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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Everett at Seattle - Game 5

Well, I was a little bit afraid of that result. A better crowd in Everett, with their backs against the wall and the Tips played like their season was on the line. Seattle, did not.

Seattle's intensity from the start of the game was poor. I couldn't tell whether the first goal was deflected in but the shooter should have never been able to walk around the net off the wall and get a shot off in the way that he did. Then... they surrendered an awful shorthanded goal where nobody bothered to pick up a streaking Josh Winquist who was feed with a nice open ice pass from Manraj Hayer who promptly placed a snap shot over the shoulder of Taran Kozun and the game was effectively over. Sure, there was still more than 57 minutes left in the game but Seattle's margin of error isn't large enough to just punt away stretches of the game that badly and recover. You can't put all of the blame on Kozun but he certainly wasn't as sharp as he had been in the first 3 games of the series.  I would have to imagine he'll get things straightened out again tonight.

Oh well. All's well that ends well for Seattle IF they can finish off the Tips tonight at home. I don't normally think of myself as being a very negative guy but I have to admit that I couldn't help but think about the possibility of losing 4 straight games like they did last year. Hopefully, the team doesn't tighten with that thought and it energizes them for Game 5 tonight. With a very short period of time to sell tickets the crowd tonight is going to likely be fairly weak. A strong walk-up crown may improve the numbers slightly but this is going to be far from a full house.

Jaimen Yakubowski returns and hopefully that gets the lines back in order. Everett is a little more banged up and Seattle must get back to punishing them physically if they want to end this thing.


Seattle at Everett - Game 4

I didn't have a chance to get my thoughts out on Game 4 for a variety of reasons so I'll just include some here in the Game 4 thread.

Seattle did a remarkable job of staying composed and coming back from being down 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 to eventually tie the game on a goal by Scott Eansor before getting a trickling change-up GWG that was eventually credited to Justin Hickman.

What a fantastic game by Scott Eansor. This is a different team with him in the lineup.

Of course, we've been here and done this before. Seattle took the first 3 games of the series last year against Kelowna and eventually wound up losing Game 7 in overtime to the Rockets.  This doesn't quite feel the same though. Kelowna was a vastly superior team to Seattle and finally was able to show it over the course of the final four games of the series.

Everett and Seattle are awfully close as far as talent goes and I have to imagine the Tips are feeling pretty dejected after coughing up three leads in Game 3 and losing in Overtime. They have to especially be discouraged about the fact that they could have easily won each game in this series and yet find themselves in a 3-0 hole.

This is a dangerous game for Seattle based on what happened last year. Lose and you run the risk of bad thoughts creeping into the minds of the players who were here. However, most of the players weren't here last year and that may have no impact at all. I think you will see some push-back from Everett tonight but if they aren't able to build a lead of more than a goal and Seattle is able to gain the upper hand... it could be lights out for the Tips.

Seattle will be without Jaimen Yakubowski who was suspended for one game for his CFB double minor from Game 3. I'm not too upset by that ruling. It didn't look like Yak had any horrible intent but it was definitely a penalty and Noah Juulsen left the game and isn't expected to play tonight.


Everett at Seattle - Game 3

I forgot to post this earlier... so this will be a celebration of Game 3 VICTORY thread!


Game 2 Thoughts

Seattle officially put Everett on notice with a 3-1 road win in Everett last night. A series doesn't truly get interesting until a team wins a road game and Seattle did just that.

I can't say that I envisioned this scenario playing out when I previewed the series last week but the Thunderbirds have executed their game plan to perfection. Get the lead if possible (Game 1 - check), don't let Everett gain a lead of more than 1 goal (Game 2 - check) get pucks deep and put pressure on their defenders (Games 1 and 2 - check) and get great goaltending (Games 1 and 2 - check check check PLUS).

Game 2 had the potential to get away from them after a questionably puck handling decision by Taran Kozun led to a 1-0 lead for the Tips. A 2 goal lead would have likely been difficult to come back from but Seattle was able to hold things down and get the equalizer in the 2nd period with a PP goal. A great feed from Adam Henry to Roberts Lipsbergs, who actually benefited by not one-timing the shot as Lotz over slid and Lipsbergs planted one in the upper corner.

