Thunderbirds vs. Silvertips: By the numbers
It came down to the final weekend of the regular season, but the defending WHL-champion Seattle Thunderbirds finally know that their opponent in the first-round of the playoffs will be the Western Conference’s number one seed, the Everett Silvertips.
Here’s a by-the-numbers look at how the two teams fared against each other during the regular season.
12. The total number of goals that separated the Thunderbirds and Silvertips in their regular season head-to-head matchups. The number is staggeringly small considering they played against each other 10 times. Each team was able to secure one two-goal victory, though one of those, the T-Birds 2-0 win on November 18, was secured by a Nolan Volcan empty-netter. This total also includes Seattle’s two shootout victories and two other overtime contests, both of which Everett won.
The total goal differential across the regular season between the two teams was just plus-two for Everett, as they outscored the T-Birds 24-22 over the 10 regular season games.
Bottom line: expect at least a few of the games in round one to be decided by a single goal.
3. The number of times in the past four seasons that Seattle has eliminated Everett in the postseason, and the series haven’t been close. In 2014 and 2016, Seattle won the head-to-head best-of-seven matchup four games to one. Last year, the Thunderbirds swept the ‘Tips in the second round en route to their first WHL Championship. In both 2014 and 2017, Everett was the higher seed.
Of course, those were very different teams. Gone are the likes of Mathew Barzal, Scott Eansor, Ryan Gropp and others who were part of all three Seattle series victories. Still, might this give the T-Birds a mental leg up on their opponent? While Everett has added some offensive firepower this season, they’re still the defense-first team that we knew under Kevin Constantine. In fact, in games versus Seattle, Everett averaged just 2.4 goals per game, with their highest single-game total being the four they scored in an overtime victory on February 16.
.008. The gap in save percentage in head-to-head games between Carter Hart, who had a .938 save percentage in eight contests, and Liam Hughes, who had a .930 save percentage in seven games versus Everett.
Hart has earned a ton of accolades during his WHL career, and rightfully so. He led the league this season in goals against average, save percentage, and shutouts. But Hughes has quietly become a consistent factor in net for the T-Birds, performing especially well against Seattle’s cross-town rival.
Without a doubt, Hart is a difference-maker and has the potential to be a deciding factor in this series. What most around the league don’t realize is that Hughes could do the same for the T-Birds.
8.8. The percent advantage the T-Birds possess over the Silvertips in both special teams categories. Seattle has converted seven of 27 power play opportunities this season, while Everett has scored on 7 of their 41 chances.
The T-Birds’ power play and penalty kill have both proven to be superior to the ‘Tips during the regular season, but the big difference could come in the oft-discussed number of penalties called on each team. Everett averaged almost a power play and a half more than Seattle per game during regular season matchups, but if Seattle can close that gap slightly, they should win the special teams battle, which could prove huge in what is sure to be a tightly-contested series.