall had 27 points this season for the Americans. Seattle will likely select a player with their 2nd round pick but I wouldn't expect much out of that selection. I wouldn't be surprised to see Seattle select a defender with their top pick to help round out the depth.  I also wouldn't be terribly shocked to see them select a goaltender but it might be tough to convince a goaltender to come over to play for a young team that just finished beating up Calvin Pickard.

The rest of the squad projects out in this rough form.

Defense - Deagle (20), Wardley (18), Theodore (17) and Hauf (17) are locks. Green should have a chance to stick but he needs to improve and they might try him as a forward as well. Kevin Wolf will likely have a very good chance to make the team and I have to hop that 2nd round selection Austin Douglas has improved. When I look at the defensive depth of the team I can't help but feel like Seattle probably needs to select a defender with one of their Import selections. Either that or draft a forward and trade one of the current forwards for a depth defender.

Offense - Lockhart (20), Jacobs (19), Alos (19), Swenson (19), Sanvido (19), Doty? (19), Elliot? (19), Hickman (18), Troock (18), Honey (18). That is amazingly 10 forwards who could be back without including any 17's or 16s. I'm not convinced that Elliot and Doty will be back but if they each go home and work on their strength, conditioning, skating, flexibility, etc. they will probably be back. That leaves very few spots left and that is also the reason why I half expect to see a forward traded for a defender.  Gropp will hopefully sign and be here next season. Daniel Wray will probably get a long look in training camp and Michael Holub played very well in camp last year and could be a possible 16 year old on the roster next season.

Goaltending - Cotton (18) and.... ummm... I'm not sure.... Danny Mumaugh was in camp last year as a 15 and I know he visited and likely practiced with the team toward the end of the season.  Beyond that I'm not really sure where they might go here.  Nolan Kruizenga was in camp last year as well but neither him nor Mumaugh would be expected to be a starter as a 16 year old. Cotton has a HUGE opportunity here to work his tail off over the summer and seize the starting job for the Tbirds. Don't be surprised to see Russ acquire a veteran goaltender or possibly pass over Rouse and Lund and sign a 20 year old tender to solidify the back end.

As for a wrap on this season. I have to say that I was disappointed with how the team played but I wasn't very surprised. I think we all expected a lot more scoring out of players like Burke Gallimore, Colin Jacobs and Luke Lockhart and for whatever reason that simply didn't happen. Jacobs never seemed to get back on track after his off-season shoulder surgeries and maybe a full summer of hockey training will do him a lot of good. His skating and speed needs to improve a lot to take his game to the next level. He has a good  shot and pretty good hands as evidenced by hit goal scoring success in the shootout. The problem seems to be that he finds it very difficult to create quality chances during live action.  Gallimore just never seemed comfortable this season. I think it would be unfair to generalize his play as being without effort but I think it would be fair to say that his play was generally uninspired. Lockhart worked hard but didn't see the results that we all thought we might see. Let's not forget that the first half of the season was marred (in my opinion) by Marcel Noebels constantly trying to do everything himself and getting traded out of town in one of the better deals that General Manager Russ Farwell has made in a while.

There is reason for hope.... Connor Honey played inspired hockey after joining the team at mid-season and should only continue to improve. Branden Troock has loads of talent and just needs to figure out how to correctly use it. Seth Swenson was almost an afterthought in the Noebels deal and turned in 17 points in his 34 games with the Tbirds, including 10 goals. Jared Hauf didn't show much in the way of offensive prowess but showed that with improvement he should eventually turn into a shutdown top 2 defender. Shea Theodore is a work in progress and made plenty of 16 year old mistakes but also lead the team in assists, becoming the first Thunderbirds rookie to lead the team in assists since a guy named Thomas Hickey. Evan Wardley improved a ton over the course of the season and looks poised to grab a hold of a top 4 spot next season and become an intimidating physical force on the ice.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Seattle is headed for the Memorial Cup next year... but I do believe that most of their best players in the 2nd half of the season were their younger players. If those players continue to get better and veterans like Jacobs and Lockhart bounce back and have good seasons next year, this team should find themselves back in the playoffs provided that they find a goaltender to give them a fighting chance between the pipes.

