Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How Important Is Wednesday's Game Really?

On Wednesday night, the Portland Winterhawks head up to Everett to take on the Silvertips in a highly anticipated match up that is very importanr in determining the winner of the U.S. Division and the overall #1 seed for the first 2 rounds in the new playoff format. But how important is it really?

Portland goes into the game with a 39-20-2-3 record for 83 points in 64 games, while Everett is 40-19-3-4 for 87 points in 66 games. So the Hawks are 4 points back with 2 games in hand.

Lets take a look at the how the schedules line up for both teams for the rest of the season:

Everett (6 games left: 3 at home and 3 on the road)
-Wed. 3/11 vs. Portland
5-3-1 vs the Hawks overall and 3-0-1 at home (2 of the wins were after regulation). Only one of the games in Everett this year has been settled in regulation (a 6-2 Tips win on October 10th).
-Fri. 3/13 @ Seattle
-Sat. 3/14 vs. Seattle
4-3-0-1 overall vs Seattle: 2-1-0-1 at home and 2-2 in Seattle. Pretty even match up between these two teams throughout the year with Seattle winning the last 2 games and 4 of the last 5 overall.
-Fri. 3/20 @ Victoria
-Sat. 3/21 vs. Victoria
1-1 in the first 2 games of the season series. One was a 3-1 loss in Victoria and the other was a crazy 7-6 shoot out win at home, in which Kohl Bauml scored a hat trick and the shoot out winner.
-Sun. 3/22 @ Spokane
4-3 vs. Spokane overall and 2-1 in Spokane. The Chiefs were the odd team that found a way to beat Everett in regulation at Xfinity area, but has not found a way to beat the Tips in 3 of the last 4 games. Good nes for Portland is the fact that Spokane could have something to play for with Tri City currently 7 points back and Seattle 9 points ahead (Spokane has 2 games in hand).

My gut tells me that Everett splits both home and homes and beats Spokane for a range of 5-7 pts, not counting the Portland game. With a regulation win on Wednesday, I would guess they will finish at 95 points and with a regulation loss: 93 pts.

Portland (8 games left: 3 at home and 5 on the road)
-Wed/ 3/11 @ Everett
4-3-1-1 overall and 1-1-1-1 in Everett. Hawks OT loss on Feb. 8th in which they came from behind to force OT will be huge, if the Hawks miss the top seed in U.S. by 1 point.

-Fri. 3/13 @ Spokane
-Sun. 3/16 vs. Spokane
-Wed. 3/18 @Spokane
2-3 overall; 1-2 at home and 1-1 on the road. Nic Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand were only available for the last game (a 4-1 win), so this match up is really somewhat of an unknown. Especially considring Spokane was battling injuries for most of those games as well. It seems crazy that 3 of the 8 games in the season series are in the last 2 weekends of the season. The Keegan Iverson and Garrett Hughson shenanigans should also make for an amusing sideshow as well.

-Sat. 3/14 vs. Prince George
2-1 overall and lost the only game at home vs. the Cougars 6-3 during the first weekend of the season in which Portland was missing most of their lineup. P.G. has won 7 of their last 10 and is on a pretty good roll, right when they need it as they are barely holding onto the 3 seed in the B.C. Division. This game will be sandwiched between a home and home with Spokane, so the Hawks could have some dead legs.

-Fri. 3/20 @ Tri City
-Sun. 3/22 vs. Tri City
8-0 so far this season; 4-0 at home and 4-0 on the road. They have dominated the season series but several of the games were close and you have to factor in the fact that T.C. was facing huge injury issues for a lot of those games. Still, a good time of the year, to play a team you have had a lot of success against.

-Sat. 3/21 @ Seattle
4-4-0-2 overall and 3-2 on the road. The Hawks have won 4 of the last 5 games in the season series and have actually fared better in Seattle, then at home this season. Again, though it's an important game, sadwiched between a home and home series making things more difficult.

Yes, the Hawks have 2 games in hand and are 20-3-2 since January 1st, so you can't get much hotter, but 2 home and home series in Eastern Washington with games in Portland and Seattle placed in the middle, makes things really difficult. This is especially the case when you factor in that they lean on the top line so much to provide their scoring punch.

I think the Hawks win out at home; they've just been unbeatable there recently, outside of the blown lead against a smoking hot Calgary Hitmen team. Winning all 3 games vs. Spokane will be tough, as will sweeping a 10 game season series vs. Tri City. I think they win 3 of those 5; losing two total in T.C. and Spokane.

It also seems like the Hawks fare better in the middle and at the end of a 3 in 3 weekend, then at the beginning, so if that trend continues, I think they pull out at least a point in Seattle, if not both in a tightly fought affair.

This would mean they would have 9-10 points outside of the Everett game (lets say 10), so they would finish with 93 points with a regulation loss and 95 with a regulation win in Wednesday's game.

Look at that; both teams came out with the exact same point possibility, if my predictions hold up. So that would really mean that the game is not being overhyped and the winner would actually win the U.S. Division and get home ice advantage for 2 rounds.

For those wondering what the tie breaking procedure is in the WHL here goes: If both teams finish with the same amount of points, the winner is the team with the most wins. If the 2 teams are still tied, then the next tie breaker is head to head points gained. Everett will win this as they now have 11, while Portland has 8 and could, at most, have 10.

Needless, to say Wednesday's game will very likely decide whether Portland will win their 5th U.S. Division title and 4th in the last 5 years or Everett will raise their 4th U.S. Division crown and first since the 2006-07 season.

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