Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Portland vs. Everett Round One Playoff Preview: Part One: Who Has the Edge in Net?

As part of a running series, leading to Friday's game one in Everett, I will provide a different preview every day. To start off with, let's take a look at Carter Hart and Adin Hill, the cornerstones of both of their teams.
Who Will Win the Battles of Goalies With Four-Letter "H" Last Names?

Carter Hart:
-The 1998 born, Sherwood Park, Alberta native got into 63 games this year, carrying nearly as heavy of a load as Adin Hill. He posted a 35-23-4 record with a 2.14 GAA and 0.918 Save % overall. These numbers were an improvement on the 2.29 and 0.915 he posted last year. Against Portland, though, Hart has a history of struggles over his two years in the league, getting yanked from net eight different times in that span. This year has been better though, as he has a 4-5 record vs. Portland and has posted a 2.83 GAA and 0.900 Save %. These numbers are well below his season average, but are still an improvement on last season. In three of his nine starts, he allowed one goals, so it is likely that his two poorest efforts (Portland's insane 7-5 comeback win and Portland's 5-1 win early in the season) have pushed the stats to where they are. That is really the thing about Hart playing against Portland though. There seems to be a confidence issue, when he allows a couple bad goals. He has been pulled from net, way more than any other goalie, who has faced Portland over the past two seasons and was even pulled from net, in one of last year's playoff losses to Portland. Hart is likely a finalist, if not the winner, of Western Conference Goalie of the year, so it's obvious that he ahs the stuff to take Everett on a deep playoff run. He is also helped by a defensive unit that blocks shots like crazy and does an amazing job at tying up sticks on the few bad rebounds that he allows. That being said, Hart is relied upon more, than any other Western Conference team in the playoffs. This is because, the 'Tips just do not score a lot of goals. If he does allow three or more goals in a game, it is not likely that his team will win the game. The 'Tips are not a squad that can storm back and create a lot of great scoring looks, when put behind by more than two goals. So, if Hart can provide consistent goaltending for Everett against Portland and keep them at two goals or less, they have their best chance of getting some revenge on Portland for ending their season last year.
-It should be mentioned that it has been reported by Everett beat writer Jesse Geleynse that Hart has about 50/50 odds on even playing this weekend. He has, apparently, been battling a lower body injury and missed his team's last four games. He was not at practice earlier today.
-Mario Petit is Everett's back up and has only played slightly more than Portland's back up Michael Bullion has this season. Petit entered in relief of Hart twice this year and stopped every shot he faced, though Portland was playing a more defensive style, as they tried to hold a lead. Recently though, he stopped 24 of 26 shots and got a win in his only start vs. Portland. Petit has a 1.37 GAA and 0.939 Save % in his three appearances vs. Portland this year.

Adin Hill:
-While Hart playing and playing well is one of the biggest keys to Everett's success, Portland getting a good effort from Adin Hill, is nearly as important to them. Portland has some elite scorers, but has still been offensively hamstrung against Everett (their defense should be partially credited), when they have fallen behind. The last two games vs the 'Tips, Portland fell behind early and dominated play in the last two periods, but it was still not enough vs. such a great defensive team. Portland was only down in those games, because of some poor netminding by Hill. He has had some crazy saves vs. them over the past two seasons and was one of the top three reasons his team took down Everett in five-games last year (the others being Nic Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand). This year, his play against Everett has not been as stellar, but he still has a string of highlight reel stops in his resume. Hill has a 32-27-6 record for Portland this year, in a team record, 65 starts. He posted a 2.96 GAA and 0.917 Save %, while facing a WHL leading 2,307 shots. Against the Silvertips, Hill has started all 10 games, going 5-4-1 with a 2.31 GAA and 0.928 Save %. These numbers are considerably better than his season average and I still believe that they should have been better. Then again, better is what we have come to expect from Hill. The big worry about him, is wearing down, especially if this series goes the distance. However, it really appears that Hill desperately wants to play every game if given the choice and because of how much he has played, including a number of back-to-backs and three games in three nights, he is more than used to a busy schedule.

Edge Goes To:
-I think you have to go with the older, healthy goalie, who has three playoff round wins and played out of his mind in parts of the playoffs last year. Hart is not as flashy as Hill and makes most of his saves more due to great positioning, but has the stuff to steal a series or two. The problem is, he has not done this yet in the playoffs or against Portland in his career. If he is indeed suffering from an injury, there is little doubt his play will suffer. Here is hoping that Hill can match his playoff performance against Everett last year and again end Hart and Everett's season.
-I give the edge in net to Hill and Portland.

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