I'm finally catching up on the Portland Winterhawks Everett Silvertips series, which closed out on Sunday night with Portland advancing to their fifth straight Western Conference Final. It's been so long since the Winterhawks have not advanced to the Western Final, that the last team to not make it there had Ryan Johnsen, who has now played 277 games of NHL hockey.
First though, the stats for the 2-1 OT win over Everett on Friday night at the VMC:
|Player||TOI||Shots||Faceoff %||Hits||Blocked Shots|
-Oliver Bjorkstrand played like a man possessed. He led the team in hits and blocked shots, which is definitely not something you expect a player who leads your team in scoring to do for you. On one blocked shot, he laid all out and sacrificed his entire body. On one hand, you do not really want a guy whose scoring you count on to risk injury, but on the other it says something to the 3rd and 4th liners to see him do that. If one of our best players does that, then I should be as well.
-I cannot say enough about Nic Petan. Not only does he extend his playoff point streak to all 10 games, but with his assist on Blake Heinrich's OT winner, he's been involved in all 3 OT winners for Portland this playoff year. He scored the series clincher in Game 6 of the Seattle series and also won the faceoff that led to Bjorkstrand's double OT game winner in Game 2.
-Portland's winning goal was scored on an old school give and go play with an improvised finish. Blake Heinrich passed the puck laterally to Nic Petan at the point and then drove the net. Heinrich even waved his stick in the air, asking for the pass. Petan tried to feed him but had his pass partially deflected. Heinrich reached out and batted it with his backhand past Everett's Goalie: Carter Hart to put Portland up 3 games to 1. This is something you will see at pick up hockey all over the world. It's not a drawn up play, like Bjorkstrand's winner was, but instead just a skilled player, seeing an opening and getting his guy the puck in a good spot.
-Jake Mykitiuk, was yet another Everett player that went down to injury. Lack of depth really was starting to rare it's head for the Tips, as even a depth guy like Mykitiuk had been counted on to provide some scoring.
-Adin Hill just continues to get better, seemingly with every game. He made several saves during a penalty kill, wihtout his stick, keeping the game tied at 1.
Two days later, the Hawks closed out Everett with a 3-2 win Sunday night:
|Player||TOI||Shots||Faceoff %||Hits||Blocked Shots|
-Probably the best all around defensive effort I've seen from Portland all year. 22 total blocked shots form the team including what looked like 5 in the last couple of minutes. Everett just did not get many good looks at Portland's net and when they did, Adin Hill closed the door with one of his best performances of the playoffs. He made one right padded stop on the Tip's Ivan Nikolishin that saved the Hawks from going to another over-time in this series.
-Everett's defense was starting to wear down with the top four of Ben Betker-Kevin Davis-Cole MacDonald and Lukas Skrumeda, playing a ton of minutes in this series and the last one. Bjorkstrand found more room then he's had in any game previous in this series. On one of his two goals, he found an easy rebound on a Nic Petan point shot and on the other he found a seam on the rush and picked the corner on Cart Hart. Bjorkstrand finsihed the series with 5 goals in the 5 games and now has 10 in the Hawk's 11 playoff games.
-Nic Petan meanwhile had 3 points and now has points in all 11 of Portland's playoff games and 19 overall. This is good enough for 2nd in WHL playoff scoring, behind Calgary's Adam Tambellini who has 21.
-Hats go off to over-age Tip's players Ben Betker, Kohl Bauml and Brayden Low. You could tell that they were completely exhausted by the end of the game, but were throwing absolutely everything they had on the ice.
-A guy for Everett, that just had to be better than he was is Nikita Scherbak. For a first round pick (Montreal), he did not have a very big impact on the series. There were gilmpses here and there of the talent within but lack of effort for large stretches and the ability of Portland's D-men to just take the puck away form him at will, is something that should just not happen to him.
-Carter Hart, not only played great in 4 of his team's games in this series, he seems to be one of the classiest guys in the WHL. I watched him in the handshake line after the game and he seemed to have a positive word or two for each Portland player as they came by. Seeing that type of sportsmanship from a 16 year old has me wanting to cheer for him to succeed and reach the next level.
-Everett's coaching staff, meanwhile, was absent from another handshake line. They also did not make the effort after winning the series over Spokane. It's kind of odd that you would have your players go through the line, after giving it their all, but you wouldn't do so yourselves.
-Keegan Iverson is going to put a goal in soon, if he stays on Portland's top line. He went from getting 1-3 shots a game to getting 4 and 6 in his last two games.
-Chase De Leo-Nic Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand were the Hawk's three forwards on the ice at the end of the game. It goes to show that Portland's best play-making forwards, when it really matters, are it's best all around forwards period.
-Everett's Noah Juulsen skated before the game but was unavailable to go. It's something Everett fans will always wonder about as he would've had a large impact on the series, had he been healthy.
-Layne Viveiros went from one of his worst games of the playoffs, to probably his best as he took the puck away a bunch of times, from onrushing Everett forwards.
-I'll try to have up a series overall stats post soon and some previews for the Western Conference Final vs. Kelowna this week.