The game remained tied into the 3rd when Lipsbergs and Zane Jones were taken off for Cross Checking and Embellishment. The 4 on 4 situation opened the game up considerably and Mathew Barzal took advantage of the extra space finding Branden Troock streaking to the net for the go-ahead and eventual game winning goal. I know I've said it a dozen times before but Troock is so much more effective when giving the puck up to others and using his size and strength to get to the net and his first career playoff goal was a perfect example of that.  Barzal really had another excellent game creating a number of chances with his puck control and vision.

Seconds later... the Tips scored the equalizer... and had it promptly taken away with an emphatic wave off by the officials. It happened at the other end of the ice, so I honestly couldn't tell you what happened but my assumption was that Kozun must have had control for a moment and the Referee had determined the puck was frozen before being poked in but that is only a guess.

A lot of fun sitting with a big group of Seattle fans for a road game. Thanks to all the "Suckers who read" for their awesome showing in enemy territory.

However, there were some rough moments to this game that were worth mentioning. Taran Kozun had the turnover that led to the goal in the first and needed an incredible scramble to rob Jujhar Khaira of an empty net.

Seattle can't honestly feel like this series is in the bag though as both games have been very close and the difference in the two teams is razor thin. With that in mind, Everett should absolutely feel like they could get back in this series with a break or two their way. They've dominated the shot column in both games and have to feel like it's only a matter of time before they break through against Kozun. Everett will have to win 4 of 5 games with only 2 of them at home to win the series but they've been anything but blown out through the first two.

Seattle got exactly what they came for. They lead the series 2-0 and get to have Game 3 at home for their 2 for Tuesday promotion.  I honestly don't care if 6000 or 600 people show up on Tuesday as long as the team picks up win #3.


Seattle at Everett, Game 2

Seattle held serve last night and will have a chance to really take hold if they can win in Everett this evening afternoon Sunday.

4:05 puck drop. Still time to get tickets and head up to Everett.

Game 1 Thoughts

A few Game 1 thoughts while I have two babies who are quiet and happy (I probably just jinxed it).

A bit of a mixed bag last night.

Certainly, you have to be happy with Seattle "holding serve" and taking a 1-0 lead in the series with a win on home ice. I tweeted last night that a series doesn't truly start or get interesting until a team wins a road game and Seattle will get their chance at that tonight in Everett.

The start of the game was fantastic. The YakMacEansor line set the tone early with their forecheck and Seattle earned an early Power Play chance. And what a Power Play it was... Seattle moved the puck quickly and efficiently and looked like a completely different team. Players didn't hesitate to shoot the puck and they were able to get one timed shots to the net that eventually led to Russell Maxwell jamming home a rebound for a 1-0 lead.

Seattle then added another PP goal just past the mid-way point in the 1st period on a blast from Shea Theodore. Seattle had a lot of traffic in front and was able to clearly bother Austin Lotz who was enraged after the goal.

Towards the end of the 1st period, sensing the game possibly slipping away, Kevin Constantine went to work. I'm not kidding about this folks and I'm not making this up or exaggerating. Constantine went to work complaining about the nature of the officiating, specifically to Referee Jeff Ingram who has been, let's say, one of the more challenged officials all season. The dividends were immediate, as Justin Hickman picked up a "you guys did it too" goaltender interference call with just over 30 seconds to go in the 1st period and Seattle picked up another 3 penalties in less than 5 minutes in the 2nd period.

The result was an awful 2nd period where Everett out shot Seattle 19-4 and picked up a 5 on 3 goal to cut the lead in half.

Fortunately for Seattle, Taran Kozun wasn't about to let this game get away. The deadline acquisition, seeing his first ever playoff action, was up for the task. He scrambled well on a few occasions and robbed Everett shooters in tight with his glove two different times. Seattle was probably lucky to keep some pucks out of the net but Kozun was amazing and deserved the first star.

