Friday, February 20, 2015

Vancouver @Portland 2/20/15 Preview

Vancouver (25-30-1-2, 53 Pts, 3rd in B.C. Division) @Portland (33-20-1-3, 70 Pts, 2nd in U.S.)
The Portland Winterhawks, host the Vancouver Gianta in the last of their 4 game season series. The Hawks are hoping for a win to earn a split. Both teams have won the matchups at home up until this point.

Play on the road has been an issue for Vancouver, as of late this season. Outside of a 6-2 win last Saturday, over a depleted Tri City Americans squad in Kennewick, the Giants have lost 5 straight on the road by a combined score of 29-4 against. Scoring goals has been a major issue away from the Pacific Coliseum as they have been shut out 8 times this season on the road. The Giants have not won a road game vs. a non wildcard seeded playoff team sine December, 12th, when they beat Victoria 6-3.

The Portland Winterhawks meanwhile have won 9 straight at home, last losing on December 31st to Seattle, without the services  of Oliver Bjorkstrand, Nic Petan and Chase De Leo. Scoring goals has not been an issue for the Hawks as they have scored 6 goals or more in 4 of the last 5 home games.

This time of year, after the pro and college football seasons are over, the crowds tend to grow and the Hawks seem to feed off the energy. Also, chemistry among the #s 2 and 3 lines seems to be getting better, providing scoring depth, as 6 of the Hawks 12 goals over the last 2 games, were scored by them.

Playoff Push:
-They have won 2 straight games, while the Kamloops Blazers have dropped 2 in a row, meaning that they took over the #3 seed in the B.C. Division and now lead them by 3 points, with one game in hand. The road woes are worrisome as 4 of their next 6 games are away from home. Tri City, who is holding the last wild card spot is 2 points ahead of Vancouver and 5 ahead of Kamloops.

-This weekend is huge for the U.S. Division race to the playoffs. Everett has the lead by 6 points currently over Portland and hosts Tri City tonight before traveling down I-5 to take on Seattle Saturday night. They also host the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Sunday. The Hawks play Vancouver tonight and then host the Lethbridge tomorrow night. Sitting in 3rd place (5 pts behind Portland) is Seattle and they are the first to host the Central Division Canes, before their pivotal match up vs. Everett. I don't think that Lethbridge foresaw as their season started to go sideways that they would play such an important role in the U.S. Division Title race.

By the end of the weekend, Portland and Seattle will both have a game in hand on the Silvertips.

-#14, F, Matt Bellerive, illness, week to week. #15, D, Shaun Dosanjh, upper body, day to day.

-#14, D, Nick Heid, Upper Body, Indefinite. #22, F, Alex Schoenborn, upper body, week to week. 

Players to Watch:
-#17-F-Tyler Benson:
He may've lost to Spokane's Keanu Yamamoto as the best 16 year old in the "Best of the West" poll, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been as advertised in his rookie campaign. His set up abilities are already elite and should be scary good in the next few years as he develops. He has 13 goals and 26 assists for 39 points, which is 4th on the team. His recent pairing on their top line with Alec Baer and Carter Popoff has been solid and was a key reason that Mason Geertsen scored the OT winner against Moose Jaw in their last game. Benson has 6 points in the 3 games so far vs. Portland and seems to bring his best against the Hawks.

-#20-D-Arvin Atwal:
Not often do I put a player to watch on this list who might not even play, but because of  what has happened with him lately, I thought it worthy of notation. Atwal last played in Seattle on February 7th and has been healthy scratched in the 4 games since. No reason has been handed down but noteworthy is the fact that Atwal has been forced to sit for disciplinary reasons in the past. He is 19 years old and going into the season was going to be counted on to be a leader. Needless to say, this does not appear to have taken place. He has 6 goals and 19 assists this season for 25 points. He must really have done something to irritate Head Coach Claude Noel, for Noel to role out 16 year old Ryely McKinstry and 17 year old Brennan Menell in his place during important games toward the end of the season. It is unknown if he will make his return back to the lineup tonight.

-#44-D-Mason Geertsen:
3 points, including the OT winner in his last game vs. Moose Jaw and has 2 or more points in 10 games this season. He does not have any points against Portland so far this year, but it is safe to say that his playing style will certainly be on display. That fine line he walks between irritating the other team's top players and keeping hem off their game, while making sure he does not put his team a man down in pivotal situations is something to keep an eye on tonight.
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-#9-F-Chase De Leo:
Always seems to get the best out of his linemates, regardless who they pair him with. He is currently paired with Evan Weinger and Keegan Iverson and they have played much better since they started playing with him. De Leo has 4 points in the 3 games against the Giants, which is comparable to the rate that he's scored at all season. Recently, he has 16 points in his last 11 games and is the key player that drives the Hawks offensively outside of their top line.