Bonus content:

I meant to do some playoff predictions and then I got sick. Three of the first round series' are over and 4 more are on the verge of being over. Vancouver/Spokane is the only series tied at 2 games each.  This makes "predictions" a lot easier but I'm going to do it anyways.

In the Western Conference, the Americans took care of the Tips and will face the winner of the Vancouver/Spokane series while Portland will have home ice advantage for their series with the "#2" seeded Kamloops Blazers. I think Tri wins their series no matter what and I think Portland takes care of Kamloops in 6 games. I believe Portland will then defeat Tri-City in the Western finals shocking the Americans one or two times at the Toyota Center and advancing to the WHL Finals.

In the East, I think the Oil Kings are extremely tough and won't likely have very much trouble with Brandon (likely winner) to reach the Eastern Finals. Moose Jaw will have an extremely tough time with Medicine Hat and Emerson Etem and I think Medicine Hat will pull off an upset and reach the Eastern Finals where Edmonton will prevail to play the Winterhawks.

In the WHL finals... I really believe that Portland is the best team in the WHL but I think it might be too tough to prevail against the Americans and the Oil Kings without home ice advantage. Portland makes it extremely tough but the Oil Kings prevail in game 7 in Edmonton to win their first WHL Championship.

Then again... what have I said all season long... what do I know?


Flu 1 - Tyler 0

The Cold/Flu had me pretty beat up since last week and has kept me from even thinking about anything resembling brain activity.  I promise I'm not done wrapping up this season. Check back in the next few days for a few more articles before we put a "bow" on this season.


Scott Lowe Remembered

From the elation of Seattle winning the draft lottery to a heavy heart this morning.

Scott Lowe passed away, peacefully, in his sleep last night. Lowe was an off-ice official for the Thunderbirds and a local hockey referee for nearly two decades.

Scott gave me my first GSHL 10 minute misconduct several years ago and I still liked the guy a lot.

He was a good man and he will be missed. RIP Scott.

Scott Lowe Puck Drop Tribute

Thunderbirds Win Lottery

The Thunderbirds just won the Bantam Draft lottery and will select 1st overall in the upcoming 2012 Bantam Draft.

In my mind, Seattle was already under a tremendous amount of pressure to improve their drafting of players and the pressure just got a tad bit higher.

The pre-draft speculation was that any team winning the lottery would likely select Burnaby Winter Club forward Mathew Barzal. We'll have to wait and see what Seattle decides to do.

The 2012 Bantam Draft will be held in Calgary on May 3rd.


Calvin Pickard Tribute/Retrospective

Seattle's season ended with a whimper last night, losing to the Portland Winterhawks 8-2 in front of nearly 8000 at the Memorial Coliseum. The Tbirds started fast and took the lead with a PP goal to open the scoring but the team seemed deflated as the Winterhawks answered just 9 seconds later on a snipe by Ty Rattie. The shot was first class, but it was a save Pickard needed to make in a game of this magnitude, and it didn’t happen.

The loss brought an end to the career of Pickard; a career that will no doubt go down as one of the best goaltending careers in the history of the WHL, despite the lack of playoff success.

As the first of several season wrap-up articles I plan to write this week, I wanted to spend an entire article recapping the career of Calvin Pickard…

Picks has been a solider for this franchise beyond the call of duty. He has never publicly complained about the teams that have been placed in front of him and by all accounts he has been a model citizen and an amazing teammate. Heartfelt comments and well-wishes poured in from teammates, fans, media and other players around the league.  He deserved better opportunities than he received during his time here in Seattle and I would like to thank him for the great memories and performances that we were able to see. Before we completely send Pickard off into the sunset to bigger and better things (because we may not ever see him back in Seattle again....) let's take a look at the WHL career of Calvin Pickard.

