It takes about 3 1/2 hours to travel by bus from Everett to Portland, Oregon.
It also takes about 3 1/2 hours to travel by bus from Kennewick, Washington to Portland.
(Kennewick is the home for the Tri-City Americans).
On the other hand, driving from Everett to Prince George is over 10 hours.
The driving distance from Kennewick to Prince George is roughly 12 1/2 hours.
I bring this up because the Prince George Cougars will play one of those two teams in the first round of playoffs which will begin in two weeks on March 31st, likely at CN Centre.
The (34-24-6) Cougars are headed to a fourth-place finish in the Western Conference, currently sitting with 74 points.
This means they will play the fifth-place team in the opening round.
The (29-26-5-3) Americans are currently fifth with 66 points, eight behind Prince George but only one point in front of the (31-29-2-1) Everett Silvertips, who have 65.
The sixth-place team will face off against the third-place (39-17-4-3) Portland Winterhawks once the post-season begins.
Naturally, everyone will say publicly that you want to finish as high in the standings as possible and it does not matter who you play.
Realistically though there are three factors that can be argued why Tri-City or Everett would be better off sixth than fifth.
First is travel.
The evidence of that is at the top of the column.
The lower team may make as many as three trips in a best-of-seven series.
Would a team or player rather travel 3 1/2 hours each way or over 10 hours?
Doing it once (for games 1 and 2) isn’t that big a deal but what about the if-needed games of five and seven and having to do that again?
The second reason is while Portland is slightly higher than Prince George in the standings, the Cougars are playing much better than the Winterhawks of late.
Going back to the beginning of February, the Cougars are 15-3-2 in their last 20 games, including 2-0 against Portland.
Again starting from February 1st, the Winterhawks have just five wins in 18 games
The third reason why Tri-City or Everett may prefer the Winterhawks as an opponent does not necessarily have a lot to do with the players but it could make a big difference to the management and owners of the team.
Financially, U.S. Division teams tend to draw many more fans to their games when they play a team from their own division rather than a B.C. Division team or for that matter an Eastern Conference opponent.
Most hockey fans in Everett or Kennewick would much rather see a battle against a rival and that would likely result in a much better gate for Games 3 and 4 and if necessary 6.
Teams right now are trying to get ready for the grind of playoff hockey.
Who they face may not matter much if you are not playing well.
Everett only has four wins in its last 10 (going 4-6) while Tri-City only has three victories in its last 10 (going 3-6-0-1) while P.G. is 7-1-2 in its last 10 and 5-0-2 in its last seven.
Head to head, Tri-City may like the P.G. match-up having gone 3-1 in the season series.
The Cougars went 1-2-1 against the Americans.
Keep in mind though they haven’t met in over three months (since Dec 10th) and the Cougars roster has been upgraded since then.
The Silvertips may also like the P.G. match-up, taking the season series 3-1 but P.G. won the last time they met and that was over two months ago (January 7th).
Since that time Everett traded away its top two players.
From a Cougars standpoint, I am not sure they would have a preference, although the Americans have an excellent goalie in Tomas Suchanek, who has a .911 save percentage.
Suchanek was outstanding at the world junior tournament for Czechia (the silver medallists) who lost the final to Canada in overtime.
Tri-City also has one of the best power plays in the WHL, sitting third overall, just behind Prince George.
P.G. in all likelihood will officially clinch the 4th seed and home-ice advantage this weekend as the Cats need just one victory to lock it up.
They host the lowly (15-41-6-1) Victoria Royals, who are riding an 11-game losing streak (0-10-1) in a doubleheader.
The Cougars have feasted on the Royals going 7-0 this season, outscoring Victoria by a whopping 46-17 total.
Cat Scan podcast:
A co-owner of @PGCougars, Eric Brewer, is this week’s guest on the Cat Scan #podcast. Eric talks about higher attendance, long-term vision for the team, concerns of rising costs, challenges on the road, home-ice advantage in the playoffs, & memories of 1997 Cougars playoff run. https://t.co/NziR4zf00X
— Hartley Miller (@Hartley_Miller) March 15, 2023
Taking Note column:
Bedard, Howe spark Pats’ victory . . . Hitmen move into playoff spot . . . Seminoff, Bankier bury Royals https://t.co/Fofgvsncsz
— Gregg Drinnan (@gdrinnan) March 16, 2023
FROM THE QUOTE RACK:
Aaron Rodgers says he wants to play for the Jets. Let’s see, the touchy aging superstar QB and the famously sensitive NY media. Am sure it will go well.
*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed QB Baker Mayfield as a replacement for Tom Brady. Isn’t that like replacing Marlon Brando with Bugs Bunny?
*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California
Pennsylvania researchers say there is no link between long noses and sensitivity to odours. Even test subjects with tiny noses said the Flyers really stink.
*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).