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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Starting the Season with a W

Seattle got exactly what they needed with a season opening win last night. It won't go down as the most impressive victory in club history, with Portland missing somewhere around 57 NHL draft picks from their lineup (is that number right?). I also don't think we can make very many assessments about the team after a win over a shorthanded Winterhawks club but it certainly isn't a bad sign. After all, Seattle is also without Justin Hickman and Shea Theodore who are obviously impact players for Seattle. In case you didn't hear the news, Seattle will be without Theodore for a while now as he suffered an elbow injury at Anaheim Ducks camp on Sunday and will be out around 4-6 weeks. He should be back around November.

I had trouble completely analyzing the game because the WHL video feed was still so choppy I thought this was 2002. Maybe my internet is just bad... I don't know.  Here were a few observations that I came up with.

  • One of my biggest concerns going into the season was team defense and that concern was shared by Jon as well. I don't think we can declare this issue dead but the team defense last night was pretty excellent. Seattle had a few bad giveaways early in the game but generally kept things pretty buttoned up after that. Taran Kozun held quite a few shots to prevent rebounds (after a few shaky early moments as well) and did exactly what you would have expected from a 20 year old goaltender.
  • I thought Ethan Bear was particularly solid. What a good hockey player he is at only 17 years old. Even when he made minor mistakes it seemed like he quickly covered them up. The sky is the limit for him and someone is going to get a really good player in the NHL draft this year. He may not have the high upside of a guy like Theodore or Mathew Dumba but I'm going to be very surprised if he doesn't carve out a nice NHL career.
  • Keegan Kolesar nearly won a foot race to a puck with Keoni Texeira when he started the race behind him. We've heard (and seen) that Kolesar's fitness and skating had improved but it was one of those moments where I said to myself "whoa". He also scored earlier in the game on a nice deflection in front of the net. If Seattle is going to prove me wrong and make it to the #4 (or higher) seed for the playoffs, guys like Kolesar will have to play like this on most nights.
  • I liked what I saw from Alex True and Florian Baltram. Baltram even played with the Barzal/Gropp line for a while.
  • Nice to see Seattle mix it up a little bit with Portland. For several years now that has not been Portland's calling card and it seems like whenever Seattle can get Portland to mix it up a little bit the results favor Seattle. When Portland stays out of the scrums, they've generally won. Jared Hauf got things started early with Alex Schoenborn and kept things feisty through the "multiple fight situation" in the 2nd.
  • Ryan Gropp, 1 game, 2 goals. Maybe 35 goals was too conservative. I hope he pots 40.
  • Mathew Barzal, 1 game, 2 assists. Ho Hum.
Everett is not missing nearly as many players as Portland is, so I expect this game to give us a little better indication of where things stand. Preseason games really don't matter very much but Seattle has to be feeling a little bit stung by losing back to back games to Everett to end the preseason.

I will be attending a rare game without kids tonight so I'm actually going to try to track some entry stats. Don't expect that to be a regular thing (unfortunately) but we'll see what it looks like.


Anonymous said...

I happened to be at the game last night. Your feed must have been terrible because I thought Barzal was good enough to be first star.It only took 10 min before he and Ryan Gropp were united in order to get something going offensively,which they did. We wil take the two points and get out of town quietly, because i dont think it will happen agin unless our goal tending plays super human like.
Good luck tonight birds !!

Anonymous said...

Nice win against a "JV" team

Anonymous said...

Lets see, Portland had 9 rookies in their lineup and Seattle had 8. So I guess Seattle's "JV" team kicked Portland's "JV" team up and down the ice.

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