Pickard was drafted by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the 2nd round of the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft. Erik Fleming was drafted in the 1st round and Brandon Carlson was selected in the 3rd round. The younger brother of "Chetter" came into camp as a 15 year old with some high expectations. Anything resembling the career of Chet Pickard would have been considered a success. He wasted no time making a lasting impression as he didn't surrender a single goal in the camp scrimmages. Seattle fans knew they had something special.

September 19th, 2008 - Pickard's first official game in the WHL came at the CN Centre in Prince George where he stopped 32 of 37 shots in a 5-2 Seattle loss. He was greeted to the WHL by Dale Hunt (former Silvertip) and Brett Connolly who scored the Cougars first two goals.

October 11, 2008 - Pickard records his first WHL victory and shutout in the same game as he blanked the (then) hapless Portland Winterhawks 2-0, stopping all 20 shots in the process.

February 20, 2009 - Pickard stops all 36 shots and earns the game's 1st start in beating Spokane 3-0 for his first home shutout.

February 22, 2009 - Two days later, Pickard is forced to make at least 40 saves for the first time in his career stopping 40 of 42 shots to help Seattle earn a 3-2 victory at home over the Vancouver Giants.

March 7, 2009 - Playing in front of his brother Chet Pickard (rested on that night) Calvin stopped 24 shots to record his 3rd shutout of the season and first over Tri-City as the Tbirds blasted the Americans 6-0.

March 21, 2009 - Sadly this date marks the one and only playoff win in Pickard's illustrious career. Pickard stopped 33 of 34 shots and bested current Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Dustin Tokarski as the Tbirds evened the series in Spokane with a 2-1 victory. Seattle would drop the next 3 games and lose to the Chiefs 4-1 in the series.

September 8, 2009 - Pickard opens the 2009-10 season with a 4-3 victory over the Everett Silvertips stopping 46 of 49 shots in the process.

October 2, 2009 - A date that most Tbirds fans will likely remember for a very long time. Seattle is out-shot 57-20 in the game against the Tri-City Americans and it just didn't matter. Pickard stopped all 57 of the Americans shots, leading Seattle to a razor thin 1-0 victory. In the 3rd period alone, Seattle was out-shot 16-2 and Pickard was up for the challenge turning aside shot after shot including 5 American Power Plays. I researched the league records as much as I possibly could and nobody seems to be able to refute that this game is likely a league record for the most saves made in a shutout effort.

December 11, 2009 - Pickard owns the Ams again, stopping 54 of 55 shots and the Tbirds win 5-1 over Tri-City.

March 14, 2010 - In the final game of the season, with no hope of making the playoffs. Pickard stops 51 of 54 shots and Luke Lockhart scores 2:26 into the Overtime period, giving Seattle the 4-3 victory over the BC Division champion Vancouver Giants.

June 26, 2010 - The Colorado Avalanche select Pickard 49th overall and he is the 3rd goaltender selected in the draft behind Jack Campbell and Mark Visentin.

September 25, 2010 - Pickard picks up his first win of the 2010-11 season with a 37 save effort to defeat the Portland Winterhawks 4-1.

October 2, 2010 - Pickard beats the Winterhawks again, this time in the shootout. He stops 44 of 46 shots in regulation and stops Ty Rattie, Brad Ross and Ryan Johansen in the shootout to earn the victory.

November 2, 2010 - Seattle defeats Red Deer 4-1 behind 46 saves from Pickard. Red Deer would go on to earn 104 points and win the Central Division.

November 24, 2010 - Seattle loses 5-4 in the shootout... but not because of the play of Pickard who stops 55 of 59 shots. Adam Hughesman scores the only goal in the shootout and the Americans finally beat Pickard.

December 18, 2010 - Portland pumps in 52 shots on goal and Pickard stops 50 of them to earn Seattle the 4-2 victory over the Winterhawks. Brenden Dillon has 4 assists for the Tbirds in the win.

January 18, 2011 - The shootout bites Pickard again on this night but not before stopping 55 of 58 shots against the Kamloops Blazers. Brendan Ranford and Colin Smith score in the shootout for the 4-3 Blazers win.

