The Everett Silvertips acquired Zack Andrusiak from the Seattle Thunderbirds to contribute in a lot of ways, the most flashy being his innate scoring ability.
After potting 27 goals in his first 34 games of the season with the Thunderbirds, Andrusiak’s goal scoring dipped from 0.79 goals per game with the Thunderbirds to 0.38 in 29 games with the Silvertips.
But no one in the Silvertips’ dressing room panicked.
And with four goals in five playoff games against the Tri-City Americans, Andrusiak has recaptured some of his early season form.
“I think what you have to realize is when guys make changes in trades, it doesn’t flow right in,” Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams said after the Silvertips’ 9-1 romp over Tri-City to advance to the Western Conference semifinals.
“They’re in a different role, different situation (with) different expectations. Guys like Robbie Holmes and Zack may have played more minutes where they were compared to now, so it’s a little bit different for some guys, but (Andrusiak) sticks to it. He competes hard, he tracks on pucks, he finishes his checks and goes to the netfront. It’s all those other intangibles that he brings outside of goal scoring. He’s been a really good leader for us, too.”
Granted, five games is a small sample size and two of those goals were empty-netters, but nonetheless, Andrusiak is an important player that the Silvertips will rely on if they are to advance further in the playoffs.
“That’s the way it goes with scoring goals. That’s the way this sport is,” Andrusiak said. “Not every time everything is going to go in for you. You’ll have a ton of chances and feel that you’re playing better than other times, but nothing goes in. It’s just the ups-and-downs of the game and you have to stick with it.”
Andrusiak’s linemates, Max Patterson and Holmes, stayed consistent for most of the first-round playoff series, with the three tasked not only with being a main source of scoring, but shutting down Tri-City’s top line, consisting of Nolan Yaremko, Kyle Olson and either Sasha Mutala or Parker AuCoin.
“Our line has been clicking pretty good,” Andrusiak said. “(Holmes and Patterson) are big, physical guys and they move the puck really well down low. I just try and get open for them and do as much as I can to make plays and use my speed to really help their size and physicality.”
Williams said he has a nickname for Andrusiak’s linemates.
“I joke and call them, ‘The Bash Brothers,’” Williams said.
Since the combination was largely matchup contingent, with Williams wanting the three to try and shut down Tri-City’s top line, it could be broken up for the series against Spokane.
Regardless, Williams liked what he saw in the first-round series.
“I thought that line played pretty well, all series,” he said.
Riley Sutter, who’s been out with a lower-body injury since Dec. 29, donned a red, non-contact jersey and participated in some drills at Silvertips’ practice on Tuesday.
It was another significant step in a long, laborious rehabilitation for the 19-year-old forward.
“It’s just nice to be out there,” Sutter said. “Obviously I haven’t for a while and to have the skates on again and be with the guys, it’s really nice.”
“It’s almost more mental than physical going through that, just trying to stay positive. I’ve come this far already, so it’s another step closer to playing.”
Silvertips general manager Garry Davidson said Sutter was being re-evaluated by doctors on Tuesday.
“We’re hoping to get a more definitive time frame on it,” Davidson said.
Any chance Sutter plays in the upcoming second-round series against Spokane? It’s not in the realm of possibility until he’s fully cleared for contact.
“I think there is always a chance,” Davidson said, “but I don’t make that decision. The doctor makes that.”
After taking 31 faceoffs in Game 1 against Tri-City, Connor Dewar combined to take just 12 faceoffs over Games 3, 4 and 5.
“He wasn’t winning enough of them,” Williams said.
Dewar was tasked into playing a boatload of shifts at center this season, despite being more comfortable at left wing, due to Everett’s dearth of centers. He led the Silvertips in faceoffs attempted over the regular season with 1,089. His 53.1 percentage in the circle was the second on the Silvertips in the regular season, among players with 50 or more faceoffs taken, behind Sutter’s 54 percent.
Dewar won 28 of 43 faceoffs, a 65.1 percent clip, over four games played against the Americans, the bulk of those in a 22-of-31 performance against the Americans in Game 1.
Patterson led all of the Silvertips with 121 faceoffs in the series, winning 60 of those. Reece Vitelli took 60 faceoffs while Gage Goncalves took 48.
Dewar played less center in the second half of the series, allowing him to play on the wing, something he said he enjoyed, but something he’s not fixated on.
“It’s been nice,” Dewar said. “With that being said, I only care about winning. So I’m going to do the same things anywhere (I play).”
— Bryce Kindopp led the Silvertips in the first-round series against the Americans with nine points. Martin Fasko-Rudas was second with eight and Dewar was third with seven.
— Kindopp’s five goals were also a team-high in the playoffs, while Jake Christiansen’s five assists led the team.