THE ROAD TO THE 2014 WHL PLAYOFFSFeb 12, 2014 - 07:17 MST
Calgary, AB – The 2013-14 Western Hockey League regular season has entered the stretch run, with five weeks left to play before the post-season begins.
So far, only one team, the Kelowna Rockets, has locked up a playoff spot. However, the Portland Winterhawks are among a few Western Conference teams on the verge of clinching their berth in the 2014 WHL playoffs.
Meanwhile, the battle in the Eastern Conference for playoff spots and division titles is heating up.
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). *Edmonton Oil Kings 54gp-40-13-0-1, 81pts (18 games remaining)
2). *Swift Current Broncos 57gp-28-21-2-6, 64pts (15 games remaining)
3). Calgary Hitmen 57gp-36-15-3-3, 78pts (15 games remaining)
4). Medicine Hat Tigers 56gp-33-20-3-0, 69pts (16 games remaining)
5). Kootenay Ice 56gp-31-21-2-2, 66pts (16 games remaining)
6). Brandon Wheat Kings 56gp-28-22-5-1, 62pts (16 games remaining)
7). Regina Pats 55gp-28-22-3-2, 61pts (17 games remaining)
8). Red Deer Rebels 56gp-27-25-1-3, 58pts (16 games remaining)
9). Prince Albert Raiders 55gp-25-27-2-1, 53pts (17 games remaining)
10). Moose Jaw Warriors 55gp-14-33-3-5, 36pts (17 games remaining)
11). Saskatoon Blades 58gp-15-39-1-3, 34pts (14 games remaining)
12). Lethbridge Hurricanes 57gp-11-41-2-3, 27pts (15 games remaining)
The Edmonton Oil Kings and Swift Current Broncos hold down the No. 1 and 2 spots in the Eastern Conference as leaders of their respective divisions.
The Oil Kings, currently riding an 11-game win streak, are taking aim at their third straight Central Division and Eastern Conference title. The Calgary Hitmen, who trail the Oil Kings by three points, will be the Oil Kings’ biggest competition. The next closest team is Medicine Hat, which sits nine points back of Calgary and 12 back of the Oil Kings. The Oil Kings’ next three contests are at home to the Raiders on Wednesday, the Rebels on Friday and the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Monday. Any combination of points gained and points dropped by Prince Albert totaling seven will lock up a playoff spot for Edmonton.
The Hitmen picked up their fourth straight win on Tuesday over Prince Albert, keeping them within striking distance of the Oil Kings. The Hitmen, who have played three more games than the Oil Kings, host Saskatoon on Friday before traveling to Lethbridge on Saturday.
The Swift Current Broncos currently hold a slim two-point lead over the Brandon Wheat Kings for top spot in the East Division, with the Wheat Kings holding a game in hand. The Regina Pats are just three points back of Swift Current, and hold a pair of games in hand on the Broncos, meaning there will be a tight three-team race to see who comes out on top in the East Division.
The Broncos face the Pats three more times and the Wheat Kings once more this season, while the Wheat Kings and Pats also meet up three more times this season, including a home-and-home set to close out the regular-season schedule.
The Medicine Hat Tigers currently hold a three-point lead over the Kootenay Ice for a spot in the top four in the conference, with both teams having 16 games remaining. The teams meet up two more times this season. Kootenay plays 10 of their final 16 games on the road, while the Tigers split their final 16 games evenly at home and on the road.
Brandon, Regina and Red Deer are separated by just three points between six, seventh and eighth place. The Wheat Kings play 10 of their final 16 contests at home where they are 17-7-2 this season. The Pats face divisional opponents in 10 of their final 17 contests. Red Deer has a tough schedule with 13 games versus teams among the top five in the Eastern Conference.
The Prince Albert Raiders sit five points behind Red Deer for the final playoff spot in the conference. 10 of the raiders’ final 17 games are on the road, including a tough six-game road trip that includes a swing through the U.S. Division.