February 13, 2011 and February 23, 2011 - Pickard makes 106 saves on 108 shots in beating the Spokane Chiefs twice in the span of 10 days and Seattle picks up two wins.

October 15, 2011 - 43 saves on 45 shots as the Tbirds defeat the visiting Saskatoon Blades at the Showare Center 4-2.

November 19, 2011 - In Seattle's only win over Portland this season, Pickard stops 47 of 50 shots on goal and the Tbirds defeat the Winterhawks 6-3 on the heels of 5 2nd period goals.

January 22, 2012 - Pickard breaks the WHL record for career saves when he makes save number 6,959, passing former Thunderbirds goaltender Danny Lorenz. Pickard would finish his career with 7,727 saves in just 4 WHL seasons.

March 10, 2012 - In a game he will otherwise want to forget, Pickard breaks the WHL record for career minutes played at the 7 minute mark of the 3rd period in a 11-3 loss to the Portland Winterhawks. Passing Kurtis Mucha with his 13,709th minute played, Pickard finishes his career with 14,025 minutes played... again, in just 4 seasons.

March 11th, March 13th and March 16th, 2012 - Pickard stops 107 of 113 shots during a 3 game winning streak to keep Seattle alive for the playoffs.

The Winnipeg, Manatoba native finishes his career with a record of 91-120-27 with 12 shutouts. 241 games played, surrendering 769 goals on 8496 shots for a save percentage of .909.

Pickard has been an absolute pleasure to watch in the past 4 seasons. Seattle hasn't provided very many highlights and nearly all of them has been a direct result of our good humored goaltender. The 2012-13 version of the Seattle Thunderbirds will have a gigantic hole in their goal crease and in the locker room. Calvin's legacy will be repeated for years after he packs his bags today for bigger and better things.

I won't speak for anyone else even though I suspect that I share the feelings of many... Thank you Calvin.


Season on the Brink

I don't want to write. I just don't. Seattle wasn't able to seal the deal last night and the issues that have plagued them all season chose to show up again in the biggest game of the season. This loss wasn't for lack of effort but simply a lack of execution. Calvin Pickard arguably wasn't at his best and the defense wasn't able to clear pucks from the front of the net well enough to deserve the victory. Where does Seattle go from here?

  • The season isn't over. Seattle can still forge a tie with Everett by winning in Portland this evening. On paper this is a monumental (and potentially impossible) task... but the Winterhawks have nothing to play for and as much as they would love to send their I-5 rivals home for the summer, they are going to have much bigger fish to fry. So what does that mean? I imagine Portland will start 16 year old Brendan Burke in goal. Risking injury to Mac Carruth would be a huge risk. Especially given the chippy nature of the play between Seattle and Carruth. Expect to see Burke in net. I would have to think that some of Portland's top players will be given a day to rest with Portland's younger players being dressed for the game.  Please don't misunderstand what I'm saying... this doesn't mean the victory is assured. Portland will still have a superior roster of players even if they scratch some of their veterans but Seattle will definitely have a better chance at getting this done. In case you were wondering, Burke is 2-1 against Seattle and 2-0 at home in Portland.
  • Should they win tonight by hook or crook... They will host Everett on Tuesday night at Showare Center in a game that will be marketed as an additional 2 for Tuesday opportunity. Half price tickets and $2 concessions.
  • A few notes on players - I spent a good portion of the first half of the season defending Dave Sutter against fans who I thought weren't being very fair to him. By the end of January, he was only -5 on a team that was flush with minus players. Well... it has become pretty tough to defend him lately. Sutter was a remarkably -18 in February and has "added" another -7 in March and now sits at -33 for the season. He hasn't continued to improve, he has regressed and he now plays like he is afraid to make a mistake.
  • I will say it again... if Branden Troock ever learns to use his teammates and pass the puck he is going to be a special player. Sure, there are times when your team needs an individual effort, but Troock has to learn how to pick his spots. His goal last night was a thing of beauty... but making it happen 1 out of every 15 times isn't good hockey and until he learns to use his teammates and work without the puck he will be limited as a player.
  • Evan Wardley was well deserved as the Most Improved Tbirds player. An afterthought at the beginning of the year, Wardley has worked his tail off and done everything the coaching staff has asked him to do and his improved play has landed him in the regular rotation. Having a defender willing and able to deliver a big hit on almost every shift makes it impossible for the opposing team to operate comfortably. If he and Shea Theodore can learn a slap shot over the summer they are going to have a very good chance at taking the next step forward.
  • Connor Honey continues to impress. He skates hard, he forechecks his ass off and he has great hockey sense. He scores pretty goals and greasy goals. There is a lot to like about this kid and he has a very bright future ahead. I would not be surprised to see him over 45 points next year and possibly more.
  • The game was like Rocky III. Twitter doesn't allow for enough space for me to have explained that comment but the game was like two boxers who hold their hands at their sides swinging and landing wild bombs back and forth until someone finally falls down. It was two bad hockey teams just taking their best wild swings and ultimately Everett got a lucky bounce and buried Seattle with a roundhouse  cross.
  • Awards were passed out last night. I can't remember all of them... as I was a little too bummed out to be paying much attention. MVP was Calvin Pickard (shocker), Most Dedicated was Brad Deagle and Cason Machacek, Most Improved was Evan Wardley, Top Defensemen was Brad Deagle. Scholastic POY was Mitch Elliot for I believe the 3rd year in a row and the Booster Club's award for most popular player was Jacob Doty.  Leading scorer was Burke Gallimore.
5:05 Tonight in Portland. Final game of the season, final chance to stay alive for the playoffs. Do or die boys. Get it done or regret it forever.


