Say whatever else about the Smoke Eaters 2012 edition, they have provided home ice excitement most nights.
Trail has made the comeback an art form, which says something good about their conditioning and something bad about their mindset at game time.
The Smokies have won six of their seven overtime contests, the best record in the league for those extra period events. The downside of that is those provide one – instead of two – point advantages over their vanquished opponents and haven’t given the team the standings boost it needs.
This season’s squad is a marked improvement over last year’s. That said, all that late game excitement may not lead to a playoff spot unless some reasonably long, regulation time, winning streaks come their way.
As it stands, the Smokies are in the mix in the interior division’s bottom five, only three points out of second place. The bad news, of course, is that the team in second place has six games in hand on Trail and all the other contenders have at least three.
That won’t matter if, starting today, Trail can get on a roll. Here’s what has to occur for that to happen:
1. Trail’s defence, as talented a group as any in the league, has to focus on fundamentals for 60 minutes – far too often they try to be nifty (or whatever) around their own net, where failure means an good opposition scoring chance – and like the rest of their teammates they often don’t seem ready to play right away;
2. The, “other,” three forward lines need to step up their scoring. Trail has two of the top 14 and three of the top 25 scorers in the league, but only three others in the top 80-plus. When you have been outscored by 45 goals so far, different line combinations, or different players, need to be tried in the attempt to ease the burden on the few solid scorers to date.
It’s good fun for fans when they can show up at Cominco Arena and watch a Smoke Eater team with the pieces in place to compete every night. It will be much better if those pieces can come together soon so that fans have the opportunity to experience that fun during a playoff run.
Don’t forget the Merritt game on Tuesday. Former patsy Merritt has become a considerable foe in the past little while, and currently holds that slight edge on the division’s penultimate standings position. A win then could be very good the the psyches of Smokies and fans heading into the holidays, and a supportive crowd never hurts in that kind of quest.