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Hockey Challenge 2014

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1-0, Same Start as Last Year (oh wait)

Last year Seattle started the season with a 5-2 win in Portland and we all know that last season turned out so well that the team decided they should probably start the season 1-0 with a win over Portland again.

Obviously... I'm joking. The Tbirds get off to a nice start to the season by picking up a 4-3 shootout win over the Portland Winterhawks. The Hawks were coming off a 9 goal performance on opening night against the Prince George Cougars and many of you/us had to wonder whether we would see much of the same Saturday night at the Sho'. But Seattle played a stout defensive game and came out very strong in the first period to give themselves an early lead.

I saw some very good things and some things that will need some work. On to the bullet holes.

  • Seattle's start was exactly what they needed. I immediately noticed a higher level of crisp passing and they were able to generate chances and sustain pressure in the Portland zone. My fears about being able to break the puck out didn't materialize early in the game.  Brendan Burke made 15 first period saves for the Winterhawks and if it weren't for him the score probably could have been 2 or 3-0.
  • One of my keys to the season is the performance of Jared Hauf and as such I spent much of the game focusing my attention on his play whenever he was on the ice. His play along the wall to keep the puck in led to the first goal and it was a nice way for him to start the season.  I would still like to see Hauf make more of an impact at the offensive end of the ice and I'd like to see him be more physical but I thought he played a solid game and I only counted one real "minus" on the hooking call he took in the 3rd period. His long reach makes him very difficult to skate around for many forwards and I think he is getting better at playing a simple, solid, straightforward defensive game.  The problem is... when you aren't really chipping in very much on the offensive end, it puts a lot of pressure on a player to play flawlessly in their own zone. So far so good from what I saw, especially when I thought Smith had some moments that left Hauf alone to cover for him.
  • I sent out a tweet early in the game about Griffin Foulk and his offensive zone pinches. I was picking on him at the time because it was bad and created an odd man break for Portland but this really goes towards the entire defensive crew. When people talk about playing a "simple" game (as I mentioned above with Hauf) this is what I think about first. Pinches are tempting and they must be done to keep up the offensive zone pressure - BUT - you better not miss. Seattle simple cannot afford to give up too many odd man rushes in any situation but especially one where you have an unproven goaltender.
  • Speaking of which... let's talk about Justin Myles. I really liked what I saw. He's very fluid and never seems to get rattled or overly excited. The first two Portland goals were not his fault with the first being a fluky (but good) shot off the face-off from Ethan Price and the second goal being a tap-in by Oliver Bjorkstrand off a beautiful feed from Nic Petan. The 3rd goal I have a bit of an issue with despite the fact that Jarret Smith was trailing De Leo and arguably shouldn't have been able to get to a rebound. It was a shot Myles probably wanted back and obviously came at a bit of a bad time leading by a goal with under 8 minutes to play.  However, all's well that ends well as he stopped 2 of 3 in the shootout for the win.
  • Erik Benoit and Ethan Bear were running the point on the first power play. Obviously, that changes when Shea Theodore returns but it will be interesting to see if Bear continues to get PP minutes. He seemed to hold his own and also logged minutes shorthanded. That's pretty impressive for a 16 year old playing in just his 2nd game against the defending WHL champions.
  • Mike Campbell is a really poor official and needs a new profession. (My editor insisted on this being in Bold)
  • Seth Swenson hammered one off the post and Riley Sheen made a great move only to be denied by Burke. Seattle could have easily had one or two more goals.
  • Mathew Barzal looked [a little bit] like a 16 year old in his first WHL game but managed to get his first point after taking a smart rebound shot in the second period. He was the first out of the bench for the shootout and lost the puck before recovering and beating Burke with a backhand after what seemed like about 14 handles.  We have yet to see the best from Barzal... I doubt we will have to wait very long.
  • Last note. Branden Troock was held off the scoresheet and was a -1 for the night but I really liked what I saw. Especially the part where he was throwing his body around and finishing checks. I realize he has been hurt several times but I truly believe that if you're going to play this game the right way you have to play without fear and it certainly looked to me like Troock had no fear of getting himself re-injured. It was a great sign and if he keeps finishing checks like that... the points are going to come in bunches.
That's all I have for now. 1-0... whatttttyaknow. Let's hope this is the start of some great things for this team and the fans.


Anonymous said...

I'm no expert but I really liked what I saw from Bear. He was super poised on the puck both in his own end and on the PP.

I still think Russ has to be thinking trade with some of the D-men. Once Theodore and Forsberg come back there are going to be some talented guys who get scratched. Once again, no expert. Just my thought.

Unknown said...

It was a very fun game on Saturday night. I hope this is an indication to what we are seeing most of the nights. I really like how the top 2 lines look, especially when we get Hickman back. I thought Myles did a solid job in the net. I also though Benoit had a solid game. It was nice to see the T-birds winning some faceoffs.

jon said...

I'm not sure I have ever seen a center waived from more faceoffs than Barzal on Saturday.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, what was up with that? Barzal got waived out of the circle so many times! He won almost all of the three-four that they let him take though.

Jon said...

Barzal got tossed from the faceoffs because he was cheating so much on them. He was trying to spin his entire body as the puck was being dropped. That meant he was no longer squared up. It was interesting in that he didn't do this in the preseason.

Mr Tell13 said...

I did notice that too.
I also notice that it was much much worst when taking faceoffs on his left. I did not notice it when he was on the right side of the rink. (maybe because of my point of view)

I was actually wondering about that

Anonymous said...

Barzal gets called for off sides a lot, too. Maybe rookie nervous energy.

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