Playoff Saturday and Scenarios

Tonight's epic game between the Seattle Thunderbirds and the Everett Silvertips might as well be a playoff game. Win and you are in (or likely in), lose and you are out (or likely out). I think it is pretty safe to say that this will be the most important Seattle-Everett game in the relatively short history of the rivalry. I expect to see a sold out or near sold out barn and I also expect to probably see a lot of Everett fans making the drive down.

Seattle and Everett are tied for the final playoff spot with 52 points apiece. The 'Tips have only 1 remaining game while Seattle plays tomorrow in Portland to finish the season.

Let's take a look at the scenarios.

  1. The first situation for Seattle is pretty darn simple - Win and you are IN. If Seattle wins the game tonight in any way, shape or form, they are in the playoffs. Everett cannot catch the Tbirds if Seattle earns two points tonight.
  2. Everett wins in regulation - If Everett wins in regulation tonight (a scenario I would not be shocked to see) and Everett clinches at least a tie for the 8th and final playoff spot. Seattle would then trail by 2 points and would need to go into Portland tomorrow and win to force a tiebreaker. The tiebreaker would be hosted by Seattle on Tuesday evening.
  3. Everett wins in Overtime or the Shootout - If Everett wins but Seattle gains a loser point, Seattle would only need to force Overtime in Portland tomorrow to force a tie and a win on the final day of the season would vault them over Everett and into sole possession of 8th place.
The whole thing can be taken care of quite easily if Seattle comes out on fire tonight and wins the game clean. The tension will elevate quite a bit more if the game heads to Overtime and/or the Shootout.

I hope these boys truly appreciate the opportunity they are being given tonight. It has been a tough season and a first round playoff series with Tri-City doesn't exactly sound like fun... but rarely in sports do you get an opportunity to play a rival with your entire season on the line. I get goosebumps just thinking about it and I don't even get to play the game. If you can't leave everything on the ice tonight... you should probably find another profession.

Let's Go Birds.


Final Weekend of the Season Preview

The lack of posts lately is killing me and I'm sorry for not getting things posted more regularly. I'd give you excuses but... nobody cares.

First things first: Seattle has won two straight and has put themselves in a position to make the playoffs but the situation is still tight and very much up in the air. Sunday night, Seattle got a goal with 5 seconds left in Overtime to beat Everett and earn a very important 2nd point. Tuesday night, Seattle played one of their most complete efforts of the season in beating Spokane 3-1. The physical play of the Thunderbirds was impressive and the way they played is how they should have been playing all season long.

