Sunday, March 30, 2014

Rockets/T-Birds - Part Deux

  • So here we go again. Fantastic! After last seasons opening round playoff series where the Kelowna Rockets became only the second team in WHL history to come back from being down 0-3, I anticipate the T-Birds being more than just a little motivated in this second crack at the boys from the Okanagan. Seattle fans seemed to stomach the meltdown last season quite easily considering the Rockets were 50 points better during the regular season. I am not sure the T-Bird players felt the same way. Seattle was the underdogs and head coach Steve Konowalchuk played that card before the puck even dropped in game one. The 2014 playoff clash is different though and don't let anybody else tell you otherwise. The under dog moniker won't work for either team here. Sorry coaches.  
  • While separated by 30 points in the Western Conference standings this time around, make no mistake the T-Birds are a contender. They won 41 times in the highly competitive U.S Division. The division was the best in the WHL this season. Just ask any of the Eastern Division teams that went through there this season and got severely worked. And remember, the T-Birds played  the Portland Winterhawks 12 times - 6 at home and 6 on the road. Eliminate even half of those games and the T-Birds could be close to a 50 win team. This season the T-Birds were an impressive 4 and 2 in six home games against the Winterhawks.They were 0 and 6 in Portland and were out-scored 42-12.
  • The Rockets were 2-1-0-1 in the four games in the seasonal series against Seattle. The T-Birds were 2-1-0-1 against Kelowna. What? Yup, those shootout losses - one by each team - make the records of the two club identical. You can blame NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman for that.  
  • The seasonal series means little. Why? The Rockets played a game in Seattle/Kent on January 26th with an inconvenient 5 pm start time after playing the night before at home against Lethbridge. The visitors were anything but fresh. From a Seattle perspective, they didn't have starting goaltender Taran Kozun in two of the four games after acquired the 19 year-old at the trade deadline. Those are just two reasons why the seasonal series means diddly.    
  • For what its worth the Rockets scored 72 more goals and allowed 67 fewer goals against than Seattle. The goals against is a little misleading considering goalie Taran Kozun wasn't around at the time when the T-Birds allowed 10 goals against in three games, in a pair of losses in Portland and in Calgary.   
  • The Prince George Cougars stole Todd Fiddler from Moose Jaw in what appeared to be a minor trade at the time. The same could be said when Seattle GM Russ Farewell acquired Taran Kozun from Kamloops. Farewell knew something few others did that Kozun could be a solid starting goaltender. I had my doubts but Kozun is no flash in the pan. The dude is for real. 
  • The Rockets need to win their home games in this series to have success. Sounds like an obvious statement, but they lost games #1 and #2 in last years opening round before managing wins in Seattle in games #4 and #6. This year winning in Seattle won't be as easy. The T-Birds were 23-9-1-3 at ShoWare Center, which is a 9 win improvement (16 more points) after struggling with a 13-15-6-2 record last season. Home ice should be massive in this series and the visitors will be hard pressed to win in the other teams building.   
  • This scheduling for the second round playoff series will move like Molasses considering the Indy 500 pace (I hate auto racing but will use the reference) set in the opening round with Tri City. In the five games against the Americans, the two teams completed the series in seven nights. By comparison this series, if it goes five games which I assume it will go longer, would be played in 9 days. Two additional off days are huge in the big picture. If it goes a full seven, it will be conducted over 13 days. 
  • More later, but for now a little taste of what's to come. The main course will arrive on Thursday with game one but before then a few appetizers over the next few days so check back.

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