Little has gone wrong for the Everett Silvertips during the 2021-22 WHL season. However, there has been one glaring weakness that could end up being an Achilles heel for the Tips:
Everett lost both its games last week via shootout as the Tips’ struggles in the game-ending tiebreaker continued.
Everett had games against fellow Western Conference contenders Kelowna and Kamloops over the weekend. Although the Tips held a significant shot advantage in both games, the score ended up tied after regulation and overtime both times, necessitating shootouts. Everett dropped both shootouts, suffering a 4-3 loss at Kelowna on Friday and a 5-4 defeat at home against the Blazers on Saturday.
This continued Everett’s misery in shootouts as the Tips fell to 0-4 in games decided by the tiebreaker this season, the worst mark in the league. Not only has Everett lost all its shootouts, the Tips haven’t converted a single attempt, going 0-for-13. The Tips even tried switching things up, using different shooters against Kamloops after going primarily with the same trio the previous three times. It didn’t change Everett’s fortunes.
”I don’t know what to tell you,” Everett coach Dennis Williams said following Saturday’s game when asked about the Tips’s struggles in shootouts. “We work on it during the week.
“Our guys have to score goals in the shootout, that’s what it comes down to,” Williams added. “I thought Koen (MacInnes, Everett’s goaltender against Kamloops) did a really good job, any time you stop three you expect one guy to light the lamp there. But it’s learning opportunities.”
Proficiency in shootouts is meaningless in the grand scheme. They’re largely a crapshoot used only to prevent ties and stop games from going on too long. And when the games truly matter come playoff time the shootout is tossed into the wastebasket. So Everett’s troubles in shootouts won’t carry over into the postseason.
However, the Tips’ performances in shootouts could affect Everett’s seeding for the playoffs. Those four losses represent four points dropped in the standings. That fact those losses all came at the hands of other contenders — Kelowna, Kamloops and Portland twice — means those points count double, as the chasers also gained a point in the process.
The effect of that can be seen in the tightening of the conference standings. Everett hasn’t lost in regulation in a month. Yet the Tips’ lead over Kamloops in the conference has shrunk to five points, and their lead over Portland in the U.S. Division is down to nine. The contrast is stark with the Winterhawks, as Portland is a healthy 5-2 in shootouts this season.
”Maybe guys need to put more of an emphasis on it because those are points,” Williams said. “Those are two points we’ve given up over the weekend that could come back and haunt you at any time.”
Three stars of the week
Third star: Ronan Seeley. The 19-year-old defenseman had a goal and three assists over the two games, and he played a lot of difficult minutes against Kamloops as he was asked to mark the Blazers’ ultra-dangerous top line.
Second star: Jackson Berezowski. The winger who celebrated his 20th birthday Saturday had a goal and three assists. The goal came on the power play in the final two minutes against Kamloops, getting the game to overtime after Everett blew a three-goal lead and fell behind 4-3.
First star: Olen Zellweger. The 18-year-old defenseman was involved in just about everything Everett did well offensively over the weekend, racking up a goal and four assists. His goal was an important one as it tied the score at 3-3 against Kelowna, ultimately earning the Tips a point.
The week ahead
The Tips are in the midst of a crucial portion of the schedule when it comes to determining the conference’s No. 1 seed. Everett (33-7-2-4) faces the Blazers (33-12-1-0) again on Friday in Kamloops, and the Tips travel up there again next Monday for a Family Day afternoon contest. With four points at stake in those two games, they will go a long way toward determining what kind of playoff race there will be for the top seed over the final six weeks of the season.
In between, the Tips host Victoria on Saturday. The Royals (12-28-4-1) are stuck in a horrendous stretch, having lost 16 straight.