So where does that leave us?

Victoria pulled off an upset last night in beating Portland at home. The win put Victoria into 7th place with 53 points and only one more game to play (Friday, home vs. Portland again). Everett lost in Kelowna and really blew an opportunity to put themselves in good shape for the playoffs.  With the loss, Everett now has 52 points and 2 games remaining (Friday in Tri and Saturday at Seattle). Seattle... suddenly "might" control their own destiny for the playoffs. Seattle is 2 points behind Everett with a trip to Spokane tomorrow night to play on Root Sports before their head to head showdown with Everett on Saturday.  I don't want to completely ignore Prince George who has 48 points and 2 games remaining. There is still a scenario where PG could sneak into the playoffs.

So let's play the "what if" game

I'm expecting a good effort out of Seattle tomorrow night against Spokane and I also expect a close loss. I expect that Everett will lose in Tri-City tomorrow night.  That would leave Seattle 2 points behind with arguably the most important Thunderbirds v. Silvertips game in the history of the rivalry*. Prince George loses in Kamloops tomorrow and they are eliminated and Portland rebounds and beats Victoria in Vic.

Victoria finishes with 53 points. Everett has 52 and Seattle 50 points. If we assume that Seattle is going to lose in Portland on Sunday evening (which isn't a stretch) that leaves Saturday's game as the key to not only Seattle's playoff hopes but also the path to a winner-take-all tiebreaker game at Showare Center on Tuesday next week.

The tiebreaker system does not apply in the event that two teams are tied for the final playoff but the tiebreaker system does apply in determining who would host the tiebreaker game. If Seattle and Everett wind up tied for the final playoff spot... the Tbirds will host Everett on Tuesday of next week.

We will know a lot more after the completion of games Friday night. Seattle should have a pretty clear picture of the points they need to get this done.

All of the speculation about what the Tbirds might do next year...... Let's save that for next week (or beyond) and I will cover all of that when the season is over.

* - Calling Saturday's game the biggest game in the history of the rivalry is a bit of a stretch but Everett and Seattle have never met in the playoffs and they have rarely battled for a single game that had more on the line.  Of course... if the game is followed by a tiebreaker game on Tuesday it will quickly get surpassed in magnitude by the tiebreaker game.


What can I say?

How many times can I write the same things over and over again? Seattle gets hammered by Portland 11-3 last night at Showare Center.

Plain and simple... Seattle is scared of Portland. They have played like they are scared of Portland all season and last night was no different. The Winterhawks did whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted to do it, carving up the lack of Seattle defense to the tune of 3 goals in the first 3 minutes of the game. Arguably, Calvin Pickard should have been sharper to start the game but both goals came from players that were completely unmarked. Tough to blame your goaltender when guys come in uncontested.

A huge congratulations to Pickard who become the WHL's all time minutes played leader for goaltenders last night. Pickard has been a true warrior for this franchise and deserves quite a bit better than the team he is being provided with.

I do want to point out that Branden Troock provided one of the highlights of the year as he "bumped" Mac Carruth behind the net and then pummeled Chase De Leo after challenging him to a fight. These are the types of things that makes players a "hockey player". I know that is vague and difficult to define but I believe the first step towards your improvement on the score-sheet starts by doing things the "right way".

Another example: Connor Honey lays a big hit on a Winterhawks player and is immediately challenged by a 19 year old Brad Ross. Does he back down? Hell no... he drops the gloves and takes him on. He may have lost the fight but he had already won the war.

The only good news of the night? Everett beat Victoria 3-0 and that allowed Seattle to stay only 4 points behind Victoria with two games in hand. Those games in hand don't mean very much if you don't win them, it just means that Seattle has 5 more chances for points while Victoria only has 3.  The game against Everett tonight has to be considered a must win.

I will be playing in goal about a quarter mile from Showare tonight in a rare 5:15 Sunday game for myself. I'll throw up a game thread later tonight for everyone to discuss after the game.


