Now that the regular season is over, Portland now knows who they will face in the first round of the 2016 WHL Playoffs, the Everett Silvertips. During the regular season, the series ended tied at five a piece with all but one game with low scoring and great goaltending. Portland secured the sixth seed after Spokane lost to Tri-City and Portland earned a point when they took Seattle into overtime last Saturday in Kent, Washington. Portland will travel to Everett to face the Silvertips in games one and two and then will return home for games three and four on Tuesday and Wednesday. This would be the fourth time the two teams have met to start their playoff run, and the fifth time overall.
Portland, in 2005, lost to Everett in a seven game battle 4-3 after Everett finished the first round series with a 3-2 win. All seven games were exciting and hard fought between both teams, settling the matches with one goal victories. Notable players in this series were Zack Hamill for Everett and Brayden Coburn for the Winterhawks.
In 2011, Portland was a stacked team when they swept the first round series 4-0. Portland dominated that series since the first drop of the puck in Game 1. Only one of the four games was close while the other three were handled easily by Portland. Portland's playoff run ended that year as the Western Conference Champions, which was their first of four straight Conference Championships. Notable players in that series were Ryan Murray for Everett and Ty Rattie, Sven Baertschi, and Derrick Pouliot for Portland.
The 2013, the first round playoff matchup was an exciting one as Portland won the series 4-2. The Winterhawks had to fight their way through arguably one of the best goaltenders in Everett's history, Austin Lotz. Lotz, was enormous for the Silvertips in that series, but with the lack of scoring on the offensive side, they were only able to get two of the four wins they needed to win the series. Portland brought a stacked team once again as they went on to be the Western Hockey League Champions and came up just a couple goals short of winning the 2013 Mastercard Memorial Cup (Portland lost to the Halifax Mooseheads 6-4 in the finals). Notable players for Everett were J.T. Barnett and Austin Lotz and for the Portland Winterhawks, Nick Petan, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Brendan Leipsic.
2015 playoffs, the two teams met for the first time outside the first round. Portland, playing for their fifth straight Western Conference Championship, had to fight their way through their US Division foes. All five games were decided by two goals or less with two of the games decided in one or two extra frames. Notable players in the series for Everett, Remi Laurencelle, Dawson Leedahl, and goaltender Austin Lotz. For Portland, Paul Bittner, Chase De Leo, and Oliver Bjorkstrand.
Many fans are predicting a Portland victory of the Everett Silvertips in six or seven games. One thing is for sure, this should be another doozy of a series. Both teams play very different styles of hockey, but can match up well. Portland has Adin Hill in net, which when he is on fire, he cannot be scored upon. Portland will be bringing their top scorers in Dominic Turgeon and Alex Schoenborn, but hope that Coach Jamie Kompon has solved their defensive woes. Everett brings a style of play that is based on defense. In the season series between these two teams, and even against other teams, the Silvertips score a couple of goals and like to stop teams from scoring. With constant pressure on the blue line, the Tips make it extremely difficult for teams to gain any sort of pressure inside Everett's zone. Also for Everett, between the pipes, is Connor Hart. Hart took over the starting duties after Austin Lotz ended his WHL career with the Silvertips. Hart is a fast, agile goaltender who has quick reflexes and can be a brick wall in front of the net. Portland has figured our Hart just one time this year when they came into the Xfinity Center in Everett, WA and fired off 5 goals in the third period on route to a 7-5 victory.
This is sure to be a knockdown, drag out, type of series sure to entertain fans from not only the two teams, but other WHL fans from around the league.