The Silvertips learned the hard way this past week about how much parity is in the Western Hockey League this season, and unfortunately it took the events of a dramatic third period comeback by Kelowna on Sunday to reinforce the need to compete for 60 minutes all 72 games of the year. I still believe that the Silvertips deserved a better fate handed to them by some Cranky Hockey Gods on Sunday night, and here are a couple of things I’m thinking about heading into this week’s home games against Chilliwack and Calgary, and the year’s first road game (gasp!) Saturday night in Spokane.
1) Regardless of who’s playing, all Western Conference games will be up for grabs this season.
We’re potentially looking at a scenario in which all U.S. Division teams could make the playoffs this season, and the parity within the BC Division appears to be as equal as it has in the last several years. It doesn’t matter if the Silvertips are playing at Comcast Arena, the C.N. Center, or Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena – all games out west will be a grind, and the team that works hardest for the full 60 minutes of hockey will come out on top. There are no more games like there had been for a several year stretch in the West where wins were perhaps easier to come by against certain opponents than others. This is excellent for the product the Western Hockey League puts out – especially for fans in the U.S. Division, where there will be entertaining dogfights night after night.
2) Tyler Maxwell is approaching a significant club milestone.
Attempting to extend what Byron Froese and Shane Harper were unable to, Tyler Maxwell will strive to become the first Everett Silvertip to score in seven consecutive games when the Silvertips host the Chilliwack Bruins Wednesday evening at Comcast Arena. Froese potted his six straight from January 3rd to 15th last season (games 2 – 7 of the winning streak) before Harper recorded goals from January 17th to 30th (games 9 – 14 of the winning streak). Nearly as remarkable as those feats are the fact that Maxwell scored twice shorthanded on Saturday, becoming the first Silvertip to score two shorthanded goals in one game since Daniel Bartek accomplished the feat in a 4-1 win at Regina on November 5th, 2008.
3) Statistical oddities abound.
I’m not the biggest stat geek, but I do love a good anomaly. Here are a couple for you: How about the Silvertips being 2-0 when trailing after two, but just 2-1-0-1 when leading after two? How about the fact that Josh Birkholz’s coverted penalty shot in the 4-2 win over Kamloops was the first goal on a penalty shot since the 2005-06 season, ending a streak of 11 consecutive missed attempts? Have a strange fact that you’ve noticed? I’d love to hear it and quote you on the broadcast! Send any stats you’ve been keeping to email@example.com.
4) The homestand concludes with two good matchups this week.
The Silvertips will be hosting one of their two annual bear fights on Wednesday against Chilliwack, one of the league’s most physical teams. Players such as Brandon Manning, Tyler Stahl and Blair Wentworth will be looking to add an aggressive, physical element to free up space for their talented offensive producers such as Ryan Howse, Kevin Sundher and Roman Horak. The Bruins should be one of the improved teams out west this season, adding a new element to this cross-border rivalry (and don’t forget about the discounted Midweek Madness tickets!). On Friday, the defending champion Calgary Hitmen return to Comcast Arena for the first time since the first half of the 2008-09 season. Always an entertaining game between two teams often perched high in the WHL standings, this year’s new look Hitmen team has already broken in a lot of new faces, to complement a productive crop of experienced players. Say, do you remember former Silvertip Kyle Beach? Well, his brother Cody is a power forward for the Hitmen who was drafted in the fifth round by the St. Louis Blues this past June.
Thanks again for checking out JR’s Journal! I look forward to checking back in next week after these next several games reveals a little bit more about this hardworking and capable Silvertips team. Go ‘Tips!