Monday, 16 April 2018

BY THE NUMBERS: Swift Current or Moose Jaw?

The Lethbridge Hurricanes find themselves in an envious position heading into the third round of the WHL playoffs. They are sitting passenger seat, waiting patiently to find out if they will be playing the Swift Current Broncos or the Moose Jaw Warriors in the conference final.

With Game 7 happening tonight in Moose Jaw, you can bet the Hurricanes are hoping the two combatants go into quadruple overtime and beat the ever-living-you-know-what out of each other. It's no secret that both the Broncos and Warriors loaded up for a deep playoff run and one team will be left disappointed while the other will get to continue.

The trek won't get easier, as the Hurricanes have defied a few odds, or at least the odds that were set out when the club traded captain Giorgio Estephan and goaltender Stuart Skinner to the Broncos. Some fans didn't think the 'Canes would get out of the first round, let alone make it this far. But after five-game series wins over Red Deer and Brandon thanks to balanced scoring, capable defensive play and solid goaltending, no one is writing this team off quite yet.

No player will ever say who they would rather play, but you can't really blame the Hurricanes for not really favouring one team or the other when it comes to tonight's matchup. The Hurricanes finished with just one win against each during the season. The Broncos' offense seemed to have better luck against Lethbridge during the season, putting up six goals in each of the first three games. But those are kind of a wash when you realize those games were played pre-Christmas and thus, pre-blockbuster trade.

READ MORE: The Everlasting Impact of Giorgio and Stuart

As I sifted through the stats for each of the games, particularly the February 2nd 5-2 win over Swift Current and the February 27th 4-3 win over Moose Jaw, a trio of things stood out.

#1. Logan Flodell
He was a star in each of those outings. He had to make 40 saves in the Swift Current game and 37 more in the Moose Jaw game. If the 'Canes want to win in round three, they will likely have to do it on the back of their netminder.

#2. Stay Outta The Box
This probably goes without saying, but in each of the wins, the Hurricanes found themselves shorthanded just three times. With the high-powered powerplays for both teams, you want to force them into rolling all four lines and not find yourself hemmed into your zone for too long.

#3. Balanced Scoring
This goes hand-in-hand with #2 really. The Hurricanes have had some outstanding performances from Brad Morrison, Jordy Bellerive and Taylor Ross so far. But in the wins against the Broncos and Warriors, it was Igor Merezkho and Egor Zudilov, respectively, who had goal and assist efforts. And you know who had a goal in each contest? Keltie Jeri-Leon. The blueline was also a factor in both outings.

The Hurricanes will come into the third round well-rested and prepared for whoever comes out of tonight's game. They're also going in with nothing really to lose as they will undoubtedly be the underdogs. But if all three of the above factors play out, they could play more than just spoiler if the regular season's matchups are any indication.

There might be one storyline that WHL hockey fans are cheering for and that's a Swift Current victory. Why? Imagine the storylines of players "coming home" and "old friends becoming arch-nemeses." The emotional intensity of a best-of-seven with so many familiar faces would, most certainly, be worth the price of admission.

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