The playoffs are the Silvertips’ focus now

EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips’ winning streak is gone. And less than 24 hours after it ended it was already in the process of being forgotten.

Everett’s franchise-record winning streak topped out at 14 games when the Tips fell 2-1 in Spokane on Wednesday night. But when the team arrived back in town Thursday afternoon, players were more concerned with what’s ahead rather than what’s now in the past.

“It was kind of a bummer to see (the streak) end, but that’s not what we’re playing for right now,” said winger Shane Harper, who led the team in points (21) and goals (11) during the streak. “We’re glad with what we accomplished, but it’s over now and we’re just playing to get into the playoffs and make it as far as we can.”

Everett’s 14-game winning streak was the longest in franchise history, surpassing the 13-game streak set early during the 2006-07 season. The streak gave the Tips a perfect month of January at 14-0, and it also tied Kootenay for the longest win streak in the Western Hockey League this season.

But despite everything the Tips accomplished during the streak, they’re placing no significance on it coming to an end.

“In the end, the streak doesn’t really count for anything, it’s just how many points you get,” said center Byron Froese, who finished second to Harper with nine goals during the streak. “We have to look at it as we got back into the battle now.”

Everett did not dominate its opposition during the streak. The Tips won 10 of the 14 games by one goal, including the final six games of the streak. Everett’s magic touch in one-goal games finally came to an end Wednesday.

For the Tips, the most disappointing aspect Wednesday’s defeat wasn’t the streak coming to an end in itself, but rather the manner in which it ended. Everett used a workmanlike style, highlighted by heavy pressure on the forecheck, to defeat its opponents during the streak. However, that same effort didn’t materialize in Spokane on Wednesday. The Tips were outshot 33-20, and only strong goaltending by Kent Simpson kept Everett in the game.

“We didn’t skate,” said Tips coach Craig Hartsburg, who described Wednesday’s performance as a departure from the way the team played the previous month. “I think we’ve been building a type of game and an identity, and we didn’t get it last night. We just didn’t have everybody on that page. It’s over now and we’ve got to get ready for two tough games this weekend.”

Although the streak is over, it accomplished Everett’s primary purpose. The Tips suffered through a rough December, going 3-8-1-1 and falling to sixth place in the Western Conference. At that point Everett was glancing over its shoulder in the race just to make the playoffs.

But the January surge disposed of that problem, and now the Tips are in position to earn home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. With 19 games remaining in the season, Everett sits in second place in the Western Conference — though because the division champions automatically earn the top two seeds in the first round, the Tips would be the No. 3 seed.

“The focus wasn’t winning to keep the streak going,” Hartsburg said. “We were trying to win hockey games to move up in the standings and we just happened to get on this streak, which helped get us back in the race. That should be our focus now. We’re in a position now to battle these teams. We were on the outside looking in before, so now we’re in the middle of it.”

And in one sense the end of the streak is liberating. Now, the Tips no longer have to worry about the streak and can put all their focus into each individual game.

“Obviously we wanted to win (Wednesday), but it is a bit of a relief,” Harper said. “There’s no pressure now, we’re just playing hockey.”

When Everett’s winning streak ended in 2006-07, the Tips followed up with another six-game winning streak, making it 19 wins out of 20. Can this season’s team find a similar response to its streak coming to an end?

“We’re not going to worry about streaks,” Froese said. “We’re just going to worry about getting the two points every night.”

Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog:

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