Kevin Constantine has been at this coaching thing for three decades, so he has a pretty good sense of when his Everett Silvertips need to hear a specific message and when they can find the internal motivation to bounce back from a difficult game.
Take the Feb. 26 contest against the Seattle Thunderbirds in Kent, a 6-1 pasting in which the Tips were down 3-0 at the end of the opening period and never threatened.
“I didn’t talk to them a whole lot after we lost to Seattle because I thought we would rebound from our Seattle loss with a hell of a game (last) Wednesday night against Spokane, because that’s been our M.O. the last few years,” Constantine said Saturday. “If we have a bad game, we come up with a really good game.”
Of course, that didn’t happen as the Tips had one of their rare back-to-back bad outings in a 4-1 loss to the visiting Spokane Chiefs.
Then, with a pair of huge games against Kelowna and Seattle looming last weekend, Constantine “was a bit more animated” prior to Friday’s game against the Rockets. Though the Tips ultimately fell 3-2 in a shootout, the coaching staff was pleased with the effort, and that effort carried over into a convincing 4-2 win Saturday over the T-birds.
Yes, it was discussed in the locker room prior to Saturday’s sold-out contest.
“We talked about the importance of (Saturday’s) game as kind of a must-win when you only have this many games left and you’re playing the team you’re chasing and you’re only going to face them twice,” Constantine said. “If you ever picked a must-win game for our season it was (Saturday).”
Resiliency has been a theme for this year’s Everett team, something to which Constantine has frequently alluded and his players have often demonstrated. That’s what made last Wednesday’s loss to Spokane appear so out of character.
Now the Tips have to gear up for another midweek game against a Chiefs team that is fighting for its playoff life, and this time Everett will be on the road when it visits Spokane Arena at 7:05 p.m. on Wednesday.
“We just gotta play with more emotion,” overage defenseman Lucas Skrumeda said. “Everyone to a man will tell you that we didn’t compete very hard (against Spokane), we didn’t hit anybody, so we’ll have to play with some more emotion, know they’re a good team and see how it goes.”
The bounce-back capability of these Tips is one reason they built a big first-half division lead and remain in contention for the top record in the Western Conference despite suffering a seven-game winless streak that spanned parts of late January and early February.
There have been numerous examples going back to the early days of the regular season. Back on Oct. 7, the Tips dropped a 4-1 decision to the Tri-City Americans at home. Four days later, they shut out then-undefeated Prince George on the road and followed that with another win over the Cougars the next night to sweep that two-game series in northern British Columbia.
Or consider Everett’s first three-in-three back in early December. The Tips won a 5-4 shootout victory Dec. 9 at Vancouver, then dropped a 5-2 decision at Portland the next night. But they recovered in the Sunday matinee with a 5-3 win over the visiting Chiefs.
The Tips even appeared well on their way to a 2-1 win over the T-birds on Jan. 28 after a disappointing 4-1 home loss to Portland the night before. Everett eventually lost 3-2 to Seattle after two late power-play goals, but got off to a strong start and controlled the game before it came undone by two late penalties.
“It’s great that we can bounce back like that,” Everett forward Brian King said. “We don’t want to have to, but it’s something we have to do throughout the season so I think the biggest thing for us, the way we get through this is just play each game, focus on what we need to do. Don’t focus on what happened in the past, don’t focus on what might happen.”
Heading into Tuesday’s games, Everett was one point ahead of Seattle in the U.S. Division standings. The T-birds played host to Spokane on Tuesday night at ShoWare Center, meaning the Tips will have three games in hand on Seattle when the puck drops Wednesday night.
Regardless of Wednesday’s result, the Tips face another giant test Friday at ShoWare Center when they take on the T-birds for the final time in the regular season.
Then comes the playoffs, when the ability to bounce back is the most critical.
For the latest Silvertips news follow Jesse Geleynse on Twitter.