What: The Portland Winterhawks (51-16-3-2) face the Seattle Thunderbirds (48-19-4-2) in the opener of their 2nd round Western Hockey League playoff series.
When: Saturday, May 7, 6 p.m.
Or: access to ShoWare Center, Kent, Washington.
Watch: You can stream the game via CHL pay-per-view ($8.99 CDN for one game).
Listen: Audio Winterhawks and Thunderbirds.
- The score of the box.
- Receive updates and chat before, during and after the game.
So we come to the biggest playoff series the longtime rivals have ever had.
The Winterhawks just swept the Prince George Cougars in not the easiest sweep in the world. In the last three games, they have only scored two goals each. Mike Johnston blamed that on Prince George’s defensive style, which is fair, but the offense will definitely need to be beefed up in this series.
Taylor Gauthier led the Winterhawks with a .965 save percentage against his former team. He’ll be happier going into this round against a team he won’t have mixed feelings about beating. Gabe Klassen led the offense with 5 points. He was the only Winterhawk with more than one point per game.
Top defenseman Clay Hanus has missed the last three games of the Prince George series and Jaydon Dureau has missed the final game. The 9 days off will probably help with that, and they should go well, but we’ll have to especially watch Hanus for rust in Game 1.
Game 1 is on the road because no one had the guts to move the graduation ceremonies (priorities, people) and then the Winterhawks will have 4 of the possible 6 remaining games at home. Will the change make a difference?
The Winterhawks have won 10 in a row, including 6 by one goal, 3 in overtime.
Portland won the season series 18 points to 11, in a weird series where the Thunderbirds got off to a quick start, then the Winterhawks came back with wins they didn’t have to take, and then when it looked like there would have drama at the end, Seattle suffered a bunch of injuries and the Winterhawks sailed. Both teams could be basically at full strength, so here we go.
|20||22-Jaydon Dureau (215 games)|
|19||11-Robbie Fromm-Delorme (186)
18-Tyson Kozak (160)
71-Hanas Cross (205)
|18||9-Aidan Litke (74)
13-James Stefan (127)
16-Gabe Klassen (121)
21-Jonas Bevington (59)
67-Dawson Pasternak (34)
92-Jack O’Brien (133)
|17||17-Luc Schelter (72)
19-Kyle Chyzowski (92)
72-Marcus Nguyen (88)
|16||15-Nicholas Johnson (2)
28-Josh Zakreski (14)
They need healthy Dureau; he had hat-tricks in two of the last three games against Seattle, all on power-play goals in the first, and the hat-trick goal being the final winner in the second.
The expected forward roster has 1,532 games of experience.
Kozak and Hanas led the forwards in the season series with 14 points; Stefan had 13. Hanas was a bit behind against PG, getting only 2 points.
Leading forward: Hanas (88 points/67 games), Stefan (82/72), Kozak (70/70), Klassen (69/72), Dureau (67/52).
|20||58-Clay Hanus (264)|
|19||23-Kurtis Smythe (119)|
|18||6-Ryan McCleary (85)|
|17||8-Josh Mori (40)
26-Marek Alscher (65)
43-Ryder Thompson (76)
73-Luca Cagnoni (77)
It’s hard to see Portland winning if Hanus isn’t at his best.
686 matches for the expected composition.
Best defenders: Hanus (75/69), Cagnoni (39/67), McCleary (30/67).
|20||35-Taylor Gauthier (198)|
|19||31-Dante Giannuzzi (68)|
Gauthier as the Winterhawk had a .938 save percentage against Seattle during the season.
Save percentages: Gauthier .931, Giannuzzi .891.
The Thunderbirds, who expected to have the “difficult” series in the first round, made short work of the Kelowna Rockets, mainly thanks to a power play that was 10 for 19 in the first three games, all winners. Unlike Portland with only one point-per-game player in their series, the Thunderbirds had eight. Jared Davidson led the way with 11 points in 5 games; he is now at 100 points for the season. He also had 11 points against Portland in their 13-game series, tied with Reid Schaefer for the most among the Thunderbirds. Jordan Gustafson had 9 and was the only Seattle player with points in all 5 games.
From their perspective, their head-to-head clashes with Portland were very unlucky. They’ve been short through injury or COVID, they’ve had bad schedules, and when it looks like they’ve had advantages, they’ve had bad goaltenders or just haven’t played well.
This game with this importance has been in the cards since the 2019 pre-season. It took a long, winding road to get here, but here we are.
|20||12-Henrik Rybinski (250)
21-Lukas Svejkovsky (223)
|19||29-Jared Davidson (202)
32-Matthew Rempé (115)
|18||15-Mekai Sanders (103)
18-Sam Popowich (99)
24-Reid Schaefer (96)
34-Conner Roulette (136)
47-Lucas Ciona (136)
|17||7-Jordan Gustafson (87)
11-Gabe Ludwig (83)
26-Nico Myatovic (84)
|16||19-Sam Oremba (76)
23-Ethan Mittelsteadt (16)
|15||8-Bryce Pickford (4)|
Sam Popowich is playing in Game 100. COVID has really hurt this age group.
Mekai Sanders is out for the season. Their projected forward roster is 1587 games.
Leading forward: Davidson (100/69), Svejkovsky (81/62), Rybinski (71/52), Roulette (71/70), Schaefer (65/71).
|20||27-Ryan Gottfried (191)|
|19||6-Tyrel Bauer (192)
20-Samuel Knazko (32)
44-Chase Lacombe (101)
|18||4-Jérémy Hanzel (91)
5-Leon Okonkwo Prada (50)
|17||14-Kevin Korchinski (96)|
|16||3-Niko Tsakumis (11)
43-Sawyer Mynio (49)
Korchinski had 9 points in the Kelowna series and was third in points against Portland with 10.
Their expected roster has 703 games of experience. This sells the Thunderbirds short because Knazko is a 3rd round NHL draft pick with tons of international and Olympic experience, so the idea that he’s the least experienced defenseman in the series doesn’t quite work.
Best defenders: Korchinsky (74/72), Hanzel (35/68), Knazko (24/32).
|18||35-Thomas Milic (63)|
|16||33-Scott Ratzlaff (25)|
Milic is undoubtedly the key to the series. His save percentage against Portland was .913, the same as his overall season, but after Jan. 1 it was .896, costing Seattle a few winnable games.
Save percentages: Milic .913, Ratzlaff .904.
|power plays for/game||4.1||4.2||4.0|
|Power plays versus play||4.0||4.3||4.0|
|After 1 period||37-17-18||35-20-18|
|After 2 periods||42-20-10||44-18-11|
|Score, last 10 games||42-22||50-22|
|Score, last 20 matches||87-51||85-47|
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