The Winterhawks begin an important six-game trek through Alberta tonight in Lethbridge. They are currently tied with Spokane for third in the U.S. Division with 61 points apiece, though they have the tie-breaker with more wins.
This is the latest in the season that Portland has made a trip to the East since the 1999-2000 season.
Here's when in the year they've gone on their East road trip and how they have fared on each trip so far this century:
|Year||Date of Trip||Division||Record|
|2013/14||10/22-10/25 and 12/6-12/8||Central||4-1-0-1|
|2007/08||11/2-11/4 and 1/25-1/27||Central||1-5|
-Former coach Mike Johnston took a big role in scheduling while he was in Portland and it seems obvious that he preferred having the long trip across Canada happen as early in the season as possible. This could not have been an easy task with the Portland Trail Blazers taking over your preferred building starting at the end of October, but he still found a way to push the trip up. I'm pretty sure I remember hearing or seeing a quote by him where he stated that he valued an early trip, as it allowed his team to get away and spend some time early in the season bonding with one another.
-It's tough to argue with that sentiment, as Portland was a combined 19-8-1-2 on their east trips during his five full seasons with the Hawks.
-Jamie Kompon may not have had a choice in when this trip happened, but with the data here, it seems clear, the earlier the trip, the better the outcome.
-In games played in the east before January first of that season, Portland is 27-25-1-3-1(Tie) and in games played after January first they are 6-20-2-0-2(Ties).
-I think this is a fairly good representation, because it brings both some of the best seasons ever for Portland (2011-15) and some of the very worst (2006-09). It also mixes in some mediocre seasons in the early 2000's.
-The overall record (33 wins vs. 45 regulation losses) exemplifies how hard it is to win more games than you lose on a long road trip, during any season.
2/19 @ Lethbridge
2/20 @ Medicine Hat
2/23 @ Calgary
2/24 @ Edmonton
2/26 @ Red Deer
-Six games in nine days, for a team that rides one goalie heavily and could be without Rihards Bukarts (the guy who is most experienced vs. most of these teams) makes two or three wins a positive in my opinion.
-What makes this even more difficult, is that most of their easier games are in the second of back-to-back games.
-Portland's leadership group needs to do a much better job of making sure everyone stays disciplined and doesn't take dumb penalties. This has been a pretty big problem recently.
-Portland sent rookie left-winger Bronson Sharp back to Yale Academy of the CSSHL, after he played two games with Portland last week. Sharp looked...well sharp, in limited action on the Winterhawks' fourth line. He played hard, threw the body around and even got a couple shots on goal. I look forward to seeing him in a bigger role next year for the Hawks. In a related note, it's been awhile since I've been this excited to see how a group of 16-year-olds will develop. Portland has Ryan Hughes and Cody Glass as the centers of the future, with Sharp and d-men Jackson Caller and Jake Hobson looking to solidify Portland;'s blue lien for years to come.
-Also, here's hoping that Sharp getting re-assigned means that Rihards Bukarts is nearing a return to the lineup, after missing two games.
A Look at Former Hawks on This Trip:
-Portland fans will get to see (albeit through the live stream) several former players on this trip. Nick Heid now mans the blue line for Medicine Hat, while Austin Gray plays wing for Kootenay. Also, Ty Rattie's younger brother Taden, who Portland traded the rights away to earlier this year plays for Red Deer.
Winterhawks in the NHL:
-Tyler Wotherspoon was called up by Calgary from Stockton of the AHL and looks to make his season debut for the Flames against the Vancouver Canucks tonight.
Tyler Wotherspoon to make his NHL season debut for @NHLFlames tonight: https://t.co/96Z8LYWQIj #VANvsCGY pic.twitter.com/u3kcXtWEeZ— NHL (@NHL) February 19, 2016