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The Western Hockey League Finals: the good and the bad

A look ahead at the 3 home games for the Silvertips this week

Robert Murray/WHL

The Western Hockey League Finals are coming to Everett this week! Everett comes in on familiar ground, one win and one loss after two games for the fourth consecutive series. This time they get to play 3 straight at home when they host the Swift Current Broncos for games 3, 4, and 5 of the series. How are they looking so far?

GOOD NEWS: Everett’s stars are doing what they need to do

Perhaps it’s because of the pressure, or simply because you’re meeting the best teams in the playoffs, but there are times when a team’s best players are unable to translate their regular season success into the postseason. That has not been the case for the Silvertips. Their top 4 scorers in the regular season just so happen to be their top 4 scorers in the playoffs as well. The big trade deadline acquisition of Garrett Pilon leads all active players in the playoffs with 27 points, while Bajkov, Dewar and Fonteyne are all still averaging more than a point per game. And they’re also still scoring goals like this:

BAD NEWS: Swift Current’s stars are shining too

Pilon may be the active leading scorer, but the next 3 on the list? All Broncos. Tyler Steenburgen, Glenn Gawdin, and Aleski Heponiemi have combined for 78 points in the Broncos’ 22 postseason games. Their big trade deadline acquisition of Giorgio Estephan is chugging right along as well, tied for the team lead with 12 goals. The top 4 skaters from each side are playing lights out in the postseason.

GOOD NEWS: Carter Hart is still the Silvertips’ starting goalie

Hart had a rough finish to the series against Tri-City, giving up 9 goals in the final 2 games. And they weren’t always spectacular goals either:

But he hasn’t let that get to him. The WHL Player of the Year has bounced back and posted a 0.932 SV% in the first two games of the finals, and made some big saves in their 2-1 victory in game 1. Expect to see the Carter Hart we are all used to the rest of this series.

BAD NEWS: Carter Hart is second in the playoffs to...Stuart Skinner

Swift Current goaltender Stuart Skinner currently holds a 0.927 SV% and 2.33 GAA, narrowly edging out Hart for the league lead in both categories. The third-round NHL draft pick might not be quite as highly touted as Hart, but he’s playing just as well when it counts. Not to mention he’s making saves like this:

GOOD NEWS: Everett is scoring more than Swift Current

The Silvertips have scored 73 goals to the Broncos’ 67, despite playing 4 fewer games. What’s more, the difference in goal differential for the final two teams is pretty significant. Everett currently sits at +27, while Swift Current is at +9. The Silvertips are scoring more and giving up less, which explains why they have only lost 4 games in 3 previous series, while the Broncos have been pushed to 7 games twice already this postseason.

BAD NEWS: The Broncos have the special teams advantage

The Broncos powerplay is converting on 27.4% of their chances this postseason, compared to the Silvertips’ 20%. And the Silvertips’ penalty kill is only at 73.8%, good enough for 11th out of 16 in the playoffs. Everett has managed to hold the Broncos scoreless on 3 attempts so far in the series, and they’ll need to continue that above average kill if they want to get through Swift Current.

GOOD NEWS: Games 3 and 4 belong to Everett this year

Every single series this postseason has started 1-1 for the Silvertips. It’s not something that’s ideal for a team that’s had home-ice advantage every series. But in games 3 and 4, the Silvertips are a perfect 6-0 and are outscoring their opponents 30-13. They’ve put up at least 6 goals in one of these two games in every series, and twice they came back home for game 5 and finished off their opponent with a third straight victory. This will be the first time that games 3 and 4 will be on home ice, where the Silvertips are only 5-4 in the playoffs, but the Broncos’ 4-5 playoff road record doesn’t look all that intimidating. If the Silvertips can keep up this pace, they’ve got a shot to hoist the Ed Chynoweth Cup on home ice in game 5.

Game 3: Tuesday 7:00, Angel of the Winds Arena
Game 4: Wednesday, 7:00, Angel of the Winds Arena
Game 5: Friday, 7:35, Angel of the Winds Arena