This post started as thoughts on the last weekend and turned into a bunch of different thoughts I have had over the last couple days.
This last weekendAs most have pointed out, the key to this last weekend's games was special teams and I thought the penalty kill made the biggest difference.
Friday night - Tri, 0-3
Saturday night - Everett, 1-4
Sunday night - Kelowna, 0-4
Combined, that is 1-11.
But it wasn't just that they did but rather the timing of the killed off penalty that made a difference.
I will be the first to admit that Saturday night, when Everett was put on the powerplay with 1:56 to go in a tie game, I thought it was over. That is usually how it goes with Everett games. Capitalize on their chances late in the game to seal the deal. But, the Birds blocked shots, got sticks on pucks, and made some timely saves and ultimately won it in overtime.
Sunday night against Kelowna, again, tie game, Kelowna goes on a 4 minute powerplay right after Seattle scored to tie it up. But the penalty killers do some amazing work, kill it off, and we score right after.
I really thought the biggest player on those kills (other then the goalie) was captain Justin Hickman.
Adam Henry also comes to mind and the entire penalty kill as a whole contributed but Hickman led the way in killing those timely penalties. In the 4 minutes against Kelowna, Hickman got the puck, almost scored, then tied up 3 of their players in the far corner, making everyone dig hard for the puck (and I have to tell you guys that digging for a puck in the corner will tire your legs a lot more than people realize).
Some good words for an opponentThis is going to sound strange coming from me, but I also wanted to point out the 3 Everett penalty killers that almost killed off the Seattle powerplay in OT. They played the entire 1:46 of the kill, in their own end and I don't recall the puck leaving the zone. They blocked shots, cut down passing lanes, and made Seattle work for the game winning goal. Everett goalie (and former TBird) Daniel Cotton was the first to console his hard working teammates after the loss. They were so tired and so dejected on the ice while Seattle was celebrating. You have to give them credit for the job they did in almost killing off the 4 on 3 in overtime.
Some good words for an opponent - Part 2Kelowna goaltender Jordon Cooke. Wow, what a couple saves he made in the 3rd to keep it close. He robbed Ryan Gropp on a cross crease save with the pad. How he got from one side to the other side that fast, and made the save, then got the next shot Gropp put up was amazing.
Response to a tired Kelowna teamI think you could tell that Kelowna had been playing 4 games in 5 nights, had to travel over night to Seattle, etc. They seemed to be a step off. But, I also think a lot of that had to do with the way Seattle played. Kelowna had zero space and time with the puck in the 2nd and 3rd. Every pass to a Kelowna player had a Seattle player on him quickly. Seattle also finished just about every check they could have. I remember in the 3rd period, a Kelowna player was going to play the puck along the boards, and saw a Seattle player coming to check him (I think it was Hickman), and instead of going hard and playing the puck, he slowed up and tried to chip the puck past.
Kelowna got very frustrated, took some very bad penalties, and in the end lost.
This is the type of hockey that when Seattle plays, they can compete with anyone.
Crowd Saturday nightSold out, standing room only, packed to the rafters.
It was so sold out, the Seattle non-suits had to sit in the press area, and the Everett non-suits were standing behind the scout area. What a great crowd. Lots of energy, noise, and they were treated to a great game, with the correct outcome.
Playing the bottom feedersLast week, a tweet appeared out of Everett that mentioned Everett doesn't play a team under .500 the rest of the season. Due to the amazing loser point, there really are only 5 teams with under a .500 record in the entire league. With only 2 of them in the western conference, the chances of playing more then a couple of games against those are even smaller. So to me, saying you don't get to play any games against struggling teams the rest of the season is kind of pointing out the obvious.
I have news for people, how do you think these teams got to be under .500. By playing you guys already.
Hunnex Edit: Hockey people should know by now that ".500" is no longer relevant hockey related standings fodder. If you want a new benchmark, I would suggest .600 or at the very least .550. Currently, 8 of the 20 teams in the WHL sport point percentages over .600. Edmonton, Calgary, Med Hat in the East and Kelowna, Portland, Victoria, Seattle and Spokane in the West.
Kelowna - Kamloops 3, PG 4 - total of 7
Portland - Kamloops 2, PG 3 - total of 5
Victoria - Kamloops 3, PG 2, Saskatoon 1 - total of 5
Seattle - Kamloops 1, PG 1 - total of 2
Spokane - Kamloops 2, PG 2 - total of 4
Everett - Kamloops 0, PG 0 - total of 0
Vancouver - Kamloops 2, PG 0 - total of 2
Tri - Kamloops 1, PG 0 - total of 1
Each US division team also gets to play Prince Albert at home, since they are making their swing late. They are right at .500, so I didn't include them.
So clearly, if playing a team under .500 means a win, then the teams at the top have the best chance at staying at the top.
PlayoffsSpeaking of looking ahead and who plays who, I want to look a little further ahead and the playoffs. If the playoff's started right now, Seattle is in 4th place, meaning they get matched up with 5th place. Oh look, Spokane is in 5th. Check the record against them this season (5-0).
Win that round, and assuming the top 3 teams also win, still the 4th seed, and matched up against #1 seed Kelowna. Record against them 2-1.
As much as I want us to stay in front of everyone, and pass Portland for the division, I think Seattle would feel pretty confident about those two match-ups.
Kevin WolfSomeone in a comment under the Kevin Wolf's picture asked about the future Kevin in Seattle. So here goes.
I do think Kevin will continue to improve and be a quality defender in the WHL. Will it happen tomorrow, no. Will he continue to get better tomorrow, yes. Will he be a #1 defender in the league, probably not.
Kevin came from Minnesota as a tall 16 year old. The difference between Minnesota high school hockey and the WHL is HUGE. The difference between the Chicago Fury team (he went and played with as a 15) and the WHL is HUGE. So anyone that expected him to step into the WHL and be a top end talent was mistaken from the start.
If you look at the amount of improvement he made during the last off-season, and project it out to this upcoming off-season, you would expect to see a player that will be able to skate better and use his size even better. If he doesn't continue to improve, he will get pushed quite a bit by all the other defenders that might be coming in.
Also, at times, they have been playing him up front, and he has handled it well, even getting a goal. I am told he played forward it in the past, so maybe that is his future.
Goals for everyoneSpeaking of Wolf scoring a goal. Now that he has, every current Seattle player has scored a goal. Each year seems a couple of players don't get one, so great to see it happen. Also goes to show the depth the team has.
Mini Parents WeekendThere were a bunch of the player's parents at the two games this weekend.
Wonderful seeing all of them and chatting it up.
Thanks again for all you guys do, and for letting your son's play hockey for a team we all love.
Jon had a bad gameSince a couple people gave me a bad time about not including this in a blog post, here you go
Two weeks ago, playing in a men's rec league game, my team lost 7-1.
I was playing defense, and finished a minus 7. That's right, -7, 7 below zero, was on the ice when they other team scored ALL their goals. So, keep that is mind whenever I talk about Seattle's defense.