Winterhawks Capable of Division Takeover
There are only eight more games in the regular season for the Hawks, and the distance between them and the division-leading Everett Silvertips is rapidly closing. As a matter of fact, the current gap of four points is the closest it has been in ten years.
Portland’s remaining games are largely within the division, with eight bouts against decidedly inferior teams Seattle (behind Portland by 8 points), Spokane (trailing by 17) and Tri-City (24 points behind). Considering that the Winterhawks have won 16 of their last 20 games, it’s likely that their momentum could overtake Everett.
Unfortunately, the Silvertips are closing out their season against the same teams. They do have two games against Victoria, who may surprise everyone, and Everett has even lost to Tri-City earlier this year. But from a general standpoint, they are capable of matching any Winterhawks win with one of their own. The big deciding factor may be the number of games left at their disposal; Everett has only eight games left and five of them will be on the road. The past has shown that the Tips have a distinct advantage playing in their Comcast Arena, so the amount of road time could throw them off.
And there is an elephant in the room: on March 11, Portland and Everett have one more game against each other. And it’s in Everett, too. I’m not sure what is so bewitching about the Washington team’s offense that it results in a higher SOG count than Kelowna managed every time the Winterhawks play the conference leaders. But I have seen the Hawks play the better game against Everett this year. It’s just alarming that they haven’t come alive against them until the second period.
The statistics are all debatable, and it’s difficult to put too much stock in Portland’s rise to power that looks terrific on paper but devastating on the ice when they lose games that are all sealed up. Discounting what’s on paper, the question is really which of these two teams is objectively better head-to-head? Because Everett plays a more subtle, controlled game, I’m inclined to give the edge to them in ability but the Winterhawks have features of their game that escape most other teams in the league.
The Winterhawks are capable of playing their hearts out. They can get angry. They even have an ability to score based on opportunity and daring, as opposed to mere placement and power. That’s the type of playing that will give them the edge in the next week and a half. At this point it is less about what team is better and more about what team needs it the most.