The Tips completed their longest road trip of the season last night with their 3-2 victory at Swift Current. Everett finished 3-1-2-0 on its swing through the East Division. That included victories against good Regina and Swift Current teams and a not-so-good Moose Jaw team; overtime losses to a good Saskatoon team and an average Prince Albert team; and a loss to a good Brandon team.
Now that it’s all over, here’s my thoughts on the trip from afar:
– I think this road trip has to be considered a smashing success for the Tips. Everett went into the trip struggling mightily on the road, procuring just three points from its first seven road games. With eight points in six games, including points in five of the six, the Tips may have just put to rest concerns about Everett and the road.
– The other thing that the Tips were really struggling with going into the trip was penalty killing, mired down in the 75-percent range. Well, the Tips killed off 31 of the 32 power plays they faced on the trip, so that seems to have sorted itself out.
– How impressive does Everett’s young guns line of Byron Froese, Kellan Tochkin and Tyler Maxwell continue to be? The trio combined for 21 points in the six games and carried the Tips offensively. Those three are now all in the top six in the league in rookie scoring.
– Young defensemen Paul Sohor and Drew McDermott seem to have passed their trial by fire. With Shayne Brown out injured and Jeff Regier traded just before the team departed, those two played every game on the trip. I couldn’t tell you how much ice time they got, but it didn’t sound like they were overmatched, and I imagine they got a heavy dose of opposing top lines since Everett’s opponents had the last line change throughout.
– Now, what’s going to happen with Everett’s goaltending situation? Shayne Barrie and Kent Simpson each played three games during the trip. Barrie was 1-1-1-0, Simpson went 2-0-1-0. Barrie had the best game of the two in the double regulation shootout at Saskatoon, but also had the worst game in the 6-3 loss at Brandon. Simpson also had a blip when he couldn’t hold the 3-0 third-period lead at Prince Albert, but otherwise sounded solid. Simpson also was in goal for the final two games of the trip. Are we seeing a trend toward a new No. 1?
This is a question Jeff Camp alluded in the comments section of the previous blog post, the one about Simpson being selected for Team Pacific. I don’t have any inside knowledge at this point, but my guess is that Barrie will be back in net Wednesday against Portland. Yes, Simpson has the better numbers right now. But when considering this question I continue to harken back to the 2005-06 season. That season Leland Irving, as a 17-year-old, started something like 66 of the 72 games during the regular season, then broke physicaly down in the playoffs just when he was needed most. There’s a serious risk in playing a young goalie more than he’s physically ready for. Last season Simpson probably played about 25 games total. Is he really ready to make the immediate jump to 50, especially when you factor in the rigorous travel schedule? I suspect the Tips are very conscious of the situation and will act accordingly. Especially since, despite the winning record, this season is still probably a developmental one for Everett.
—- UPDATE, 1 p.m.
I forgot one thing. The theme of the road trip for the Tips was the moustache, with the players growing theirs out throughout the trip. There’s a video on the Tips’ Web site here where you can see what transpired. It’s pretty amusing seeing all the players with their new looks.