Friday, April 5, 2013

1)Portland vs. 4)Spokane Second Round Playoff Preview

Portland (57-12-1-1 in the regular season) vs. Spokane (44-26-2) in the second round of the playoffs. The series starts tonight at 7pm in Portland.
Spokane Celebrating Winning Game 1 vs. Tri City

Season Series At a Glance:
-Portland won 7 of the 9 games played and outscored the Chiefs 45-20 overall. Of the 9 games; 7 took place in 2013 proper, so both teams should know each other quite well. The two times Spokane beat Portland this year, were back to back games in February (5-2 and 5-4 respectively). Todd Fiddler, their leading goal scorer got a hat trick in the 5-2 game and Spokane's goalie Eric Williams stood on his head in the other. Despite these two losses, Portland mostly dominated play throughout the season series. Most memorable for the Hawks has to be the 8-3 victory on February 18th. In that game the Hawk's second unit of Chase De Leo-Oliver Bjorkstrand-Taylor Leier, combined for 16 points, their biggest night of the year. This was the taking off point for this line, as they have been consistent point producers ever since.

Spokane at a Glance:
Brenden Kichton
-Unlike Portland's last opponent, Spokane has not struggled in scoring goals. They have 6 very good forwards and other guys that will produce from time to time as well. Todd Fiddler had 42 regular season goals and Mitch Holmberg was right behind him with 41. Their star defenseman: Brenden Kichton once again led them and all WHL d-men in regular season points with 85 points. Many were surprised that he did not play at the AHL level as a 20 year old, as his rights are owned by the New York Islanders. The big question for Spokane has got to be on the defensive side. Besides Kichton and maybe Reid Gow, they have not gotten consistent defensive production. They use four 17 year olds back at the blue line and at one point this year actually moved 20 year old forward Blake Gal back to defense. if Spokane can get solid defensive play and Eric Williams stands on his head, they have the offense to make this a very good series. And of course, like any Don Nachbaur team, they will be well coached and make good adjustments.

Eric Williams
Spokane was 5th in the WHL in goals for and 11th in goals against. In the series with Tri City, they won 4 of 5 games and seem to be clicking on all cylinders right now. They chased a hot goaltender in Troy Trombley, then gave his backup: Luke Lee-Knight a hard time as well. The one game they did lose was in overtime. On the other side of the ice, Eric Williams was calm and collected, only allowing 14 goals in the 5 games with the Americans. Williams needs to be much better then he was vs. the Hawks in the regular season: 2-5 with a 4.34 GAA.

Random Notes:
-Mac Carruth was stellar vs. the Chiefs in the regular season with 5-2 record and a 2.11 GAA. He was porous at times vs. an offensively challenged Silvertips squad in the first round and needs to be much better vs. the Chiefs or this could be anyone's series.
-Alessio Bertaggia, the Swiss player that the Hawks got in trouble or having in their training camp last year, leads the Chiefs with 8 playoff points. Hopefully he won't make the Hawks pay for not clinging to him.
-Adam Helewka, a 17 year old rookie is one to watch,as he has been solid for the Chiefs, helping them round out a solid third line. He had 3 points in 5 games vs. Tri City.
-Brendan Leipsic was named Denny's player of the week and is currently 3rd in playoff scoring with 11 points.
-Calgary took game one from Red Deer 4-2 last night in Game 1 of that series.
-Portland needs the De Leo unit to be solid and at least match the production from the Chief's second unit, as Portland's top line should pace the Hawks, yet again.
-Portland was ridiculous on the power play in round one and looks to continue this trend. They were scoring on above 40% of their chances.

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