THE ROAD TO THE 2013 WHL PLAYOFFSFeb 20, 2013 - 04:40 MST
Calgary, AB – The 2012-13 Western Hockey League regular season continues to wind down, with less than four weeks left to play before the post-season begins.
Six Western Conference playoff spots are already spoken for while one Eastern Conference Club has locked up playoff spot thus far, and no team has yet been eliminated from playoff contention.
The WHL's Eastern and Western Conferences will use a Conference playoff format.
The first place teams in the two Divisions in each Conference will receive the top two playoff seeds based on regular season points. The next six Clubs in each Conference, based on regular season points, will receive the 3rd - 8th playoff positions. The Clubs will be paired 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, and 4 vs. 5 in a best-of-seven series.
The first place Clubs in each Division will be guaranteed the top two playoff seeds in the first round. As in previous seasons, the format for the remaining three rounds of the WHL Playoffs will remain the same. The four Clubs winning first round series in each Conference will advance to the second round, where they will be ranked in order of regular season points. The Clubs will be paired 1 vs. 4, and 2 vs. 3 in best of seven series.
The two Clubs winning the second round series in each Conference will advance to the third round (WHL Conference Championships), where they will be ranked in order of regular season points. The Clubs will be paired 1 vs. 2 in a best of seven series.
The Eastern and Western Conference Champions will advance to the best of seven WHL Championship Series, with the Club having the most regular season points receiving home ice advantage
WHL EASTERN CONFERENCE
X denotes clinched playoff spot, *denoted Division leader
1). X *Edmonton Oil Kings 60gp-43-12-2-3, 91pts (12 games remaining)
2). *Saskatoon Blades 61gp-35-21-0-3, 73pts (11 games remaining)
3). Calgary Hitmen 60gp-39-17-1-3, 82pts (12 games remaining)
4). Red Deer Rebels 60gp-32-22-4-2, 70pts (12 games remaining)
5). Prince Albert Raiders 59gp-32-22-2-3, 69pts (13 games remaining)
6). Medicine Hat Tigers 60gp-30-27-2-1, 63pts (12 games remaining)
7). Swift Current Broncos 60gp-28-26-3-3, 62pts (12 games remaining)
8). Kootenay Ice 60gp-29-29-2-0, 60pts (12 games remaining)
9). Lethbridge Hurricanes 60gp-25-26-2-7, 59pts (12 games remaining)
10). Moose Jaw Warriors 59gp-20-30-3-6, 49pts (13 games remaining)
11). Regina Pats 60gp-20-33-3-4, 47pts (12 games remaining)
12). Brandon Wheat Kings 61gp-21-35-3-2, 47pts (11 games remaining)
The Edmonton Oil Kings hold a commanding nine-point lead for first place in the Central Division and Eastern Conference while the Saskatoon Blades have put themselves four points clear for top spot in the East Division.
The Oil Kings, gunning for their second straight Central Division and Eastern Conference regular-season titles, currently hold a nine-point lead over the Calgary Hitmen, their closest rival on points. The Oil Kings host Regina on Wednesday before embarking on an eight-game road trip, including a rematch of the 2012 WHL Championship series versus Portland on February 27th.
The Blades have won their last 12 games, putting them four points up on Prince Albert for first place in the East Division and the Eastern Conference’s second seed. Six of the Blades’ final 13 games are versus teams currently outside the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.
The Hitmen currently sit comfortably in third place in the Eastern Conference, with a nine-point lead over Saskatoon, and will clinch a playoff spot with any combination of points gained or points dropped by Lethbridge totaling two. The Hitmen play 11 of their final 12 games versus teams currently in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
The Red Deer Rebels moved into fourth place in the Eastern Conference with a 3-2 shootout win over Regina on Tuesday, but currently sit 12 points back of third-placed Calgary. The Rebels are in Letbhridge on Friday before a key meeting versus Prince Albert on Saturday night.
The Raiders find themselves in fifth place in the Eastern Conference after having posted an 8-11-2 record since the calendar flipped to 2013. The Raiders kick off a four-game road trip in Medicine Hat on Wednesday night.
The Medicine Hat Tigers currently sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, just one point ahead of Swift Current, and trail Prince Albert by six points for fifth place. 10 of the Tigers’ 12 remaining games are against teams among the top eight in the Eastern Conference.
The Swift Current Broncos hold down sole possession of seventh place in the Eastern Conference but have just a two-point lead over eighth-placed Kootenay and a three-point lead over ninth-placed Lethbridge. The Broncos will face the Medicine Hat Tigers in a key home-and-home series this weekend.
The Ice are in the playoff picture for the first time this season after having beaten Swift Current on Monday, and currently hold a one-point lead on Lethbridge for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Ice face the Hurricanes three more times this season, including a meeting in Lethbridge on Sunday.
