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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Hickman leads Tbirds to victory

Conventional wisdom would tell you that Alexander Delnov (2 g, 2 a) led the Tbirds to victory last night. It would also be perfectly reasonable to suggest Connor Sanvido and his 2 goal effort or maybe Luke Lockhart and his 2 goals would be your choice for 1st star of the game.  All would be reasonable selections. I'm here to tell you that the player of the game last night was Justin Hickman.

Coming out flat in the 2nd period after they had dominated the 1st, Seattle found itself quickly down 2-1 after a minute and fifteen seconds. The crowd of 4,145 deflated and it looked as though the game may have turned I would have called timeout but Konowalchuk knows his team better than I do and exactly 2 minutes later Hickman would engage Carter Proft in a fight that lasted little more than 10-15 seconds but changed the course of the entire game.  Few actual punches were thrown before Hickman wrestled Proft to the ice and skated off imploring the fans (and his team) to get a little fired up.

Like clockwork, Delnov whipped in a wrister just 33 seconds later and Sanvido scored two and a half minutes later and the game had turned.

With this franchise it seems as though we are always saying "wait 'til next year" and sometimes it is foolish optimism for us to have looked towards next year. Fans, especially Tbirds fans, seem to feel like things are either "win a banner" or "that year sucked". I understand that sentiment to a certain extent because the Tbirds have very few banners and have enjoyed very little upper level success and I would consider upper level success to either be a Division title or Conference Finals appearance and beyond. The point is... I want to be very careful in my praise for what I saw last night. If you're looking for this team to win a WHL title this year I think you've set the expectations a little too high.

However... Based on what I have seen so far this season I can easily say this is the best Seattle team we've seen in several years. This team won't miss the playoffs. I feel pretty comfortable making that "prediction".  You have to go back to 2008-09 for the last time this team made the playoffs.  That team went 35-32-5 which was good for 75 points. The season before in 2007-08 the Tbirds went 42-23-7, good for 91 points.

I think this team is looking more like the 08-09 version but has a decent chance to put themselves closer to the 91 point mark.  Right now the team has the ability to roll 4 forward lines and have a pretty good chance at getting scoring from any of the 4 lines. My biggest concern continues to be the defense but so far they have been able to hold things together and I think guys like Wardley and Forsberg bring enough physicality to the defense to keep offenses from getting too comfortable.  Hauf and Green are still very raw and haven't learned to use their size to their advantage yet and that only comes from being better skaters.  I've said it a million times before... if you put Andre the Giant in skates... he isn't knocking me down because he doesn't know how to skate. It doesn't matter how big you are if you can't generate enough leverage to knock people on their ass (something Wardley has learned to do in SPADES in the last calendar year). If Hauf and Green manage to take a step forward before the year is over, this could be a very good defensive unit.

So... rejoice Tbirds fans. We should be seeing some more winning hockey going forward and that makes things very exciting for the rest of this season. Wait until next year is a tired and worn out mantra... but it is a mantra that "might" actually start becoming a reality if players can continue some of the momentum we are beginning to see.


Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure about Wardley yet. I think he'd make a better forward then defenseman. I wince when he has the puck behind our goal. Twice already this season he's been a healthy scratch so that they can get the 16 year old Wolf in the lineup. They're sitting the 18 yr old, not either of those 17 yr olds you mentioned. Does appear early on that releasing Deagle was the right move though. Rouse leades the team in +/- and Lockhart leads in goals scored. What's up with Elliot? He's not played the last two games.

Thunnex said...

Elliot has been "sick" the past week or so. He has been cleared to practice/play per Thom's blog.

I'm not saying by any means that Wardley has played great or has deserved to play... I'm just saying that his physicality is the type of play that helps keep offenses on their toes and can lead to overall effective defense.

I do think he is in a bit of a funk lately but I also think he is capable of being a solid defender.

Anonymous said...

You have to admit, Andre the Giant would have a wicked slapper!

Thunnex said...

Heavy slapper.

Anonymous said...

The problem with this team, in my opinion, is defense.

I think the Tbirds would be wise to find one more veteran defensemen.

Anonymous said...

What are the possibilities of putting Elliot back on defense? I thought he did well there late last season. Seems we have enough depth up front. It would also get Holub more ice time. I like that kid.

Anonymous said...

I think Wardley is a definate force on the team. I heard he was out with an injury last weekend, so I don't think that's considered a healthy scratch. Remember him off his injury last year, pretty good on him stepping up. Elliot should maybe stick to Broadcasting???????

I don't think the problem is defense. They are really doing well and being a coach myself they've kept us alive

Anonymous said...

How about Honey stopping that break away? Brilliant. It's nice to see everyone chipping in instead of the same couple of guys every night.

Thunnex said...

I doubt we see Elliot on defense to be honest.

Yeah... that play by Honey was a really nice hustle play.

Anonymous said...

The western conference is going to be a tight race it looks like. All the US teams are having good eastern road trips, this will be critical for the birds to get points when they go on their road swing to keep up. Last nights game in Spokane are the type of games the birds need to pull out if we are going to make the playoffs this year. Myles played a great game in goal, but there was no offense in sight, not even many chances at that.

Anonymous said...

Once again, no offense in sight.

Anonymous said...

Back in the normal position in the standings, but if we can just make the playoffs!

Anonymous said...

Big game tonight as well as the weekend!!!!! Tris City is another one of those teams that has owned us at the Sho. 3 in 3 nights could be a very good weekend or very bad with the 2 losses last weekend. Let's hope for a very good weekend!!! Go Birds!!

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