The Moose Jaw Warriors and Saskatoon Blades sit 22 and 24 points respectively out of a playoff spot, while the Lethbridge Hurricanes have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
WHL WESTERN CONFERENCE
1). X *Kelowna Rockets 56gp-44-8-0-4, 92pts (16 games remaining)
2). *Portland Winterhawks 56gp-39-12-2-3, 83pts (16 games remaining)
3). Victoria Royals 58gp-38-16-1-3, 80pts (14 games remaining)
4). Seattle Thunderbirds 57gp-35-17-2-3, 75pts (15 games remaining)
5). Spokane Chiefs 56gp-32-19-3-2, 69pts (16 games remaining)
6). Vancouver Giants 58gp-27-22-6-3, 63pts (14 games remaining)
7). Everett Silvertips 56gp-27-21-7-1, 62pts (16 games remaining)
8). Tri-City Americans 56gp-27-24-2-3, 59pts (16 games remaining)
9). Prince George Cougars 58gp-24-27-2-5, 55pts (14 games remaining)
10). Kamloops Blazers 57gp-11-41-2-3, 27pts (15 games remaining)
The Kelowna Rockets and Portland Winterhawks currently occupy the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the Western Conference as division leaders. The Rockets have already locked up a playoff berth while the Winterhawks need just one point or for Prince George to drop a point to clinch.
The Rockets currently hold a solid nine-point lead over Portland for first place in the conference and top spot in the overall WHL standings, and hold an even more comfortable 12-point cushion over the Victoria Royals for first place in the B.C. Division. 13 of the Rockets’ final 16 games are versus teams in the bottom five in the Western Conference.
The Winterhawks hold a comfortable eight-point lead over Seattle for first place in the U.S. Division, and will be looking for their third U.S. Division crown over the last four seasons. The Hawks face the Thunderbirds four more times this season, including a home-and-home set on the final weekend of play.
The Victoria Royals currently sit in third place in the conference, and have already set franchise records for wins and points in a season. The Royals can clinch a playoff spot with any combination of points gained or points dropped by Prince George totaling four. Victoria embarks on a six-game East Division tour next week.
The Seattle Thunderbirds hold down second place in the U.S. Division – six points up on Spokane. 10 of the T-Birds’ final 15 games are at home where they own a 19-4-1-2 record.
The Chiefs need to make up six points on the Thunderbirds if they are to move into a top-four spot and lock up home-ice advantage through the first round of the playoffs. The Chiefs meet the T-Birds just once more this season, in Kent on March 11th.
The Vancouver Giants currently hold a seven-point cushion for a playoff spot, but sit just one point up on Everett and four points up on Tri-Cities for sixth place. Vancouver has a difficult schedule down the stretch with eight games versus teams in the top four in the WHL standings.
The Silvertips hold a seven-point cushion for a playoff spot, and have played two fewer games than the Prince George Cougars. 12 of Everett’s remaining 16 games are against teams among the top four in the Western Conference.
The Americans hold a four-point lead over the Cougars for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference, and have two games in hand. The Ams are in Victoria on Wednesday night before road games at Seattle, Spokane and Kelowna through early next week.
The Cougars’ recent six-game winning streak helped keep them in contention for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Cougars face a tough battle down the stretch with four games remaining versus Kelowna and two games each versus Portland and Victoria.
The Kamloops Blazers have already been eliminated from playoff contention, meaning they will miss the post-season after having been Western Conference finalists last year.
BOB CLARKE TROPHY RACE
1. Mitch Holmberg, SPO 56gp-47g-46a-93pts
2. Nic Petan, POR 47gp-29g-63a-92pts
3. Oliver Bjorkstrand, POR 53gp-39g-43a-82pts
4. Jaedon Descheneau, KTN 54gp-36g-42a-78pts
5. Sam Reinhart, KTN 44gp-29g-49a-78pts
6. Josh Winquist, EVT 51gp-36g-40a-76pts
7. Todd Fiddler, P.G. 52gp-36g-39a-75pts
8. Graham Black, S.C. 54gp-28g-45a-73pts