-#31-G-Adin Hill:
Hill is 1-1 vs Vancouver this season but made 43 and 44 saves in those 2 games. More recently, the Hawks have only allowed 19 and 25 shots in their last 2 games, both wins for Hill. His GAA and Save % this month is off his season average, but a couple great games, will bring him back to where he was. He can start that tonight.

-#44-D-Keoni Texeira:
Inconsistency has been the case for Texeira this season, but he has played decently against the Giants. He has an assist in 2 of the 3 games the two teams have played. He's pushed the puck more in his last couple games and his pairing with Blake Heinrich is leaned on when Portland needs a goal late in the game. Development of a solid point shot, would really take his game to the next level and ensure that he will be drafted in this year's NHL draft.

Further Points:
-Not sure whether Payton Lee gets another start tonight, as he has made 2 straight starts since returning from injury.
-Noel seems to like making points with his team, as he has also, recently healthy scratched forward Ty Ronning.
-These next few games have to be taken advantage of as they are against lower seeded teams and/or non playoff teams. After that they have several difficult games against Calgary and Seattle.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Portland @ Tri City 2/17/15 Preview

Portland (32-20-1-3, 68 Pts, 2nd in U.S.) @Tri City (26-28-0-3, 55 Pts, 5th in U.S, 8th in West)
-7:05 pm in Kennewick at the Toyota Center.
The Portland Winterhawks travel to Kennewick to take on the Tri City Americans in the 6th of 10 meetings between the 2 teams. Portland is currently 5-0 vs. the Ams, including a 7-1 win in Portland last Friday.
The teams are trending in different directions as the Hawks have won 8 of their last 10, while T.C. has only won 3. Further complicating matters for the Americans, is the fact that leading scorer Parker Bowles has been lost for the season, as has Defenseman Carter Cochrane and possibly backup Goalie Evan Sarthou (waiting on a Dr's diagnosis).
Playoff Positioning:
-The Hawks are 8 points behind Everett for the U.S. Division lead and 3 points ahead of Seattle with a game in hand on both teams. They will use this game up tonight and can crawl within 6 of the Silvertips with a victory.
Tri City:
-The Americans once had a rather comfortable lead for the last wildcard spot, but has had it decrease as injuries have eaten away at their depth. They have scored only 6 goals over the last 5 games against teams outside of Everett, whom they have beaten twice in a row. Kamloops and Prince George both sit 5 points back (50 pts each), while Vancouver has 51 points and is sitting in the last spot (3rd) in the B.C. Division.

-#22 Alex Schoenborn, F, has been out since February 6th with an "upper body" injury, but is listed as "week to week." So he is probably still at least 2-3 weeks away. #14 Nick Heid, D, is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
 Evan Weinger has been doing a stellar job since being moved up in the lineup, during Schoenborn's absence, playing on the Hawks 3rd and 2nd lines; notching 2 assists in his last game.

Tri City:
-#39 Parker Bowles, F, upper body, out for the season. #27 Carter Cochrane, D, upper body, out for the season, #10 Dylan Coghlan, D, upper body, 1 - 2 weeks #5 Tyler Morrison, D, upper body, 1 week #31 Evan Sarthou, G, lower body, undetermined.
Braden Purtill was moved back to play defense, as Tri City did call up a 17 year old D-man (Kurtis Rutledge)without using him much last weekend. He is no longer on the roster.

Players to Watch:
-#27 Oliver Bjorkstrand (like there'd be anyone else listed first): 34 points in his last 15 games, since returning from World Juniors. He has 6 goals in his 3 games vs Tri City this season and will look to continue that tonight. Tri City seemed flat out intimidated during the 3 games, sitting back and giving him too much room to work his magic.

-#13 Keegan Iverson: Has been criticized (and somewhat rightly so) for most of the season for inconsistent play. Though he has only 2 points in his last 3 games, Iverson's play has been markedly better. Winterhawks coaches have recognized this and have moved him up in the lineup, now playing with Chase De Leo and Evan Weinger on Portland's 2nd line. His play along the boards has really been impressive as he is learning to use his size more in tight areas.

-#4 Josh Hanson: The over-age D-man has been inconsistent all season, resulting in healthy scratches and very limited play. He scored his first goal of the year in his last game and has shown a ton of improvement in confidence when moving the puck up the ice. At times this season, he has served up some costly turnovers inside his own blue line, while trying to move the puck out of his own zone. I don't think it's a coincidence that his goal came, when he has played his best this season, skating the puck out of the zone and shooting more. You could tell by his teammates reactions after he scored his goal last Friday, that he is beloved in the locker room. so it's really great for the team, when  a guy like Hanson contributes offensively.

