34 down, 34 more to go.
The Prince George Cougars are exactly halfway through their 68-game WHL regular season schedule.
Based on the standings to date, the Cougars appear headed to a finish anywhere from 4th to 7th in the 10-team Western Conference.
This weekend Prince George is home for a double against the Everett Silvertips in a possible playoff preview as 4th faces 5th in the opening round.
The (15-16-3) Cougars are 7th but only a point back of both the (14-16-4-2) Vancouver Giants and the (16-16-1-1) Tri-City Americans and two behind the (17-17-1-1) Silvertips.
Prince George heads out on a 7-game road trip next week that starts in Kelowna and ends with six games in either Alberta (5) or Saskatchewan (1).
After that, the schedule strongly favors the Cougars.
Starting January 28th and ending March 18th, the Cougars will play 23 games with a whopping 19 of them against teams with a losing record (7 against Victoria, 5 against Kelowna, 4 against Vancouver, 2 against Spokane, and 1 against Prince Albert).
15 of those 23 will be on home ice.
Actually, the Cougars have been better on the road (9-8-1) than at home (6-8-2).
Their performance at CN Centre is a reason why they dropped in the standings after a good start.
The Cougars are averaging four goals per game (136 in 34) but the bad news is they are also allowing four games per game (again 136 in 34).
The WHL trading deadline is Tuesday and one would guess that P.G. will be active again just like they were on Thursday.
TRADE: We have acquired F Arjun Bawa (05), a 2023 2nd Round Pick, and a 2023 7th Round Pick from the @Rebelshockey in exchange for F Ryker Singer (05).
— Prince George Cougars (@PGCougars) January 5, 2023
It would not come as a surprise if the Cougars dealt one of their goalies (Tyler Brennan or Ty Young) so the other one can be a clear number-one with the Cats and put a much-needed string of games together.
The rotation basis between these two NHL draft picks (Brennan 4th round to New Jersey and Young 5th round to Vancouver in 2022) does not seem to get either guy enough work.
Although both have had their moments neither has been consistent with Brennan 22nd and Young 27th in league goals-against-average.
Just about every team believes they are better than what their record shows (unless you are the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL) and Prince George would be no exception.
The Cougars’ top-six scorers are practically at or over a point per game.
Their power-play has been superb, ranking 3rd in the league at 29% but on the other hand, their penalty kill has struggled most of the season and sits 18th at just 71.5%.
Last season the Cougars faded in the second half.
This season should be different, but will they finish higher than 6th place like they did in 2022?
To make it a successful season, they better.
By ending up 6th, 7th, or 8th that would give them a first-round matchup against Seattle, Portland, or Kamloops and would see the Cats being a big underdog.
However, a 4th or 5th finish and PG might even be favoured against Everett, Tri-City, or Vancouver.
The Americans have plenty of games left against U.S. teams so with that difficult schedule it would appear they are an unlikely candidate to finish 4th or 5th.
It may come down to Prince George or Vancouver landing a top-five position and based on recent history the Cats get the edge.
The Cougars have won their previous six games in Langley dating back to last season and overall are 4-1 against the Giants this season.
Prince George recently ended a seven-game losing streak.
Based on the schedule, which can be a dangerous game to play, the Cougars should avoid any further significant losing skids.
Their longest win streak is just four.
It is an anxious time for many of the league players with the January 10th trade deadline looming.
Rosters will be settled next week which may give a better indication of where some of these middle teams stand.
The Cougars’ expectations are high.
It is now time for the team to deliver on those hopes.
Cat Scan podcast:
— Hartley Miller (@Hartley_Miller) January 4, 2023
Hurricanes grab Swetlikoff from Chiefs . . . Rebels, Cougars swap forwards . . . Wallace now a Blazers Legend https://t.co/sMB889JO9b
— Gregg Drinnan (@gdrinnan) January 6, 2023
FROM THE QUOTE RACK:
Donald Trump buried ex-wife Ivana on the grounds of his Bedminster, NJ golf course. Well, this gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “til death do us par.”
*Contributor Marc Ragovin of New York
A golfer in Bullhead City, Arizona reached into a newly-purchased used golf bag for a club and instead pulled out a loaded pistol with the safety off. This brings a whole new meaning to ‘shooting par’.
*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California
When did it become a rule that the team playing against Tom Brady has to forget how to play offense and defense late in the 4th quarter?
*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com
Canadian Olympic figure skater Tessa Virtue has gotten engaged to Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly. I suggest a spring honeymoon — the Leafs usually aren’t busy that time of year.
*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 is in his 10th season as the radio colour commentator for Prince George Cougars’ home games. Hartley has been on the airwaves in PG since 1979 and is the author of You Don’t Say (sports quotes).