Thursday, March 24, 2016

Thursday's Portland Winterhawks' News and Notes: My Playoff Predictions

So the playoffs start tonight with the Edmonton Oil Kings visiting the Brandon Wheat Kings in a battle of royal nicknames. With the start of the playoffs, I have some thoughts on each series and who will win. Of course, I will not be posting who I think will win the Everett-Portland series until tomorrow.

East Division Bracket:
1)Brandon Wheat Kings vs. 4)Edmonton Oil Kings:
-The Wheat Kings are on a roll winning nine games in a row to close out the regular season. Included in those nine wins were seven that were by four goals or more. They should roll over the Oil Kings with Jayce Hawryluk(106 points) and Nolan Patrick(102 points) leading the way. Edmonton chose not to trade off guys like Brett Pollock and dysin Mayo and still needed a play-in game in order to sneak into the playoffs.
-If this series goes five, it will be because Edmonton goalie Peyton Lee stole a game.
Brandon in Five

2)Prince Albert vs. 3)Moose Jaw:
-This should be a tight series. The Raiders are led by Reid Gardiner, who has provided some overtime heroics this year. They also have stellar goaltending from Rylan Parenteau. The Warriors though, have probably the most talented player in the league in Brayden Point and the second leading scorer in the WHL in Dryden Hunt (112 points), to go with the Eastern Conference's goalie of the year Zach Sawchenko. I have to go with Moose Jaw, as the elite players can take over a series and Point has the ability to do that.
Moose Jaw in Seven

Central Division Bracket:
1)Lethbridge vs. 4)Regina:
-The Hurricnaes have been the darling of the WHL this year, as they have come out of nowhere to not only make the playoffs, but win their division. Brayden Burke and Stuart Skinner lead the way for the Hurricanes. Regina has the leading scorer in the WHL Adam Brooks (120 points) and can score in bunches, as evidenced by the 9-8 thriller they had with Lethbridge recently.
Lethbridge in Six

2)Red Deer vs. 3)Calgary:
-The Rebels do not want to go to the Memorial Cup through the back door, but have a really dangerous match up in the first round with Calgary. The Rebels not only are without starting goalie Rylan Toth, they lost Conner Bleckley for the season, after he received a cut to his arm from a skate blade and required surgery. They still have some great individual players in Adam Helewka, Haydn Fleury, Jake DeBrusk and Luke Philp, but need them to start playing better as a group in order to advance and avoid a couple months off before the Memorial Cup. Calgary has the likes of Jake Bean and Travis Sanheim on their blue line and they do a great job of providing some blue lien scoring.
Despite the injuries, I think Red Deer will pull through in seven. 

B.C. Division Bracket:
1)Victoria vs. 4)Spokane:
-Things could not have worked out much better for the Royals. In getting Spokane instead of Portland or Tri-City, they avoid a healthy team that still has their top goalie and top center available. They get to take advantage of the fact that Tyson Verhlest and Wyatt Johnson are out for the Chiefs. Joe Hicketts provides them veteran leadership and I would look for the Royals to ride their captain through a pretty easy first round.
Victoria in Five.
2)Kelowna vs. 3)Kamloops:
- The Rockets, like Spokane, are without their starting goalie and one of their best forwards in Jackson Whistle and Nick Merkley. Unlike Spokane, they still boast some elite scorers like Tyson Baillie, Rourke Chartier and Dillon Dube, Kelowna has some inexperienced d-men, but still have a solid goalie in Michael Herringer. If they were facing Victoria or Seattle, I would be concerned they would drop the series, but Kamloops does not look to have enough to take advantage. Connor Ingram provides them with some elite netminding and Collin Shirley and Gage Quinney can score enough to make this a long series. If the series goes seven, I trust Baillie or Chartier to grab the moment and score the big goal when it's needed.
Kelowna in Seven. 

U.S. Division Bracket:
1)Seattle vs. 4)Prince George:
-There are few hotter teams then Seattle, as they finally started to become the team that we thought they would be at the start of the year. Few teams can contend with what the T-birds can do offensively and goalie Landon Bow has given them some amazing goaltending since being acquired from Swift Current as well. Prince George has really struggled since January began and has taken a lot of bad penalties, putting themselves at a disadvantage way too often. Seattle's power play will make them play, if they do this against them.
Seattle in Five.

Winterhawks in the NHL Thursday:
-Tyler Wotherspoon had his first NHL assist of the season in his 10th game. Nino Neiderreiter scored a goal for Minnesota and his Wild were able to take down Wotherspoon's Flames 6-2.
-Sven Baertschi had an assist for Vancouver as him and the Canucks took  Nashville to the shoot out. In the circus though, Johansen made his attempt and Baertchi did not leading to the Preds winning 3-2.
-Oliver Bjorkstrand and Brandon Dubinsky each had an assist for Columbus in their 3-2 loss to Carolina.

Winterhawks in the AHL Thursday:
-Mac Carruth gave up four goals on 35 shots and his Rockford IceHogs fell to Lake Erie 4-2.

Winterhawks in the ECHL Thursday:
-Patrick Wellar had an assist for Alaska in his team's 6-5 shootout loss to Rapid City.

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