Outside of a questionable kneeing penalty to Evan Wardley the TBirds were able to tighten things back up in the 3rd period and Everett never really seriously threatened with the extra attacker.

In summary....

The Good:

  • Taran Kozun. If Kozun plays like that every night Seattle might just win 4 straight.
  • The Power Play looked revitalized and better than it has all season. They scored twice and looked dangerous in all 4 attempts.
  • The forcheck was what it needed to be early in the game. Seattle got away from it a little bit when they were forced to the box but they set the tone early and that led to the two goal lead.
The Bad:
  • Penalties. Sheesh. I can't say I agreed with every call (understatement) but Seattle has got to stay out of the box. Simply put, Seattle probably can't give Everett 6 chances on the PP or they will probably lose. Give up 6 chances tonight in Everett and they are likely in trouble.
  • Too many shots. This was partly the result of the PP chances but they gave Everett way too many chances on net. You just can't expect Kozun to stand on his head every game in order to win.
  • Too many bad angles on defense. Two different times Silvertips walked off the wall, around defenders and into the slot only to have Kozun rob them with the glove hand. Keep Everett to the outside.
I'm encouraged and you have to be happy about being up 1-0 but Seattle could have easily lost that game. Tonight they get their first chance to swing the series with a road win and I know there will be around 75 Seattle fans in our group alone and probably other pockets as well.


Everett at Seattle, Game 1

Game 1 and Seattle should probably win this one since they will head to Everett tomorrow.

I sure hope I'm wrong...


How does Barzal not get rookie of the year? (by the numbers)

We have another case of a TBird being passed over for a WHL award.
In the past, I have written about Troock and Delnov being overlooked for player of the week awards.
Now I will write about Barzal being passed on for WHL Western Conference rookie of the year.

Today, the WHL award nominations were announced, and Nick Merkley from Kelowna is the rookie of the year for the Western Conference.
Based purely on the numbers, this is a mistake.

Here are their individual player stats.

Stat Merkley Barzal
Games 66 59
Goals 25 14
Assists 33 40
Points 58 54
Penalty Minutes 66 20
Plus Minus +24 +3
Power Play Goals 4 5
Game Winning Goals 4 3
Goals Per Game .379 .237
Points Per Game .879 .915

Barzal played in fewer games and had fewer points and fewer goals but less penalty minutes and a higher points per game average.

Barzal also played on a team that finished middle of the pack and was arguably relied upon more than Merkley.

So I went ahead and filtered out just the games that the teams played with the players

Stat Merkley Barzal
With Without With Without
Games 66 6 59 13
Wins 52 5 34 7
Loses 10 1 20 5
OverTime Losses 0 0 1 1
Shootout Loses 4 0 4 0
Points 108 10 73 15
Goals For 277 33 201 37
Goals Against 168 14 195 54
Team Goals per game 4.20 5.50 3.41 2.85
Team Goals against per game 2.54 2.33 3.30 4.15
Players Goals as a Percent Of Team Goals 9.03% 6.97%
Players Points as a Percent Of Team Goals 20.94% 26.87%

So you can see that Merkley scored around 9% of his teams goals, and was in on 21% of his teams goals.  Barzal on the other hand scored around 7% of his teams goals, but was in on 27% of his teams goals.  So based on that, you could say that Barzal was more important to his team based on the percent of points he was involved in.

But, two number stuck out even more.

Let's start with goals per game of the teams with or without the players.

For Kelowna, with Merkley, they averaged 4.20 GPG, but went up to 5.50 GPG without him, an increase of 1.30 GPG.  For Seattle, with Barzal, they averaged 3.41 GPG, but went down to 2.85 GPG, a decrease of .56 GPG.  So without Barzal Seattle scored over a half a goal a game less, but Kelowna without Merkley scores over 1 goal a game more.  So based on that, you could once again say Barzal was more important to his team.

Lets move on to goals against per game with or without the players.

