The Everett Silvertips are on the brink of advancing to the Western Conference semifinals and winning at least one playoff series for the fifth consecutive season after picking up a key road win at the Toyota Center on Thursday.
Here are three keys to Everett’s three playoff wins, as well as the upcoming Game 5 matchup on Saturday at Angel of the Winds Arena:
1. Defense rising tide
Unsurprisingly, Everett’s defense has been the crux of the Silvertips’ three playoff victories.
Tri-City scored just two even-strength goals over the four games, one of which was gifted on a defensive zone turnover. Everett’s stingy defense during five-on-five play has stemmed from defensemen being sound in limiting shooting and passing lanes on rushes and the forwards blocking shots and hounding pucks on the forecheck.
The Silvertips allowed just 130 goals over the 68-game regular season, the lowest in the Canadian Hockey League.
So far, Everett’s demonstrated that was no fluke.
2. Keep tilting the ice
The Silvertips’ most lopsided victories were in Game 1 (6-1) and Game 4 (3-0), in which Everett tilted the ice significantly.
The shot clock is a decent indicator of that, with Everett outshooting Tri-City 48-22 in Game 1 and 38-24 in Game 4, but it’s even more drastic from an empirical standpoint, as the Silvertips dominated possession in the Americans’ zone.
Unfortunately, zone time isn’t a public statistic for Western Hockey League games, but Everett’s ability to manage the puck and limit turnovers, while asserting the pressure, has paid dividends for the Silvertips.
3. Can they finish?
Jumping off the second key, as dominant as Everett has looked at times, struggling to finish Grade-A chances has kept a few games close.
In Game 3, Everett was presented plenty of opportunity to bury goals over the final 10 minutes, but couldn’t. It hasn’t been an overarching issue against Tri-City, but could be if the Silvertips continue to traverse through the playoffs.
With Tri-City facing elimination, the Americans will undoubtedly play with purpose and desperation, thus some opportunities could be there for Everett. It could make the difference.
Around the league
— Spokane is on the verge of advancing to the Western Conference semifinals after jumping out to a 3-1 lead over the Winterhawks, although Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune reports that Cody Glass, a first-round pick by Vegas in 2017, is expected to return to the Winterhawks’ lineup for Game 5 on Saturday after having been out with a nagging knee injury. The Silvertips would play the winner of Spokane-Portland if they advance.
— Former Silvertips forward Sean Richards was suspended indefinitely by the WHL league office for a check from behind major penalty assessed in the Seattle Thunderbirds’ Game 4 win over the Vancouver Giants on Wednesday. Richards will sit out the rest of the Thunderbirds’ series with the Giants at the minimum, the league will assign the number of games if Seattle advances — it’s knotted at two games apiece. Richards was sent to Seattle on New Year’s Day in Everett’s trade for Zack Andrusiak.
— Victoria’s Kody McDonald was also assigned an indefinite suspension after an incident on the benches during the Royals’ Game 4 loss to Kamloops on Wednesday, in which McDonald swung his stick at Blazers forward Zane Franklin after the two were jawing at each other.
Here’s video of tonight’s stick swinging incident at bench. Mcdonald gets Franklin and trainer Toledo Robinson. Broke his glasses. How this didn’t result in serious injury is a miracle. Match penalty. pic.twitter.com/Gcwwo5agtZ
— Jon Keen (@JonKeenNLSports) March 28, 2019