The Hurricanes have struggled to just three wins over their last 10 games, dropping them to ninth place in the Eastern Conference and leaving them on the outside of the playoff picture. The ‘Canes host Red Deer and Kootenay this weekend before heading out on a three-game B.C. Division tour next week.
The Moose Jaw Warriors, Regina Pats and Brandon Wheat Kings remain within two points of each other in 10th, 11th and 12th places, respectively, in the Eastern Conference, and are all at least 11 points out of a playoff position. 10 of Regina’s final 12 games are versus East Division opponents, the Warriors play nine of their final 13 games at home, while Brandon faces East Division opposition in 10 of their final 11 outings.
WHL WESTERN CONFERENCE
1). X *Portland Winterhawks 60gp-48-9-1-2, 99pts (12 games remaining)
2). X *Kelowna Rockets 61gp-42-15-3-1, 88pts (11 games remaining)
3). X Kamloops Blazers 60gp-40-15-2-3, 85pts (12 games remaining)
4). X Tri-City Americans 59gp-34-22-1-2, 71pts (13 games remaining)
5). X Spokane Chiefs 60gp-34-24-2-0, 70pts (12 games remaining)
6). X Victoria Royals 59gp-32-22-1-4, 69pts (13 games remaining)
7). Seattle Thunderbirds 60gp-21-32-6-1, 49pts (12 games remaining)
8). Everett Silvertips 60gp-21-34-1-4, 47pts (12 games remaining)
9). Prince George Cougars 60gp-18-34-2-6, 44pts (12 games remaining)
10). Vancouver Giants 61gp-15-44-2-0, 32pts (11 games remaining)
The Spokane Chiefs, Tri-City Americans and Victoria Royals all clinched playoff spots over the past week, meaning six of the eight possible playoff berths in the Western Conference are spoken for.
The Portland Winterhawks locked up the U.S. Division title after beating Spokane on Monday, giving them their second division crown in three seasons, and currently hold an eight-point lead over Edmonton for first place in the overall WHL standings. The Hawks face a tough test in Kamloops on Wednesday night before heading to Prince George for two weekend meetings versus the Cougars.
The Kelowna Rockets have seen their B.C. Division lead dwindle to just three points over Kamloops after having lost back-to-back meetings versus the Blazers last weekend. The Rockets are in Victoria for a pair of weekend meetings versus the Royals.
The Blazers have won their last seven games to close the gap on Kelowna to just three points for the division lead. The Blazers still have three games remaining versus the Rockets, but also face Prince George and Vancouver three more times each over their final 12 games.
The Tri-City Americans, Spokane Chiefs and Victoria Royals all sit within two points of each other for fourth, fifth and sixth place in the Western Conference, with the Chiefs having played one more game than both the Ams and Royals.
The Ams’ recent three-game win streak has vaulted them into fourth place in the Conference, just one point ahead of Spokane and two up on Victoria. The Ams play their next four games at home, including tough meetings versus Portland and Edmonton.
The Chiefs lost their last two games, suffering setbacks to the Ams and Winterhawks, and currently own fifth place in the conference. The Chiefs face a difficult weekend with visits from Kamloops and Edmonton.
The Royals returned home after a six-game road trip in which they lost the last four, and will take on the visiting Kelowna Rockets for a pair of meetings this weekend.
The Seattle Thunderbirds picked up six of a possible eight points from their last four games, allowing them to leap past the Everett Silvertips into seventh place in the Western Conference and move five points clear of ninth-placed Prince George. The T-Birds host Everett twice and Prince George once over their final 12 games.
The Silvertips are mired in a 10-game losing skid, but remain three points up on Prince George for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference. The ‘Tips play seven of their final 12 games away from home.
The Cougars managed a 1-3 record on their recent Central Division tour, and currently sit three points out of a playoff spot in the conference. The Cougars kick off a tough five-game home stand in which they face Portland twice, Tri-Cities twice and Kamloops once.
The Giants remain in 10th place in the Western Conference and sit 15 points out of a playoff spot. The Giants only have three combined games remaining versus the three teams they are chasing for a playoff spot.
BOB CLARKE TROPHY RACE
1. Brendan Leipsic, POR 57gp-41g-62a-103pts
2. Nicholas Petan, POR 60gp-41g-60a-101pts
3. Colin Smith, KAM 60gp-37g-56a-93pts
4. Ty Rattie, POR 51gp-35g-52a-87pts
5. Justin Feser, T.C. 59gp-35g-48a-83pts
6. Myles Bell, KEL 59gp-32g-47a-79pts
7. Adam Lowry, S.C. 60gp-39g-38a-77pts
8. Curtis Valk, M.H. 59gp-37g-40a-77pts
9. JC Lipon, KAM 51gp-30g-47a-77pts