Monday, March 23, 2015

Seattle-Portland WHL Playoff History

In what is easily one of the biggest rivalries in the WHL, the Portland Winterhawks and Seattle Thunderbirds face off in the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06 when the series went to Over Time of Game 7. Since 1977, when the then Seattle Breakers joined the WHL, the teams have played a total of 8 times in the playoffs with Portland winning 6 out of the 8 so far.

Interesting to note that Portland and Seattle played each other in 4 straight years (80-83) but had only played each other 4 times in the next 31 years before getting together this year. Though in the early years there were only 6 teams in the Western Conference, so your odds were much higher of facing each other in the playoffs.

Let's look at how the previous series have gone along with how the winning team went on to fare and some notable names on the teams:

1980 Division Semi-Finals:
-Seattle (then named the Breakers) played in a three team Round Robin with Portland and the Victoria Cougars.
Both Victoria (5-3 record) and Seattle (4-4 record) advanced, eliminating Portland (3-5 record). Portland was the Scotty Munro winner that year with a 53-18-1 record, so this was a disppointing result for a team led by Tim Tookey, Dave Babych and Jim Dobson. Current Moose Jaw Head Coach Tim Hunter was one of the leading scorers on that Breaker team.
Seattle then was swept in 4 games in the Division Final by Victoria.

1981 Division Semi-Finals:
-Portland got sweet revenge the following season on the Breakers, sweeping them in 4 games. They, were then beaten by the Victoria Cougars in the Division Final in 7 games.
Now Vancouver Canucks G.M., Jim Benning and former Toronto Maple Leafs Center: Gary Yaremchuk were the reular season leading scorers on that Hawk's team.
Seattle Forward Wayne Van Dorp had 52 regular season points and 1 goal in that series. He would go on to play 125 games in the NHL for the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks and Quebec Nordiques.

1982 Division Final
-The Hawks ended the Breaker's season for the 2nd time in a row with a 4 games to 2 victory in the Division Final. Both teams had advanced to the Final after sweeping their first round series' vs. Victoria and Kamloops.
Portland went on to win their first WHL title, advancing to the Memorial Cup, where they finished last.
That Hawks team was led by another future Toronto Maple Leaf named Yaremchuk: Ken's 31 playoff points and future New York Ranger: Randy Heath's 32.
Long time New Jersey Devil Ken Daneyko had 10 playoff points in 10 games from the blue line for Seattle.

1983 Division Semi-Final
-In what had become an annual tradition, further cementing what was becoming a bitter rivalry, Portland swept Seattle in 4 games.
The Hawks went on to lose in the WHL Final but in the first year of a 4 team Memorial Cup that included a host, the host Winter Hawks won the Cup in Portland.
American born Center-man Alfie Turcotte, who had been acquired from the Nanaimo Islanders earlier in the year, led the Hawks in playoff scoring with 32 pts. He went on to play 112 NHL games for Montreal, Winnipeg and Washington.
Joining Daneyko as a key contributor to this Breaker team, was future N.Y. Islander: Forward Alan Kerr.

1995 First Round
-After a 12 year absence from playing each other, the Hawks and now Thunderbirds (name changed in 1985) played in another 3 team round robin series.
This time Kamloops (3-1 record) and Portland (3-1 record) advanced, while Seattle (0-4) was sent packing.
The Blazers then beat Portland in 5 games in the 2nd round.
Portland fans will remember the 94-95 team as one that possibly could have gone further, had Adam Deadmarsh not missed the playoffs after being called up by the Quebec Nordiques 29 games into the Hawk's season. 16 year old Center and future Winterhawks record holder for points: Todd Robinson was 2nd in team scoring that year.
This Thunderbird team had a new first year Coach: Don Nachbaur, who now has over 600 WHL wins.

1998 Conference Quarter-Finals
-The #1 seed Winter Hawks beat the #8 seed Thunderbirds 4 games to 1 in the first round.
Seattle's top line of Mark Parrish, Stanislav Gron and Matt Demarski, all had 5 or more pts in the series. No other T-bird contributed much offensively and they had trouble shutting down Portland's top line of Robinson, Brenden Morrow and Bobby Russell.
Portland went on to win their 2nd Memorial Cup, proving that every time they win the cup they have to go through Seattle (2 out of 2 times).

Johnson and Portland's Josh Togai
2002 First Round
-In the first series between the two teams to actually go the distance, Seattle beat Portland 4 games to 3, upsetting the team that finished 30 points ahead of them in the standings.
Seattle won game 7: 3-2 behind a power play goal by D-man Trevor Johnson with 4:32 left in the game.
Leading regular season scorer for Portland Jozef Balej was held to 2 assists in the 7 games behind stellar defense and Goalie Nick Pannoni who had a shut out and three 40 plus save performances.
Seattle was swept by the Kootenay Ice in the next round.

2006 Conference Quarter Finals
-Portland returned the favor again to Seattle, this time 4 years later, when the Hawks beat the T-birds in 7 games, behind an OT winner from Jonny Bubnick.
The Hawks then lost in 5 games to the Vancouver Giants in the Conference Semi-finals.
While they did not score the series' deciding goal, current NHLers: Brandon Dubinsky and Jannik Hansen were Portland's powerful 1-2 punch in the series, both assisting on the winner and scoring 13 and 10 points in the 7 game series respectively.
Seattle was led by Chris Durand who had 8 points, including a hat trick in an 8-5 game one win.

2015 Conference Quarter-Finals
In the 9th match up of the 38 year I-5 rivalry, we are sure to be treated to yet another entertaining series.

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