Generally speaking, when one thinks of the New York Rangers, one does not think about the Seattle Thunderbirds and vice versa.
What do the Rangers and Thunderbirds have in common in this year’s hockey playoffs, other than they are still competing in the month of June?
Both teams have played their best under pressure and are a perfect 5-0 when facing elimination.
The similarity does not quite end there.
In their last two series, the Rangers erased a 3-1 deficit to eliminate the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games.
They followed that up by overcoming a 3-2 deficit to knock out the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Rangers won the seventh game against the Hurricanes on the road, the only time in the 2022 postseason that Carolina lost on home ice.
Seattle has followed a similar script.
In their last two series, the Thunderbirds came back from a 3-1 deficit to oust the Portland Winterhawks.
Next up, Seattle won the Western Conference Final over the Kamloops Blazers.
They trailed 3-2 before coming out on top in Game 6 in Kent, Washington 2-1, and in Game 7 on the road in Kamloops by a 3-2 score.
The Thunderbirds now have the distinction of being the first WHL team in the last 40-plus years to win twice on the road in a seventh and deciding game.
Should note that this should read, “first WHL team since at least 1980”. https://t.co/bscxxpZy3E
— Geoffrey Brandow (@GeoffreyBrandow) June 1, 2022
Ordinarily, I would suggest Prince George hockey fans do not have much of a rooting interest in the WHL Final between the Thunderbirds and Edmonton Oil Kings which begins tonight in the Alberta Capital.
However, there is a P.G. connection on the Seattle team, 17-year-old Nico Myatovic, who I wrote about in last week’s column.
This week, Brendan Pawliw of MyPGNow.com spoke with Myatovic about the Thunderbirds lengthy playoff run.
PG’s own and former @cariboocougars @Nicomyatovic enjoying memorable playoff run with @SeattleTbirds | #cityofpg https://t.co/Rl1lfKkHng #PrinceGeorge #northernbc #Sports #THUNDERBIRDS pic.twitter.com/oUQb0vEzR3
— My Prince George Now (@mypgnow) June 2, 2022
The Thunderbirds were slight underdogs against the Winterhawks and Blazers and arguably are bigger underdogs against the Eastern Conference champion Oil Kings, who finished with the second-most points in the regular-season standings (104), ten more than Seattle.
Edmonton has been the best team in the playoffs with a sizzling 12-1 record, including 7-0 at home.
The Oil Kings swept Lethbridge and Red Deer before needing just five games to knock out the regular season’s top team, the Winnipeg Ice.
Seattle is 12-7, including 6-4 on the road.
The 2022 #WHLChampionship begins Friday night in Edmonton.
We’ve put together a preview of the matchup between the @EdmOilKings and @SeattleTbirds!
MORE 📝 | https://t.co/wE09KIcvIy#WHLPlayoffs | #EDMvsSEA pic.twitter.com/aJwYsZNGRQ
— The WHL (@TheWHL) June 2, 2022
We are all familiar with the 2-2-1-1-1 best-of-seven format and occasionally leagues will go with a 2-3-2 to cut down on travel.
The WHL has been forced to come up with a couple of new ones that seem strange and are far from ideal.
In Round one, Kamloops swept the Spokane Chiefs 4-0 with the first three games in Kamloops.
The Chiefs only had one appearance in front of their fans because their home building was not available for Game 3.
Now another twist that greatly favours the Oil Kings.
The Championship Series for the Ed Chynoweth Cup will follow a 2-2-3 series format.
That is correct, should the Final go seven games, Edmonton would be on home ice in five of them.
This is a result of facility conflicts due to graduations at the accesso ShoWare Center.
Game 6, if necessary, will serve as Seattle’s third home game but will mean little since it would be played in Edmonton.
Realistically, one should pick the Oil Kings to win the Cup for the third time (2012 and 2014 were the other years).
As I suggested last week, the Thunderbirds enjoy being under the radar.
Because they were just 7th out of 22 teams in the regular season, they haven’t had the most pressure to win (at least from the outside looking in).
In reality though, strange or not, Seattle has played its best when the pressure has been at its highest while facing elimination.
The WHL will finally get playoff exposure on national television as TSN will broadcast the Championship Series, beginning with Game 3 on Tuesday.
2022 WHL Championship Series
Game 1 – Friday, June 3 at Edmonton (Rogers Place – 6 p.m. PT)
Game 2 – Sunday, June 5 at Edmonton (Rogers Place – 3 p.m. PT)
Game 3^ – Tuesday, June 7 at Seattle (accesso ShoWare Center – 7:05 p.m. PT)
Game 4^ – Wednesday, June 8 at Seattle (accesso ShoWare Center – 7:05 p.m. PT)
Game 5*^ – Saturday, June 11 at Edmonton (Rogers Place – 6 p.m. PT)
Game 6*^ – Monday, June 13 at Edmonton (Rogers Place – 6:30 p.m. PT)
Game 7*^ – Tuesday, June 14 at Edmonton (Rogers Place – 6 p.m. PT)
* = if necessary
^ = TSN National Broadcast
WHL final opens tonight in Edmonton . . . Thunderbirds, Oil Kings ready to roll . . . Another hall of fame opens doors to Kid Dynamite https://t.co/uegkqXbpR8
— Gregg Drinnan (@gdrinnan) June 3, 2022
FROM THE QUOTE RACK:
Even the Atlanta Falcons can’t believe what happened to the Golden State Warriors in the 4th quarter.
*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com
The Boston Celtics staged a furious fourth quarter comeback to beat the Golden State Warriors 120-108 in Game One of the NBA Finals on Thursday in San Francisco. https://t.co/CErtokn8SR
— Reuters Sports (@ReutersSports) June 3, 2022
Ex-Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has named his new dog “Bronco.” As for fetching, she still needs some work on her comeback patterns.
*Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times http://www.seattletimes.com/author/dwight-perry/
Octopuses torture and eat themselves after mating and scientists think they know why—-a large majority of the creatures had left Maple Leaf playoff games on their TVs.
*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California
In Case You Missed It:
According to Reuters, a Chinese farmer invented a zipline so his pigs literally fly from one truck to another. In a related item, the Maple Leafs had thought they might win this year’s Stanley Cup.
*Western Canadian comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com
Hartley Miller is the news and sports director/supervisor plus morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97fm. He also is the radio color commentator for P.G. Cougars’ home games. Hartley has been on the Prince George airwaves since 1979 and is the author of You Don’t Say (sports quotes).