For Kelowna, with Merkley, they averaged giving up 2.54 GPG, but went down to 2.33 GPG without him, an decrease of .21 GPG.  For Seattle, with Barzal, they averaged giving up 3.30 GPG, but went up to 4.15 GPG, an increase of .85 GPG.  So without Barzal the team gave up over a 3/4 of a goal a game more, but Kelowna without Merkley game up 1/4 of a goal less per game.  So based on that, you could once again say Barzal was more important to his team.

Combine those together, and
Without Barzal, Seattle's goal differential is -1.25.
With Merkley, Kelowna's goal differential is 1.25.

That is a huge difference between the players, and their importance to the teams.

Don't get me wrong, Merkley is an amazing player, and well deserving of the rookie of the year.
Just watching him in the playoffs last year against Seattle, you could tell he was very impressive, and will continue to be one of the premier players in the WHL for 3 more seasons.

But, in my opinion, Barzal's numbers per game are better (less goals, but more assists), and the team was affected in a very negative way when he was not playing.  But, in the end, Merkley plays for Kelowna, and we all know who owns the Rockets, so tie goes to them (small hint of sarcasm, but not much).


Couple quick notes on game 2 in Everett

The biggest one of all, just to make sure everyone sees it:


Just to make sure no one shows up late expecting a start time of 5pm.

Also, If anyone is still in need of tickets, I have a group rate for the game at $16 a ticket.  They are lower bowl, end Seattle shoots at twice.  Contact me if you want to join in, the more the better.


Playoff Preview

I feel a little bit better. I got my fire and brimstone out yesterday over the folly that is the playoff schedule and I think I feel better.  I've heard some arguments as to why Seattle chose to do what it did and quite frankly not a single one of them is compelling to me.  I tend to be the type of person that prefers my sports teams make decisions based on facts and stats and not based on unproven theories and feelings.  Not everyone is like me though and I can appreciate that, I just don't have to agree with it and this is my forum to express that. It is pretty clear that this decision was based on business and not on hockey and that bothers me. See the tweet that Nick Patterson put out yesterday in response to a question about it.


Seattle earns home ice against Everett (sorta)

Seattle salvaged their weekend with a convincing win in Kennewick yesterday evening and coupled with the Silvertips shootout loss in Portland earned themselves the tiebreaker and home ice advantage over Everett in the first round of the playoffs.

Then... they promptly punted a small part of that advantage right back to their I-5 rivals.

The news actually broke on Friday when Everett released their possible playoff schedules (that page has since disappeared) showing that the series would buck the traditional 2-2-1-1-1 playoff format in favor of an alternating venue format (1-1-1-1-1-1-1).

Seattle will host Game 1 on Saturday in Kent at 7:05. The series then heads to Everett for Game 2 Sunday night and returns to Kent for Game 3 on Tuesday night. This, specifically, so that Seattle can host their popular "2 for Tuesday" promotion.

Why do I have a problem with this? Well let's break it down.

The front office isn't going to like this and they probably won't be happy with me. I may not have another request granted because of this article but I think this needs to be said and I think it is extremely fair. I'm also going to try to be respectful in my criticism. The Tbirds weren't forced into this decision (that I know of). They made this decision purposely and they have to live with the reaction. They had to know that some fans would feel this way.

The way I see it, there are two parts to this issue. The first is determining whether format really gives you an advantage or not and the second has to do with the philosophy and reasoning behind 2 for Tuesday.

(Note: This is going to get thick... so if you can't take it... I will summarize at the end of the whole thing, you can skip there now)


Player contracts

This is a little last week, but I thought I would put it up anyways.

An article was released on Yahoo sports Canada, and everyone picked up on it.

It is about the Ontario hockey league changing it's player benefit package.  They made a number of changes dealing with payment of players, expenses, training, etc.  You can read all about the changes in the article.

Just thought it was interesting reading for readers of the blog.  It brought up a bunch of questions / thoughts I had on it.

Here is another one on it.


An apology, a fish, and something about a record

Stay tuned for the nightly news at 11, where Jon actually admits he was wrong, a near riot in Kent, weather and sports.  And now back to the last half an hour of our feature documentary, "The story of the 1967-68 Estevan Bruins"

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