Tri City:
#18 Richard Nejezchleb: The former Brandon Wheat King was recently voted most skilled overage player in the West in the annual "Best of the West" poll. He scored 24 points in his first 18 games with his new squad, but has notched just 13 in his last 17, including 4 straight games without a point. He is -6 in those games. The Americans need more from him with Bowles out and this has not been the case so far. He has just 2 assists in his 4 games vs Portland.

#36 Brandon Carlo: The 18 year old, 2015 NHL draft eligible D-man is -6 in 5 games against the Hawks this season with no points. While he is not counted on for his production from the offensive side of the puck (3 goals and 20 assists), contributions from him have been key in getting wins this season. His last two multi-point games were in Tri City wins.

#12 Jordan Topping: By far the best American in their 7-1 loss last Friday to Portland. He has scored 3 goals in his 5 games vs the Hawks this season. He also has 5 points over his last 6 games. This is particularly impressive when considering he has 7 goals and 5 assists for 12 points in 41 games this year. He will be a player the Hawks will have to keep an eye on as like Spokane's Dominic Zwerger, he brings his best against Portland.

Other Points
Eric Comrie has given up 13 goals in his last 2 games, but essentially has no backup and possibly could be without one for the rest of the year. 5 healthy D-men has probably played a larger role then actual struggles from the Winnipeg Jets drafted Goalie. If he is feeling good tonight, he could make it difficult for the Winterhawks shooters and keep his team in a game in which they are, quite frankly, out-gunned.

Look for Tri City to lean heavily on Carlo, Parker Wotherspoon and Justin Hamonic along the back end, especially against Portland's top line. Miles Koules, Skyler McKenzie and Dominic Turgeon showed some instant chemistry in their last game and hopefully they can continue this play.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Stats for Last Weekend's Games

I was finally able to complete the Time on Ice, shots, face off and other stats for last Friday and Saturday vs Kamloops and Everett.

Here are the stats for Friday, January 30th in which the Hawks won 6-2 over Kamloops.



Bittner 22:45 2
Petan 22:51 3
Bjorkstrand 22:36 5
Koules 16:13 2
De Leo 21:01 4
Schoenborn 13:10 2
McKenzie 11:41 1
Turgeon 14:24 2
Iverson 14:18 5
Flaman 5:59 0
Overhardt 6:44 1
Weinger 6:18 0
Cederholm 16:53 0
Viveiros 20:32 1
Heinrich 19:15 1
Texeira 18:34 1
Henry 19:04 0
Hanson 19:24 0

-This game was 4-0 after the first period and never really got that close. This gave Coach Kompon the ability to utilize some of the players, he doesn't usually give that much ice time. Chief in this was Josh Hanson, who skated just over 6 minutes vs. Victoria, 2 days earlier and skated nearly 20 minutes in this one.
-Keegan Iverson, may've had zero points, but his 5 shots are proof that he played an excellent game and was really buzzing around the Blazer's net.
-Anton Cederholm skated only 16:53 and this wasn't just due to the fact that  he skated only 4:57 in the 3rd period. He also had only 5:18 in the first. This seemed to be part of the plan for Kompon and Co. as they knew they were going to need him more in the next game vs. Everett.

Here are the stats for Saturday, January 31st's 6-3 win over Everett, that saw Oliver Bjorkstrand notch the first 6 point game for a player since Adam Deadmarsh.



Bittner 21:05 4
Petan 23:39 3
Bjorkstrand 22:18 6
Koules 19:02 5
De Leo 20:37 5
Schoenborn 16:25 6
McKenzie 12:43 3
Turgeon 13:23 2
Iverson 15:35 0
Overhardt 4:44 0
Weinger 3:35 0
Cederholm 27:12 2
Viveiros 21:50 0
Heinrich 20:15 0
Texeira 14:51 0
De Jong 10:59 0
Henry 17:39 1
Hanson 6:48 0

-The Hawks top line dominated this game. They combined for 13 of the team's 36 shots.
-Second straight game where not a lot of shots came from the point. 3 total in each of the game's last weekend.
-Alex schoenborn had his most time on ice in the 3 games I've recorded. This was because the Hawks used him on as the left wing on their 4th line along with Weinger and Overhardt.
-As I was saying about Cederholm's ice time. With the Hawks either tied or holding onto a tight lead throughout the game, Cederholm skated over half the 3rd period (10:13). He is their go to guy along the blue line in tight games, especially when controlling a 1 or 2 goal lead.

Hopefully it will not take me as long to post the numbers for the games this weekend Seattle and Everett.