Up Two Games In Its Opening Round Series, T-Birds Looking Good
(1090 The Fan) — So far, so good for the Seattle Thunderbirds two games into their WHL postseason.
With Sunday’s 3-1 win, the Thunderbirds hold a 2-0 edge in their opening round series against Everett. A start that has to please everyone, including general manager Russ Farwell and head coach Steve Konowalchuk.
Sure, it has been just two games into what the team hopes is a long, arduous postseason ride, still the team has looked about as good as could have been expected with the way it performed in the closing weeks, finishing 4-6 in the final 10 games.
Consider that Everett came in as the hottest team in the WHL with an 11-0-0-2 mark in its final 13 contests and had won three straight over Seattle. Consider that in those three contests, the Silvertips outscored Seattle 10-4.
Through two games in the teams’ first head-to-head matchup in the playoffs, Seattle has outscored Everett 5-2 and held the Silvertips to 1-for-11 production on the power play. Pretty good indeed.
Yet, despite the start, coach Konowalchuk knows there is a lot of hockey left to be played in this series and that he is facing an elite team suddenly with their backs up against the wall.
“They’re a good team,” Konowalchuk reiterated after Sunday’s win. “To be up two nothing in the situation that we are, I’m happy. There’s a lot of hockey left, by no means is the series over.”
And is there anything to be learned after the finish the team had last year in the playoffs?
“We’re not even thinking that far ahead yet. Not even close, not even close,” repeated Konowalchuk.
Branden Troock Coming On Strong
Seattle forward Branden Troock has opened up the postseason with two excellent games for his team as the T-Birds have surged to a 2-0 series advantage over Everett.
Troock, who turned 20 on Thursday, scored in the third period of Sunday’s 3-1 win for his first ever playoff goal. After missing out on Seattle’s postseason run last year, Troock has embraced his first postseason in five years.
“It’s definitely exciting,” Troock said. I’m enjoying the moment and it’s going to be a good ride.”
One of Seattle’s leading offensive weapons, Troock struggled through the month of February to find any level of consistency after returning from an upper-body injury that sidelined him for the entire month of January.
Now, though, the forward who plays on Seattle’s second line alongside rookies Mathew Barzal and Ryan Gropp, seems to have found the consistency that had been absent for so long.
“He’s the key to our team,” Konowalchuk said. “He was playing really well the last five, seven games of the season and it’s carrying through. I think he’s even playing better now, putting the team first, playing a really good team game.
“He’s playing good hockey, he’s playing good 200-foot hockey for us.”
His goal Sunday came in a period of 4-on-4 action in which he and Barzal were the two Seattle forwards on the ice. That combination with added space out on the ice, is a difficult one for opponents to defend given the skill each player holds. Troock said afterwards he thought that was key.
“He’s a really skilled player,” Troock said of Barzal. “He has incredible vision. I’m trying to get open and use my speed…We’re getting some good chemistry out there so we seem to find each other and hopefully it keeps going.”
Seattle certainly hopes so.
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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