Examining where the Silvertips stand in the playoff picture

Everett seems destined for the No. 3 seed, but its opponent in the first round remains a mystery.

A slow week for the Everett Silvertips provides an opportunity to peer into the future about what may lay ahead in the postseason.

Everett played just once last week, winning 3-1 at Seattle on Saturday. It was a welcome respite after a frantic three-week period in which the Tips played 11 games in 20 days.

“Anytime you can get a win this time of year is a positive,” Everett coach Dennis Williams said via text message about the Seattle game. “We did a good job sticking to the game plan and playing an honest game.”

With just one game last week and just four weeks remaining in the regular season, it’s an appropriate time to examine where Everett stands in the playoff picture.

At 38-18-2-2 the Tips, who have already clinched a playoff berth, are in third place in the WHL’s Western Conference, three points behind Prince George and one behind Portland. Therefore, on the surface it appears Everett in right in the thick of the race for the No. 1 seed.

However, a closer examination shows Everett a ways back. The Tips may be just one point behind U.S. Division-leading Portland, but the Winterhawks have played four fewer games, meaning Portland still has a large advantage in winning percentage (.723-.667). So Everett needs help to catch the Winterhawks, and that help may not be coming. A glance at the schedule shows that of Portland’s 12 remaining games, eight are against teams with losing records and three are against downward-trending teams that may be below .500 by the end of the season. Therefore, catching the Winterhawks will be a difficult task, even if Everett wins all of its remaining eight contests.

Passing Prince George may not make a difference, either. If the Tips pass the Cougars, but remain behind the Winterhawks, Everett will still be consigned to the No. 3 seed because Prince George will have a top-two seed by virtue of winning the B.C. Division (the Cougars haven’t clinched the division yet, but with a 21-point lead on second-place Victoria it’s a fait accompli).

And Everett is unlikely to be caught by another team for third, as the Tips are 16 points clear of fourth-place Wenatchee, so the odds of Everett being the No. 3 seed are high.

What would that mean for the first round? The No. 3 seed faces the No. 6 seed in a best-of-seven series. Currently Vancouver is in sixth, and that would be a tough matchup for the Tips because the Giants are one of the hottest teams in the league — plus there’s the spectre of the first-round upset in 2022, when eighth-seeded Vancouver took down top-seeded Everett.

However, the Giants are rising while both Wenatchee and Victoria are dropping like stones. At the current rate, Vancouver will blow past one or both of the Wild and Royals, making it more likely that either Wenatchee or Victoria will be the No. 6 seed.

It doesn’t end there. While seventh-place Kelowna and eighth-place Spokane aren’t exactly flying high, they’re both getting better results than Wenatchee and Victoria right now. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that one of those teams could also pass one of Wenatchee or Victoria and move into sixth place.

All of which is to say that while Everett seems destined for the No. 3 seed, there’s still a lot of jockeying to be done before a clearer picture emerges of who the Tips may face in the first round.

Three stars of the week

Third star: Kaden Hammell. The 18-year-old defenseman, who does a lot of the unsung work for the Tips, had an assist and finished a plus-2 in the game against Seattle.

Second star: Tyler Palmer. The overage goaltender stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced against Seattle. He was particularly sharp in the first 30 minutes when the game was scoreless.

Julius Miettinen

Julius Miettinen

First star: Julius Miettinen. The center in his 17-year-old season was the only player to record multiple points against Seattle. He opened the scoring by poking a loose puck home in the second period, then made a nice spinning feed to set up Cade Zaplitny’s third-period goal that made it 3-0.

The week ahead

Everett has an East Division weekend as the Tips welcome Moose Jaw to Angel of the Winds Arena on Friday and Regina on Saturday.

Moose Jaw will present the Tips with a stiff test. The Warriors (36-19-0-2) have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, and they’ve been particularly good since acquiring 19-year-old forward Matthew Savoie (21 goals, 27 assists in 24 games) from Wenatchee at the trade deadline. Savoie and 19-year-old forward Jagger Firkus (45 goals, 55 assists), who’s a Seattle Kraken prospect, give Moose Jaw two of the league’s top offensive weapons.

Regina, in contrast, has all but been eliminated from playoff contention. The Pats (21-31-4-2) have one of the top prospects for this year’s NHL draft in 18-year-old forward Tanner Howe (25 goals, 47 assists), while overage defenseman Ty Gibson (13 assists in 19 games with Regina) has been productive since arriving from Everett in the trade that brought overage defenseman Parker Berge to the Tips.

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