Ultra Quick Update

With the loss last night, Seattle put their playoff hopes in peril once again.

The good news is that Everett won (I just threw up in my mouth a little bit saying that) and here is why.

Victoria clearly has the tougher schedule and Everett is looking pretty good for making the playoffs. If Victoria steals one of the two (now one) games in Everett it would make things much tougher for the Tbirds to finish in position. If you more or less concede that Everett will likely gain the 7th seed, Seattle must become a fan of anyone that plays Victoria.

A sweep in Prince George would have made things a lot easier... but the Tbirds haven't played consistently decent games in months and I honestly expected PG to come out with their best effort with their season down to a must win situation. So last night's result wasn't really very surprising to me. If this team makes the playoffs they won't be smashing down the front door to get there.

Seattle gets a rare Friday night off before hosting the Winterhawks at Showare on Saturday.


Playoff Hopes Alive in PG

Seattle managed to pick up a much needed 3-1 win last night in Prince George to keep their playoff hopes alive. On the flip side, they probably "ruined" any chance at finishing below the Cougars and gaining the #1 pick in the upcoming Bantam draft. Of course, if Seattle misses the playoffs they will be a part of the WHL Lottery and could still get the #1 pick... but I digress.

Unfortunately, my laptop came back from my latest Las Vegas trip a bit wounded and decided that it didn't like the WHL website or video feed from Prince George.  I wasn't able to watch much more than 10 minutes of the first period, so I can't comment too much on the game itself. As a result, I’ll focus on some bigger picture topics.

Seattle now trails Everett by 1 point for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and trail Victoria by 2 points with a game in hand. It just so happens that Everett will host Victoria tonight at the EEC in a game should also have a big impact on the playoff race. It goes without saying that any points at this stage in the season are critical and Seattle, Everett and Victoria will all need them tonight.  Prince George is now 4 points behind Seattle and 5 behind Everett and will likely find themselves on the outside looking in. The Cougars are in a must-win tonight against Seattle or their playoff hopes are likely done.

The Massey Ratings still don't like the Tbirds chances, as they are rated 22nd (dead last) in predictive results for the rest of the season. (editors note: this does not include results from last night's game). Let's take a look at the remaining schedule and see what we might be looking at.

Best case scenario -
Seattle at Prince George - W
Portland at Seattle - L
Everett at Seattle - W
Spokane at Everett - at least 1 point
Seattle at Spokane - L
Everett at Seattle - W
Seattle at Porland - L

That would give Seattle 7-8 points and finish 53 or 54 points.

Worst case scenario - 
Seattle at Prince George - L (with PG playing for their season)
Portland at Seattle - L
Everett at Seattle - W*
Spokane at Everett - L
Seattle at Spokane - L
Everett at Seattle - W*
Seattle at Porland - L
* - In this scenario Seattle splits the two remaining games with Everett, doesn't matter which order.

This leaves Seattle with 2 more points and if I add a loser point in there they finish with 48 or 49 points.

Everett: (best guess)
Victoria at Everett - W
Portland at Everett - L
Victoria at Everett - at least 1 point
Everett at Seattle - L
Everett at Kelowna - L
Everett at Tri-City - L
Everett at Seattle - W

This leaves Everett with 52 or 53 points.

Victoria: (best guess)
Victoria at Everett - L
Victoria at Kelowna - L
Victoria at Everett - 1 point
Victoria at Vancouver - L
Portland at Victoria - L
Portland at Victoria - W*
* - I'm saying Victoria gets 1 or 2 points out of that weekend series with Portland

That leaves Victoria 50 or 51 points.

Ok... what does this all mean??

1) Seattle has a very tough road ahead if they don't win tonight. Without a win, they are probably done.
2) Victoria has a pretty difficult schedule the rest of the way and they probably have to win a game in Everett or steal the game in Kelowna or Vancouver to have a shot.
3) Everett's schedule is pretty favorable. They've played well at home lately and they have two games against Vic left at home followed by two trips to Showare that are winnable games. I think Everett has to be considered the favorite to get at least one of these two playoff spots.

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